Darkest Dungeon is a Kickstarter funded 2D side-scrolling dungeon crawler created by Red Hook Studios. What makes Darkest Dungeon different is that one of its main features is the management of stress on your team. Although there are plenty of dungeon crawlers about, Darkest Dungeon is quite unique and stands out from the crowd.
The first main place you will spend most the game is in dungeon mode which is when you’re crawling a dungeon. You move left and right until you reach the end of the dungeon. When you encounter enemies you switch into combat mode and take it in turns to attack each other until you are victorious, run away or die.
The second main place you spend your time is managing your roster via a town view in which you can upgrade, de-stress, recruit new members to the roster, etc. Some of the upgrades include improved efficiency of de-stressing, ability to recruit more people, a better selection of recruits, cut costs on equipment upgrades, etc. I wasn’t a fan of the way you could de-stress different characters better in different slots (e.g. drinking, going to church, bit of punishment, etc.) as it just felt like unnecessary complexity.
Your team can be made up of a range of unique classes of character with different skills. Each type of class has a “preferred” position in the party, e.g. a warrior likes to be at the front and a caster at the back. Out of position characters lose certain skills and so this adds a bit of depth to the combat by using skills to dislodge the enemies ranks. As you play your characters level up, making them more powerful.
I enjoyed the first two missions and was quite looking forward to playing through the game but I just didn’t make any progress or enjoy it beyond the starting levels. The game is deliberately hard, which is fine, but I just felt like I was wasting my time. I spent about 6 hours playing the game and as you can see by my low level in the screenshots, I made very little progress.. Most groups of enemies are manageable but the one boss-like enemy I encountered I couldn’t even damage and shortly after I encountered a group of dogs which my team couldn’t seem to hit! For each trip into the dungeons you need to stock up on torches, food, spades, keys, etc. beforehand. Torches are used to maintain light which impacts on combat, I found them annoying to maintain. Food restores an insignificant amount of health and is used to satisfy a mid dungeon popup that amounts to “hungry! eat? y/n”. Managing stress just seems to be a case of putting someone on a mission and then putting them in the pub to de-stress, preventing you from using them the next mission. Once maximum stress is released the character gets a negative trait which will impact on them until they are back to normal. The negative trait may make them not want to be healed, pass on their combat turn, say stuff that impacts on everyone else’s stress levels, etc.
Another thing to know about Darkest Dungeon is that the game is Roguelike in the sense that everything is final. There is no saving or loading, the game starts and ends as you left it. This type of game isn’t for everyone (probably me?!) so just bear that in mind. You can, however, have more than one campaign on the go.
Graphically the game looks very polished and the artwork fits perfectly with the game style. I am also very impressed with the audio, especially the awesome voice overs.
I didn’t encounter any bugs.
Darkest Dungeon is a polished and high quality dungeon crawler, but I just didn’t like playing it at all. I would not recommend.