Ruin has come to our family. The first sentence which greets you sets the tone for the game perfectly. In Darkest Dungeon, you’re looking to salvage a town ravaged by the evils unleashed by the mistakes of your Ancestor. Expect an extremely challenging experience as you pick your way through the masses of monsters in this dungeon-crawling rougelike.
Darkest Dungeon has no qualms about character death or compromising difficulty for your enjoyment, making the game as difficult as Dark Souls or XCOM on Iron Man mode. Although there is only one difficulty level for this game, unlike XCOM you can take as long as you need to finish the game. You’re expected to learn from your losses, and there will be lots of them as you try to learn about your enemies and your adventurers.
Artistically, Darkest Dungeon re-imagines the “Fallen World” trope, taking it towards the deep end. Instead of a bright safe haven to start with, you are greeted by a devastated hamlet as your home, with the responsibility of restoring the land thrust firmly into your hands. Take control of 14 different hero types, choosing the best combination of four into any of three dungeons. Move the story forward by leveling your heroes to take on the Darkest Dungeon of them all and correct your ancestor’s mistakes.
The game introduces a few interesting things about being successful in a fallen world – the sense of necessary sacrifices gathers as your roster of heroes grows in order to act as backups to your favourite part members, replacing them as they meet their untimely demise. Everything you can find in the game is expendable except for the upgrades you apply to your hamlet, shifting the focus of the game from the heroes to the world around them.
Mechanics-wise, the game is about balancing risk and finding the right heroes for the job. Utterly random stat increases make min-maxing the game a nightmare, and the randomness make sense since you’ll be losing a hero or two when RNGsus strikes. Having the right hero for the job is dependent on RNG as well, as you’ll get random recruitable heroes, which are shuffled every time you return from a dungeon.
Dungeon crawling also has a risk-reward system where you can gain greater loot at the cost of more difficult enemy encounters. The game consequently grants your hero higher crit chance to emphasize the idea of risk and randomness, making dungeon crawling all the more interesting. Taking risks is bad for your heroes’ sanity however, which brings us to the most appealing and thematic mechanic in the game.
Stress is a secondary health bar for your heroes. As they are struck by hazards in the dungeon or by critical hits (as if that wasn’t bad enough already), their stress bar will go up by a certain amount. When stress hits 100, your hero becomes “tested”, and will either become Afflicted (overcome by stress) or Heroic. Heroic grants your hero a random boost in stats or a periodic buff to your party members. However, the drawbacks of becoming afflicted make it too much of a risk to try often. When afflicted heroes reach 200 stress, they will die instantly, a common sight for unprepared heroes in the higher leveled dungeons.
+ Fresh, thematic story for the genre
+ Fast, no frills game play
+ Interesting, unique game mechanics and heroes
– Preparation for dungeons is basically a laundry list
– Learning curve is trial-and-error, making the initial experience of the game very frustrating.
– RNG-based dodge system sometimes makes for bullshit boss encounters.
Replay value: 4/5
Darkest Dungeon is an awesome and original game. If dark fantasy is your cup of tea and you don’t mind making a few mistakes to learn the game, be prepared to lose many hours to this game.
Title: Darkest Dungeon
Developer: Red Hook
Format: PC only
Genre: RPG, Turn-based
Resolution: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
Release date: 2016-01-19
Difficulty: Hardcore Rogue-like
Spent time: 20+ hours
Average grade internationally: 87% Gamerankings.com
PEGI age rating: 16+
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