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Darkest Dungeon - Review


Many fall in the face of chaos, but not this one. Not today


Darkest Dungeon (DD) is a unique game, as I never played a game as punishing as this one. With the sequel recently being released, my interest was piqued to try out the first game that I happened to already own but never spent much time playing, and I'm glad that I took the opportunity to check out this gothic-themed experience.



Pros and Cons

Pros

- Interesting gothic-based story

- Fun but brutal gameplay that is very punishing

- Upgrades for your heroes, town, and more

- Beautiful 2D gothic art style


Cons

- Playing this game can be a chore at times due to the needed grind

- There are times when you will be reliant on RNG and it might screw you over

- Activating some of the DLCs on your first playthrough is not recommended



Story

The story starts out with a man known as the Ancestor; he learns of this special power that is somewhere deep in his mansion. He then uses up his family’s remaining fortune to hire people to help him dig up this mysterious power. However, it turns out that this power was something worldly and he ran from the dungeon. Only the ancestry survived and he wrote a letter to the next heir of the family, to fix the mistake he made. After he sealed the letter and before the angry mob of villagers that were mad for what he did could get him, the Ancestor had ended his life.


The story for Darkest Dungeon is not fully told to you directly, rather, it’s told to you at different points in the game, mainly before you do boss missions. It’s interesting at the very least and I like the gothic Cthulhu mythos theme it has going for it. Although DD takes inspiration from the Lovecraftian universe, there are also different inspirations that are included as well. The heroes you hire also have back stories to them as well.




Gameplay

The gameplay for Darkest Dungeon is fun but also very challenging and at the same time, it can be very difficult to grasp. There are many mechanics that you yourself have to try and get used to. You will be able to hire different heroes that each have different abilities for them to use. Each of them also may have a different mechanic that corresponds to them, however, they all do share the stress feature. Stress in the game is determined by what the hero goes through in a given situation. When stress reaches 100, that hero will have a certain negative Affliction inflicted on them, like them being fearful, paranoid, etc.


However, there is a chance that some heroes will be given a virtue when they reach 100 stress, they get increased stats and will randomly heal themselves. So, while most heroes get afflictions and break, others will use their stressful moments as something to encourage themselves. If a hero gets to 200 stress, they will lose the virtue and go back to zero stress, while those with afflictions suffer a heart attack.


During combat, your heroes can do certain attacks or abilities to buff/debuff allies or enemies. Each hero has a certain amount of health and it does vary, when their health runs out they will be put under a Death’s Door status. When they are in this state, they will suffer state penalties and they have to go through a test to see if they will survive the next attack. I should note that if your hero is at 1 health and the enemies attack them with a move that does a lot of damage, they will tank the entire attack except the one damage. The only way for a hero to die is by failing the Death’s Door test.


If a hero suffers a heart attack while at Death’s Door, they will be killed immediately, when a hero dies, they are lost for good and will also lose the equipped charms they have. You can recover them if you lose a hero in battle but if it’s outside of one, they are gone completely. So pray that your best heroes survive the attacks and that their stress does not get too high.


There are ways to relieve stress, like taking out enemies or using a camping ability at a campsite. If your heroes survive the mission, you sent them on, you can send them to a few stress-reducing activities like making them meditate, drink at the bar, gamble, pray, etc. There are also times when a hero will get a disease, so you must take them to the Sanitarium for them to get cured. A hero can get a max of three diseases, if they happen to get another one, it will just replace one of the current diseases they have. Last I checked diseases don’t necessarily work like that but who knows, I am not a medical expert.


I should at least give a little tip/warning that if any hero happens to get stunned, for them to recover it will take that hero's turn. Enemies get the same treatment as well. In other words, Red Hook Studios took some inspiration from the original Persona 3 game and wanted to bring back memories.


Certain moves will also only be available for you to use if that hero is in a certain spot in the party. If they happened to get moved or pushed back, they will be unable to use certain attacks or support abilities. It’s understandable for some attacks but for others it’s absolutely stupid - like, the Vestal can’t use her Divine Grace or Divine Comfort abilities, which heal party members, if she is in the front. I understand that she is a support hero but it’s still pretty dumb that she can’t use those abilities if she happens to be pushed into the front.



Now as much as DD is fun, there are a few issues with the game that don’t hinder the experience but can be a turn-off for some people. Playing DD can be a chore sometimes, you will have to do a lot of grinding depending on the difficulty that you choose. This is normal for an RPG like this game but it can get very repetitive for some people. To add to the fact is that the game also relies on RNG for almost everything that happens in it. Trust me, when your hero misses an attack you will feel pain.


Some of the DLCs in the game are also not recommended to be activated on your very first playthrough. Ones like the Butcher’s Circus (which is online PvP) or the Musketeer are fine because they just add features that don’t hinder the experience for the player. However, DLCs like the Crimson Court add stuff like more grind, a very annoying status debuff, and is just punishing to new players. Buy the DLC on your first playthrough if you just want an even more painful experience.


Graphics and Performance

The art style for DD is absolutely beautiful, I love the gothic-based art style that the game has going for it, and is very detailed. I experienced no issues while I was playing the game.


I tested the game on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X Quad-Core Processor 3.50, and 16 GB of RAM.



Final Verdict

There is a lot that I haven’t talked about with Darkest Dungeon as there are numerous things to uncover from the game. If you are someone who wants to play a very punishing game, then this is the right one for you and you will get your money’s worth because a playthrough could go up to at least 50+ hours.


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