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Darkest Dungeon beginner's tips and tricks

Has your whole party gone mad and died of heart attacks? We show you how to stand another day against the relentless tide of darkness!

It's not often in a non-hentai game that your party's priestess can contract syphilis from a tentacle monster, but here we are with Darkest Dungeon, where that is a very real possibility.

Coincidentally, this is also the most addicting non-hentai game I've played so far this year. Turns out we weren't wrong to name it one of the 17 most anticipated RPGs of 2016.

Don't come into this thinking it's a typical walk in the park RPG though – Darkest Dungeon is maddeningly difficult on purpose, making you wonder whether the risk of cracking open that disturbing fish statue is worth the potential riches that might be inside.

Your heroes will contract diseases, die of shock-induced heart attacks, go insane during combat, and be mercilessly hacked to pieces beneath what fans have hilariously taken to calling “Squamous Manor.”

Before you pick up your sword and meet horrible death, you'll want to read our Darkest Dungeon guide below, and you just might live long enough to complete a quest or two. For more help in surviving the sanity-blasting things to be found in the game, check out:

Preparing For Combat In Darkest Dungeon

Before heading out to explore the different locations in the game (the ruins, the cove, the warrens, the weald, and of course the eponymous darkest dungeon itself beneath your family's manor) it's wise to spend some money on provisions.

Because nothing can be easy in this game, items you buy during the provision phase don't carry over to future quests, and you don't get your full money back for items you didn't use. This makes provisioning a very careful balancing act: buy what you can afford, but weigh that with what you can get away with not having.

Saving the world doesn't earn you a discount, unfortunately

Take into account your destination for the quest when buying supplies. You are more likely to need antivenom to counter enemy attacks and activate curios in the weald and the cove than any other area, for instance.

For most short quests, you can get away with 8 food, as that will cover feeding everyone twice. For quests with camping (see below), you'll want much more. Torches, on the other hand, can go either direction -- and there's benefits both for having plenty and for having none.

If you run out of light, your doomed party will get extra loot before being butchered in the darkness, and you will deal critical hits more often. Keeping the light level up at the top will result in less loot, but your group will surprise enemies more frequently and traps will be spotted more often.

Completing Quests In Darkest Dungeon

The basic heart of any quest is exploring one of the game's main areas and completing various objectives. Besides the quests offered later on in the dungeon beneath the manor, the main quest types consist of:

  • Cleanse – win every dungeon room encounter (random encounters in corridors aren't required)
  • Explore – travel through 90% of the rooms in an area
  • Gather – collect specific items from the random curious discovered in an area
  • Activate – very similar to Gather quests, these require you to use items on curios in the area
  • Boss – kill a specific, non-random enemy with high health and damage output

Regardless of the quest, you'll be moving through rooms, deciding whether or not to interact with curios, and then battling enemies.

Combat is the heart of the game, and it's where the most can go wrong, because Darkest Dungeon features no healing potions of any kind. The only way to heal outside of combat is to waste food for tiny increments of health (which isn't worth it), or camp for the night (which is only available in longer quests).

So how do you stay alive? Ideally, don't take damage. But if you don't have a high dodge or protection score, you need to bring heroes like the Vestal – who can heal others – or the Leper or Abomination – who can heal themselves.

He's not pretty to look at, but the Leper can at least keep himself alive

All of this healing has to take place during battle, however, so try to keep one weak enemy alive and stunned a few extra rounds to allow you time to address your wounded companions before moving onto the next room. Don't let this go on too long though - the developer knew people would do this, and implemented a deterrent. If combat goes on to long without victory (usually around round 20), your party will start taking very high stress damage each turn.

You won't just take damage during combat though, as your heroes will also gain stress. After hitting 100 stress, your hero must make a resolve test, which usually results in gaining a seriously negative trait. This might make the hero change his marching order, attack the wrong enemy, or use a different skill than you want him to.

Very rarely, you'll be tested and NOT found wanting – in this case, you get a helpful trait instead, as that hero becomes better at facing the darkness.

Later quests involve longer dungeon crawls, offering the opportunity to camp a small number of times in empty rooms. These quests have less need for a dedicated healing Vestal, as each class has different camping skills that usually involve either reducing stress, healing damage, or boosting your stats for the remainder of the quest.

Would you sleep in the room with the rotting whale carcass?

Keep careful note of who has what camping skill on these longer quests, as you are much less likely to succeed if no one can reduce stress or heal a significant amount of damage.

Anyone who has failed a resolve test lately and gained a negative attribute like Hopeless or Paranoid also won't benefit from skills that reduce stress during camping. To help those characters, the party will need to head back to town.

Recovering In The Hamlet After Darkest Dungeon Quests 

After getting back home, your first order of business should be to upgrade buildings with the loot you found on your quest. Focus on upgrading the stage coach during your first few missions so you have a ready supply of new heroes to take over when your current roster dies or goes mad. The bigger your stable of heroes, and the more new heroes incoming, the higher the chance you'll get new classes to arrive as well.

The Stage Coach is where new victims (sorry, "heroes") arrive

After upgrading a building and selling off any trinkets you can't use, next up is keeping your heroes sane and useful. You'll notice over time each hero gets quirks (a side effect of interacting with insane evil cultists and monstrous things), which are completely random. They can be very helpful or entirely detrimental.

When a character's quirks start making them useless in combat, or they've contracted a debilitating disease, its time to put them in the sanitarium – they won't be available for the next quest, but that's the price you pay.

Equally important is reducing stress so your heroes don't go mad and gain more serious detrimental effects. Take a quick look at any given hero's quirks before trying to remove stress – some, for instance, aren't allowed to gamble in the tavern anymore due to being caught cheating, while others will refuse to pray to the gods of light, and still others will only pray or self-flagellate at the monastery to reduce stress.

There's nothing a nun with a syringe can't cure!

Finally, its time to upgrade skills and equipment at the guild and blacksmith. Much like with provisioning, there's a serious balancing act at play here. Don't devote too much money on a single hero, since all heroes will eventually die, but spend enough to keep your group alive on the next quest.

In general, it's better to upgrade existing skills rather than to buy new ones, since it's a cheap increase in power that can have a big impact. Only buy a new skill if you specifically need it for your preferred party combo. At 1,000 gold a pop, new skills will deplete your monetary supply very quickly, especially as you replace deceased heroes.

The horrors of the Darkest Dungeon must be slain by bullet and blade!

You've now completed our Darkest Dungeon crash course on how to keep your party alive and sane long enough to grab some loot and outfit the next group of poor damned souls seeking glory.

Be sure to let us know if you have any other Darkest Dungeon tips, tricks, or strategies we didn't cover!

Published Feb. 3rd 2016

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