Darkest Dungeon is a hand drawn, dungeon-crawling rpg with a dark and unforgiving world. With a unique stress management system this gothic styled rpg will give you feelings of despair you haven’t felt since D&D in middle school. Choosing four heroes from a roster of adventurers you lead them on perilous side scrolling delves, both to slay evil and collect treasure. Along each comic book-like path lies many dangers and boons. These events can be simple creatures, curses, secret areas, and even completely unholy abominations.
Red Hook Studios started it’s first game on a kickstarter way back on Febuary 10, 2014 and reached their goal of $75k in just 24 hours. Red Hook decided to extend its goals and went on to raise $313,337 by March 13, 2014 with 9,639 backers. Darkest Dungeon was released as Early Access on Febuary 3, 2015 on the Steam market and finally had it’s full release in January 2016. Even today the staff is hard at work making updates and adding content. Just two days ago Red Hook released Darkest Dungeon on the Apple App store finally granting Mac users access. However they have pushed their planed Playstation 4 and Vita releases until late July or August this year.
The artwork in Darkest Dungeon really speaks to me. Hand drawn games are having a come back lately and I for one approve. This style of art gives the game a different kind of life. With dark sketch like styles Chris Bourassa (creative director) and Brooks Gordon (technical artist/ animation) really nailed this desperate and corrupt word. Being able to see the expressions of your heroes as their mental stability shifts during a dungeon crawl makes it feel a little more real. Too many games these days are forgiving, where this game doesn’t baby you or care about your heroes at all. It’s kinda refreshing.
Picking your party is important as each class varies greatly. With little explanation on what each class excels in, the first few adventures are expected to be pretty rough. I recommend trying to keep the first party you get alive as long as possible (Crusader, Highwayman, Plague Doc., Vestal) This is a good rounded party. Another of my favorites is two Hellions in front followed by a Jester for stress management and last a Vestal for heals. It is imperative to pick a party styled for the area you intend to go. The different zones have different types of enemies and traps. Going in blind is very sketchy.
At first I found this game incredibly hard to get any progress. I could carefully select a party, equip them properly and pick appropriate provisions. Even so the monsters would cut down at least one of my heroes or I would have to escape before my goals were met. Slowly I gained a feel for the mechanics and things got a little easier. I say this but if you are not careful at every turn, the game will kill you. Beyond levels, skills and equipment your heroes have positive and negative mental traits. You can re enforce the good and get rid of the bad at the cost of precious gold and you wont be able to use that hero on your next outing.
I found the management aspects in this game very deep and tedious. Managing the party is something that rpg buffs are used to but you must also upgrade your town. Players will have to balance upgrading between stress relief buildings (church and pub), the guild hall (skills) and the blacksmith (equipment). Each is essential however you will likely not have the resources to keep them perfectly balanced.
The community built on Darkest Dungeon is still very strong. Modding the game is starting to become popular, while Red Hook is still coming out with content. The Antiquarian is the newest of the classes which is currently available through opting into the games beta through Steam. With the support of this vast following Red Hook will keep evolving Darkest Dungeon well into next year.