I honestly don’t think that any other game I have played in the past 15 years has left me feeling as hopeless as Darkest Dungeon has this past week. Even after beating all the Souls games, Darkest Dungeon was truly something else, but was it worth it?
Darkest Dungeon, a gothic Roguelike RPG from the guys over at Red Hook Studios, is definitely not a game for the faint of heart as every step you take to the right of the screen could be your last thanks to the games various traps and enemy encounters. But, once you have taken a grasp of this steep learning curve there is an incredibly rewarding RPG experience lying in wait.
I am not doing a very good job of selling this game to you at the moment, and sometimes it was TOO annoying, but Darkest Dungeon is without a shadow of a doubt; one of the deepest, richest and most rewarding games I have ever played.
The main bulk of the game is spent moving from the left hand side of the screen to the right to navigate longer and longer corridors in between rooms. Whilst walking between these roomed areas, your characters can (and definitely will) be struck by the various traps and enemies that lay in your path. Alongside this, you will need to juggle the stress of your characters to ensure they do not become overstressed which leaves them with side effects such as the ”abusive” effect that causes your character to abuse the other heroes in turn increasing their stress level.
The battle system in Darkest Dungeon is a tactical, turn based battle system in which your characters can only perform certain moves based on where you position them as well as enemy positioning. At first this can be really quite confusing as there is no explanation for how this works but it’s very quickly learned and provided an incredibly detailed and tactical combat system which quickly became one of my all time favourites.
Outside of quests, you will spend your time in Darkest Dungeon in the games central hub town area where you will recruit heroes, level them up and assist the ones suffering from stress by sending them to the pub (Beware though, they can easily become alcohol dependent) or to the church; with the sanitarium serving as the area to expensively remove unwanted perks from your heroes. You will more than likely spend as much time here as in the actual dungeons preparing yourself for the next venture into the unknown.
I leave this part to it’s own brief section, but this game has permadeath on your heroes. Do not get too attached to anyone as you adventure the games many dungeons as this is EXACTLY WHEN THEY WILL DIE. RAGE… But I digress.
The visuals in Darkest Dungeon were perhaps my favourite part about the whole experience, the hand drawn characters were a delight to behold and whilst many of the dungeons held an incredibly familiar feel I was too distracted by the beautiful character models to really care about this.
I mean look at them:
Story is told through very occasional cutscenes and pieces of lore that you pick up a long the way. The story is almost non-existent except for these brief sections of cut scenes and lore heavy reading; a mechanic one can only assume came from the incredibly popular Dark Souls series of making you work for your story. When I did in fact read the story, I found myself enjoying it alot but it is in no way the reason I kept playing Darkest Dungeon into the dead of night.
The narrator,l does an incredible job of telling the personal stories of your heroes as you venture through each of the dungeons, commenting on the stress and death of your characters. This mechanic really helped to break up some of the slog of replaying a dungeon 4-5 times when I truly sucked at it.
The story is likely to pick up as I carry on playing through Darkest Dungeon with increased cut scenes appearing as I progress deeper into this deeply rich experience.
As it stands I am so, so deeply invested in Darkest Dungeon that it pained me to remove myself from the game in order to write this review. It has been a very long time since I found myself such a glutton for punishment as I have felt with this experience but each time I stop playing, I can only think about venturing right back in again.
Darkest Dungeon is one of the best experiences I have had with a video game in recent years and I see myself continually coming back for the onslaught of punishment time and time again.