Darkest Dungeon is a sidescrolling roguelike by Red Hook Studios. In Darkest Dungeon, you control a band of four heroes (two for the tutorial level) who must venture forth and defeat the evils surrounding your manor. The narrator of the game (who deserves a raise for his voice acting and raising the feeling of dread in the game) is the dead lord of the manor, who speaks to all of your actions; describing the heroes you acquire for your dungeon crawls, narrating the combat, and describing the light level. The game also has elements of city building, as you use relics you find to upgrade the Hamlet which is your temporary home as you clear out the evils of the area.
There are four areas to adventure in: the ruins, where you start, the weald, with all manner of beasts within it, the pigman-filled warrens, and, finally, the cove. Once you have completed all of these areas, you will enter the darkest dungeon. I have played the game for 11 hours, and have only gotten to the Warrens. This game is brutally difficult, which is a good segway into the tutorial and combat.
Out of the three times I have done the tutorial level, I have lost a character one time. The combat in the game has a large amount of RNG (random number generation) to it; you have a percent chance to hit, some range of damage, and also a chance to critical hit, which does a huge amount of damage. This can lead to some frustrating experiences in the game, when you miss and your enemies critical hit you. During one tutorial session, my Highwayman (ranged class) was critical hit and then killed by a later attack. I was able to hire a replacement for a full four man party, but his body is now in the helpfully provided Graveyard so he can haunt me.
There are four main class types in the game (a dozen classes in all): ranged, support, healer and meatshield (or tank, if you prefer). Each member of your four man and/or woman party has a preferred position, as well as some positive and negative traits that affect what they do and how they react to different obstacles in the dungeons.
There are three things to think about when adventuring; character health, character stress, and light level. Health is interesting in this game; when your character hits 0 health, they do not die, but hit death’s door. They have a 33% base chance to die to any damage they take after this unless you heal them. This allows you a chance to come back from the brink of defeat, but when a character hits death’s door it stresses out the entire party. Stress damage continues after a dungeon run unlike regular damage; it can also cause positive or negative quirks when a character hits 100 stress. Positive quirks let a character heal and reduce stress, while negative ones make the whole party go crazy and the character do their own thing instead of obeying your commands. Light level affects the difficulty of the game; the darker it is, the harder the game is, but you also get more loot and a higher critical hit chance. Unfortunately, negative quirks stay after the dungeon run while positive benefits from positive quirks go away. This is an element I wish would stay consistent between the two, as the negative quirks already very negatively impact the entire party throughout the rest of the current dungeon run.
The different kinds of relics you find allow you to upgrade your Hamlet, which in turn all upgrade your heroes in some way. It is an element that makes upgrading the Hamlet more rewarding, as you see everything come to life.
The last thing I want to touch on is how well this game keeps a consistent theme. The narration, the beautiful (hand drawn, I believe) artwork, and the despondent (look it up!) music wok together to create a remarkably melancholy experience. The narrator deserves great praise, and uses extremely flowery language. “Executed with impunity!” and “Even the cold stone seems bent on preventing passage!” are a few of my favorites. This game is definitely worth a look, and has been getting increasingly popular over time. I wish Red Hook all the luck in their development of this title.
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Hi! I am Eugene Shenderov, and I am a starting game designer. You can find my website at www.thisandthatgames.com. Send me a message if you have any questions!
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