Here I was thinking the switch was the most family friendly console I’ve played. Then I received the task to play Darkest Dungeon, which is like being sentenced to death multiple times in a week. Not because it’s a bad game, if anything the game is a wonderful challenge and suits the Switch perfectly. However it will certainty test your will, and make death that much more painful for the player. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty which this game has quite a lot of.
Darkest Dungeon is a Gothic rogue-like turn based RPG, and the art is magnificent in a sort of depressing way. It’s dark and gloomy and sets the tone immediately. This isn’t going to be a game about hope and conquering evil foes to save the world. This is about throwing as much cannon fodder as we can without getting attached. When you embark on a mission with your little gang of misfits and bandits, you’ll learn that there’s a lot that can go wrong for them.
The main thing being that your characters are effected by stress. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to go through these dungeons in real life with the amount of fear, illness and injury that you would encounter. Then know that your characters are going through those very thoughts. If your characters become too stressed then they will roll a dice, which could give them a very sour personality trait. Some characters get to a stage where they de-moralise themselves even more and stress out their fellow survivors at the same time. However at the same time they can step up to the occasion and gain a positive effect which in turn moralises everyone.
While taking stress into consideration, you’re also dealing with a surprisingly detailed combat system. At first you may think this will be a game where you can spam basic attacks, heals and buffs. However even things like the position of where you characters are can determine the type of ability they can use and how many enemies it will affect. This can make some fights even more scary as you desperately try to organise your adventurers into the right spots, only to have them getting stressed and ruining your strategy. Some attacks will also move the position of characters making them even more risky in a desperate situation.
As if that’s the worst of your worries, characters stay dead once they are killed. In fact, if they become so stressed that you fill up their stress bar twice, then they could just have a heart attack in the middle of a fight or even while walking around for loot. While some would call this an annoyance, I use it as a motivator to stay on top of everything. Games like this are great for having quick toilet breaks or waiting sessions as you bust out a quick quest. You have an endless supply of new characters to recruit, it’s just the investment you put into them that matters when you die. If you have a heroic guy with upgraded stats you might be emotionally attached to him, making those dice rolls even more important.
This is something I spoke to Salman about, dice rolls are working away in the background as they always are in these games. Praying to RNGesus is something a lot of people are used to these days. After you play Darkest Dungeon for an extended period of time you may feel like you’re always relying on RNG for most of your success. All of your shots might miss, or you’ll get awful stress rolls and so on. While I don’t mind a bit of RNG here and there, it almost feels a bit too much in this game, like it takes away from a complex and intriguing combat system.
When you’re not getting down and dirty in combat you’ll generally be manoeuvring through different environments looking for loot, eating food, camping out and trying not to get scared of the dark. Exploring becomes a challenge in itself as you need to bring torches and food with you, if you run out of torches then it gets dark pretty quickly, stressing out your characters and making combat even harder. Camping becomes a moment to regain your bearings and even boost the morale of over party members where possible. These feel even more personal after exploring with that party through what feels like the most tragic thing you’ve ever seen.
Darkest Dungeon maintains this gloomy atmosphere while always keeping the player entertained and challenged. I especially love those Gothic graphics that perfectly fits the tone of the game and that sense of hopelessness. As well as this, the visual style for the characters makes it easy to recognise specific classes and characters from a glance and fits the rest of the game appropriately. There is also a story element to the game, it’s mainly told through background information and cut scenes, but there’s also a narrator who will tell the personal journey you’re experiencing.
I’m more than satisfied with the game, I was going to purchase it last year but when I heard about a switch port I felt it would be better for me on there. It’s fair to say I made a good decision with the wait as I can give this game all of my attention wherever I am in the world, or if like I’ve mentioned gone to the toilet for 2 hours because I’m so stuck into a game. If you haven’t played the game on PC then I encourage you to give it a shot on the switch!
Darkest Dungeon delivers an intense and challenging experience while keeping the player invested 100% of the time, with some impressive visuals, fun combat and hours of entertainment. Just make sure to pray to RNGesus! I score Darkest Dungeon a 9/10