It was only a year ago when Canadian Red Hook Studios was asking for help through Kickstarter to develop and release Darkest Dungeon and now we finally have it on Steam.
What is Darkest Dungeon?
That is a HARD question. Darkest Dungeon is a mix of a lot of gaming elements. And this is one of the best things. You may define it as a roguelike dungeon-delver that has a strategic turn-based battle system that winks directly to classic tactics games and RPGs. Don’t be scared. It is not difficult to learn the system, but a huge amount of heroes will come and go and keeping track of all their abilities, while complex, will keep things fresh. Your heroes are not one of those adventurers who can kill everything with one little blow like you are used to see in Diablo. Here, they are not simply stats and skills. They’re people -like, you know, real people- with flaws and quirks, which is good and bad. And they become affected by the horrors they see in the depths of the dungeon. This little fact will change your experience every time you decide to explore a dungeon. If you enjoyed the psychological effects of the party on This War of Mine, this is a game to play. Here you will be dealing with people, personality and group dynamics, literally anything can happen. And it does.
Each hero joins your party with their own personality, and sometimes negative traits. You have plenty of afflictions: you may be selfish, curious, diurnal, faithless, etc. Each affliction will impact your hero and your entire party: If they are gamblers, they will only gamble at town. You won’t be able to send them to stress relief sessions. They will become maniacs overtime. Your healer may start insulting your party instead of healing, provoking even more stress to all of them. And trust me, you don’t want to hit maximum stress in the depths of a dungeon. When their stress meter hits max, they get a resolve check, which can lead to them falling apart emotionally and earning a negative trait and mentality disorders, or rising to the challenge and becoming even stronger, if you are lucky. Really lucky.
Crazy things can and will happen in battle due to this system. The formation of the party determines which skills they can use, and they may start swapping places just for fun. They may refuse to heal. Or be healed, if they develop a taste for pain. Characters may decide to auto attack or choose to simply skip.
And when someone dies, it’s for good. There’s no turning. Actions are permanent and the auto save feature will make you that clear enough. You will get attached to your heroes. You will invest tons of money on abilities, equipment and treatment. And they will die. And you will only have a corpse to visit on the graveyard after that.
Like good roguelike games, death may be permanent, but there’s other parts of the game that you can build up. As you complete dungeons, you unlock new dungeon scenarios with higher level requirements and bosses. So, there’s progression in the challenges you face as long as your characters survive enough to tell the story.
Between all the buildings you can unlock within the town, you have an abbey and tavern where your stress-afflicted heroes go to to take some fresh air. This will reduce their stress over time and they may cure a few of their torments. If not, you will need to start a therapy. And this takes time.
You can even level up the buildings with the treasures you can bring back. As you level up the tavern you can improve how much stress is reduced, lower the cost of beer or any kind of need your hero may have and even open up more slots for more heroes to use the tavern at once.
This does not mean you will be able to cure them all. You will need to recruit new heroes to replace those too far beyond repair. Remember: if you get too attached, you may lose everything. How much are you willing to sacrifice to try to save your hero?