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:
After the absolute disaster that was last week’s session, I needed to take stock of my approach to Darkest Dungeon. I began to think harder about my party layout – I needed to be more aggressive about my plans to tackle these dungeons. At the same time, I needed to be more cautious about combat. Healing, buffs, and status effects began to take center stage. This game was dangerously close to being a closed book – one or two more failures in rapid succession would dig a hole almost too difficult to climb out of.
Luckily, I managed to avoid that fate. Mission successes began to pile up, creating a streak of victories. In the warrens, I encountered some disgusting pig creatures and worms. I killed them. The RNG gods decided to join me in my quest: three stress outcomes in a row resulted in members of my party gaining positive quirks instead of negative. I began to discover new adventurer combinations and conquered my first mission in the cove.
In short, everything was coming up Milhaus.
A new medium length mission reared its head; the last time I attempted one of these, it really started a downhill slide for my group of adventurers. My party included a Bounty Hunter, a Houndmaster, a Plague Doctor (Jeremy, trying to get the necessary experience to take on the Shambler again), and an Occultist. I overbought supplies, this time, hopefully, to counteract the issues I faced last time on a camping mission. I even got goosebumps as I clicked “Embark” to start the mission.
And it was easy. Flew through the mission: no problems, no deaths, gained some levels, rebalanced my financial situation. Darkest Dungeon was easy again. Next mission was more of the same. At one point my kleptomaniac stole loot worth 2250 gold (seriously!), but that was the low point and I was rolling in it. I even considered another go at the Shambler, as I passed one of those altars again, but decided against it. Not yet, old friend.
At this point, I had accomplished four missions in a row with no significant issues. I had plenty of gold, was upgrading the hamlet, and was curing the worst problems of my makeshift crew (gotta get rid of that kleptomania). When I loaded up the mission screen, I noticed a new objective in the listed mission of the Weald. Rather than “Complete 100% of room battles” or some other generic objective, the mission was “Kill the Wizened Hag.”
Boss fight. Let’s keep this streak going.
In order to get to a boss fight, one needs to complete another medium-length mission, so I overbuy supplies just in case. I have the feeling that this mission will make our break my spirit in Darkest Dungeon. I load up with Paul the Man-At-Arms, Barry the Houndmaster, Jeremy the Plague Doctor, and Brendan the Occultist. It is a lengthy trek; I try to avoid camping for as long as I can. Ultimately, camping uses the last of my food and stress is starting to build before I ever reach the Wizened Hag. Down a long corridor, I finally find her, flanked by her… kettle?
I’m very glad my party is made up the way it is because apparently the Hag’s kettle is a giant shield. I can’t hurt it, and it takes up the first two spots on the battlefield. Luckily, everyone in my group can hit the third and fourth spots, so I start hammering away. Then she throws Barry in the pot, where his arms wave around and he cries out in agony. While Barry cooks, the Hag starts hitting the rest of the party with seasoning and a meat tenderizer, which seriously stresses everyone out. This battle was going well, but as the stress builds, the resolve tests begin. Two of my party members become selfish, and one becomes abusive. Things could be better.
However, Barry steps in and saves the day with a positive resolve test. He becomes stalwart, and my bleed effects begin to add up against the Hag. Brendan meets his demise, and Jeremy suffers a heart attack (thus, as predicted, ending his quest for revenge against the Shambler) and dies. Barry is sitting at 4 HP, and Paul is at Death’s Door. The Hag sizes these overmatched warriors up, trying to determine which is seasoned to perfection. As Paul’s turn begins, I resign myself to failure as his selfishness takes over once again. “My place is here!” he cries, before stepping in front of Barry and delivering the killing blow to the Hag. I half expected her kettle to sprout legs and finish me off, but even Darkest Dungeon is not that unfair. Paul and Barry limp back to the Hamlet, leveling up in the process.
One boss down! On my first try, nonetheless. Maybe that Shambler will wind up meeting his maker after all. Join me next week as I delve deeper and hunt down some more big uglies for the next issue of Crawling in the Dark.