Yes, it’s that time again, time for me to get stuck into an early access game. Darkest Dungeon is one of the best RPG’s I’ve played to date, and that is no overstatement.
Darkest Dungeon has you run through so many different emotions all without having a story driven narrative. In fact, the story is probably its weakest area, you are sent a letter to come home to your estate which has been overrun by evil and run down by the caretaker in your absence. Your stage coach ends up crashing on the journey and you then travel through the “tutorial”, where the game begins. You start off with a Crusader and a Highway Brigand as your starting two heroes, and the tutorial runs through the basics of movement, combat and all that other good stuff.
When you’ve finished the tutorial, you reach the estate, where you can upgrade various buildings and upgrade characters armour and weapons, as well as decide which quests to undertake and buy provisions for the journey ahead. When you’re actually on quests you’ll encounter various curios, which are interactive objects, which can give the player loot, cause something good to happen, or cause something bad to happen. This game encompasses the mental fatigue that heroes may endure during the course of a journey, and it hits them hard. It’s one of the best systems I’ve seen in an RPG, but it’s one that causes me nothing but grief. My Crusader who has the trait Kleptomaniac, decides to take a lot of treasure for himself, where the loot I’ve worked so hard to find, just disappears because he fills his greedy pockets, and my Highwayman just happens to have a -20% chance to resist bleed, which causes him to bleed during combat whenever attacked, just because the odds in the game seem stacked against you virtually all of the time. You have a 67% chance to hit that nasty monster that keeps hitting your party with stress on the back row, you waste the attack because it missed. You try again next round, you miss again. My rule of thumb was to never attack anything I wasn’t 80% sure I’d hit it, since odds are against you. This game is like playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons, but letting your 8 year old nephew be the Dungeon Master, where they always have to win. You are literally playing against a cheating child. The stress factor in the game affects heroes by giving them negative traits, as well as causing them to become utterly useless once their stress hits 100. They have something called a virtue chance, where they sometimes become virtuous and resist all of the stress they have endured, gaining buffs and helping the party out of a bad spot. But what you’ll find is that most of the time, your crusader will become selfish, and fall back to a spot in combat where you can’t effectively use him, or the cleric will become masochistic, rushing to the front line, marking themselves and refusing…literally REFUSING to heal the party. How many games have you played where a character just flat out refuses to do what they are supposed to do, by design, and not by some miracle glitch.
It is however, possible to beat the odds and create a brilliant expedition team, with a roster of back up heroes ready to take their place in the team whenever someone ends up going nuts, which could very well happen. I found the trick to this game, like any other difficult game is preparedness. Yes, you won’t get so much in terms of gold, but your party will survive to fight another day. You want to take more than enough food, since when you start running low, I find my party gets more hungry and goes through the food like they’ve never eaten before. I often take at least 2 shovels out with me, a couple of holy waters and a few bandages just in case. That seems to work well for me.
Depending on how attached to your characters you get, you could just throw them into a dungeon and hope for the best, or you can use some foresight and think, well, I’m going to need (enter item name here) for (enter curio name here). It’s about playing against the odds, and trying to balance them back in your favour. Me? If I see a risk, I swerve it. Take a different path, avoid the curio because I don’t have an item to use on it, if I see two battles up ahead plus a room battle, I may choose another route since XP doesn’t count from battles, only from completing the objective. The fewer battles fought, the better.
There are some things I don’t particular care for, such as the fact that I can only use 4 heroes at once, since when you reach a certain point you may have in excess of 12 heroes hanging around, with nothing to do. And since the game isn’t finished, there are areas I’m waiting to explore because I’ve completed the main quests for each area, and it becomes a case of taking out a quest because the game says I can’t do anything else.
Upon completion I believe this is going to be one of the best RPG’s to date, with the new generation of gamers having a title to have their own nostalgic memories about, even if they were gruesome.
Available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, OS X, Mac OS.
Ryan Griffiths is a British gamer, known as a bit of a lone wolf. Retro games are his passion, with newer releases not living up to his expectations. Of course there are exceptions to the rule when it comes to Dynasty Warriors & Total War games.