Crawling in the Dark is a weekly diary of my experience with the permadeath dungeon crawler and frustration simulator known as Darkest Dungeon. Half role-playing, half story-telling, and half review, join me on a math-challenged journey through heart attacks, Eldritch horrors, and the year’s best narrator. Obviously, spoilers. Check out our Early Access review of the game here (which still holds true, even though the game is now in its release build). You can find the previous Crawling in the Dark posts here:
The citizens of the hamlet crowded around. On the ground, in the center of a puzzled circle of people, lay a man in a mask. Strewn about were various vials and flasks; he was broken, bleeding, and very clearly insane. “It kept shambling towards us… nothing could stop it. All my poisons, all the bleeding… nothing did any good,” he rambled. “Where are the rest of the adventurers?” someone asked. “Dead… they’re all dead,” the Plague Doctor stammered. He then lost consciousness and had to be carted off to the Abbey for treatment.
After last week’s easy run through, the good luck rolled through my next few treks in Darkest Dungeon. I boldly took an expedition with no healer and rolled through with barely a scratch. My group of adventurers grew, the wealth in my vault grew, and my characters began to level up. I did lose my first warrior: Danielle, the lusty vestal from last week’s post, unfortunately, was not able to survive a case of blight. Even with this setback, my second, third, and fourth expeditions all went without many hitches. Very quickly, as often happens in Darkest Dungeon, everything went to hell.
It began with a case of tetanus. I had to set out with a less than ideal party due to a nasty bout of tetanus getting cured in the Sanitarium. I decided to lead a party consisting of a Man-at-Arms, a Houndmaster, an Arbalist, and a Vestal on a seemingly simple quest. Very quickly, things started to go wrong. There were more fights here than I had seen in any other dungeon. Stress was building rapidly, and torches were running out. Paul, my gruff Man-at-Arms, picked up a nasty personality trait: selfish. He began hurling insults at the others in the group, further stressing them out. As torches began to dwindle, Megan, our Arbalist, also became selfish. The two of them fought over the pettiest things and stressed people even more. My torches were out, and I had just one last fight to win. Even through the arguing, stress, and mounting injuries, our Vestal luckily gained the “focused” trait and helped survive the day. However, the massive stress levels meant this entire group was sitting the next crawl out. Even with an essentially new team, I decided to attempt my first medium length mission. Bad idea.
On medium missions, firewood is required for camping. Extra food and torches need to be brought. And I was not prepared for what this mission threw at me. I had gone through all of my supplies about halfway through the dungeon and Drew, my kleptomaniac Crusader, had come down with rabies. My party fled home, essentially wasting all the money I spent, only to discover that Michelle was now addicted to gambling, Barry had decided he was never drinking again, and Jordan had seen the light and donated 1000 extra gold to the church.
I leave you guys alone for one mission, and this is what happens?
Funds were low. Morale was lower. It was time to take back the ruins. Darkest Dungeon likes to name your squads, and it dubbed this most recent one “Soul Train.” Prepare to get funky.
After winning a few battles, I came across something curious: an interactive item called a “Shambler’s Altar.” I could optionally place a torch on the altar to receive something in return. I remember thinking, “This is my lucky day!”
That was quickly followed with “Well, this battle looks tough.” The Shambler was a big ugly with 77 hit points and some serious protections. I had status ailments aplenty to inflict it with, however, and decided to ride this one out. Then he started attacking.
And summoning friends.
And draining my characters’ health.
And melting away their sanity.
My notes read like the end of a Shakespearian tragedy: “Orang – Abusive. Jordan – Dead. Orang – Dead. Michelle – Fearful. Jeremy – Abusive. Run Away! NOPE. Michelle – Heart Attack.”
Before Michelle’s heart attack, my last two survivors tried to escape. “Retreat failed” is what Darkest Dungeon responded with.
Michelle dropped dead, as watching her friends die combined with Jeremy’s constant verbal abuse of her did not help her state of mind. I decided to try one final retreat. Jeremy was at death’s door and bleeding out. He was cursing for everyone to hear and waiting for death… and he escaped. Broken, bleeding, and insane, he made it back to the Hamlet. Quest failed, but it left one survivor.
Jeremy slowly opened his eyes. “Where am I?” “Oh, thank God! He’s awake!” The caretakers rushed over. “Call the doctor!” “I don’t believe it!” “How do you feel, are you OK?” “Will someone PLEASE get the doctor in here?”
Moments later, Jeremy was alone with his doctor. “I hate to break this to you, but none of your friends made it out to you. Do you remember what happened?”
Jeremy locked eyes with his doctor and measured each word out carefully: “Absolutely. And I am going to make that thing pay if it’s the last thing I do.”
Join us next week for another installment of Crawling in the Dark. Can Jeremy get his revenge on the Shambler? (Probably not. He’ll probably die from something stupid before then.) Find out as we continue our trek into the Darkest Dungeon.