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Darkest Dungeon, a short review

Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based roguelike dungeon crawler developed by indie dev's at RedHook. This game started as a kickstarter back in 2014 and after almost two years of development and beta testing it was finally been released in early 2016. Unlike many other games of the genre, Darkest Dungeon deviates a lot from the standard dungeon crawling trope.

The Game is set at the foot of an expansive estate, owned by a anscestor of the player's.The player soon learns that the ancestor has been secretly excavating beneath his manor releasing a great evil upon the world. Horrified and broken, the ancestor took his own life, leaving his hamlet in ruin. And so, the player steps in, inheriting their relative‘s lands and are set to undo the corruption that was unleashed. Controlling a group of four heroes, and a force of many more, the player is tasked on exploring and clearing wide variety of areas, ranging from undead infested ruins to twisted and cavernous coves. Each successful expedition into the the ancestor‘s lands uncovers more of its dark past and brings the hamlet closer to its former glory.

Darkest Dungeon delivers an unique and powerful aesthetic feel combining a grotesque Gothic art style, robust soundtrack and well-crafted sound effects. Although, what really sets this game from others is its great narration. Mechanically the game is very satisfying, each attack, spell and action feel like they have great import to a missions sucess. Obliterating the enemy front line with one well placed crit is indescribably fun. A unique game mechanic that makes Darkest Dungeon's absurdly difficult combat less impossible is the death's door mechanic. Once a hero reaches zero health, they do not instantly die, but rather, are put to death's door, where each hit on that hero has a chance to kill them. Having a hero brought to death‘s door is always terrifying, as the player is trying desperately to try and save the hero, delaying their inescapable end.

Another particularly striking aspect of this game is its stress mechanic, which introduces a psychological aspect to the game. Throughout the quests heroes will accumulate stress during battles and through object interactions and once they've had enough of the horrors, they will become afflicted. These afflictions greatly hinder their combat ability, stresses out their party and are overall unpleasant to have. Thus, stress relief comes into place taking up a huge part of this game. After the quest is over, a stressed hero could be sent to one of the many stress relief activities inside the tavern or the abbey, for a small fee, of course. However, if an afflicted hero fills their stress bar for a second time, they are treated with a heart attack, which immediately puts them at death's door, or if they are at death's door- instantly kills them. To sum, this mechanic is in place to make the heroes more human, it shows what inner turmoil a hero would actually face when traversing grim and harsh dungeon halls, forced to fight for their lives.

Darkest Dungeon is a brutally punishing and difficult game, that‘s what it‘s famed for. In the very start, right after the opening cinematic the player is treated with a little disclaimer warning you about the perils they will face ahead, stating that their favorite heroes will indeed succumb to the evil therein. But there's still an option for more casual players to disable a few hard game mechanics in the options screen, making the game so much easier.

To add, the game has a lot of riveting content, plentiful of fleshed out bosses and some replayability with NG+. For completionists, there are quite a few hellishly difficult and rare achievements to be had on steam.

In the end, I find this game worth all the time I had spent on it, even though the game felt a little bit grindy and repetitive at the end while preparing my expeditions to the final quest. Still, I had many really memorable moments while playing this game.

Also, there‘s an argument to be made that the game is too RNG based. That may be true to some degree, a good player is more than capable of keeping their heroes alive, no matter how grim things look, there is always the retreat button, which is often overlooked by most players. Having over two hundred hours of experience in this game I managed to beat NG+ only losing three heroes. RNG is not that terrifying and can be easily countered by good party compositions, equipment and planning, if you asked me.

8/10, Atmospheric, memorable and challenging game, yet a bit grindy at points.

Darkest Dungeon is available on steam for 22.99 Euros, 24.99 USD. The price may be a bit steep, but you‘re getting a lot out of this game.

The game still gets occasional updates, you can find out more about them before they get released on the game‘s website

I would most definitely recommend playing this game for anyone who enjoys a challenge and appreciates a grim, Lovecraft inspired aesthetic. This game will definitely keep you engaged for weeks.


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