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Shedding some light on the Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is a bleak affair shining with knowing humor. These are heroes on their way to ruin, and it's up to you to keep them sane, hale, and hearty... good luck!

Hoo boy, I love Darkest Dungeon... in small doses. Much like the dungeon crawls the game emulates, the pressure and stress of keeping your party whole starts to wear you down over time. Got an ale house, therapist, or wards of your own? You may need them as much as your in game alter egos.

Darkest Dungeon unfolds gradually, with locked locations in your Hamlet which you'll need to soothe the psyches of your adventurous crew. Different ailments require different remedies, of course, whether it's penitence or grog, leeches or... amputation? It's this aspect of Darkest Dungeon that takes the control from the player... not only will heroes you've come to depend upon need to miss crawls due to their own physical or mental ailments, they'll sometimes embark on quests of their own, leaving you empty handed when you need them most.

The game is all about party management, like any good dungeon crawl. You can't rely on one or another carrying you though... you've got to keep a balance which can be maintained through substitution when needed. Make no mistake about it, a game that draws heavily from psychological fears as inhibiting factors  (the darker the dungeon gets, the more jittery/cautious/cowardly the party members become-- torch management is integral) doesn't shy from its Lovecraftian influences. Don't expect your characters to survive, and certainly don't expect them to keep their sanity intact. One of those locations in the village you'll find soon enough is the graveyard...

At its core, Darkest Dungeon is about the mechanics of positioning. Gameplay is on a 2d plane, with your party moving from the left of the screen to the right as they explore. Combat is turn- based, with actions alternating in an order determined by speed and initiative. Different attacks and spells have different reaches, so making sure your ranged attacker is at the rear, protecting the healers, and rearranging the order as needed all become crucial to survival.

There are a diverse number of attack types and spell effects, and you'll constantly need to readjust your methods and party composition. Progress through the dungeon is mapped on a grid, and it's usually a matter of accomplishing objectives OR reaching that final room. Completing the objective (scout 90% of the ruins, or defeat a named boss) subsequently allows you the option of exiting to the Hamlet.

Newly released with full content, Darkest Dungeon expects to grow with updates featuring new Hamlet locations, party members, and dungeons to explore. It's a challenging game, and your party will be severely flawed by the end... but they'll be all the more memorable for it. I can heartily recommend the game for its visual style, too... it suits the tone with engaging animations and a flair rarely seen in other games.

If you're willing to take your time, make careful decisions regarding loot, party composition, and the best fate for your most loved characters, Darkest Dungeon will reward your efforts.

Our Rating
8
Darkest Dungeon is a bleak affair shining with knowing humor. These are heroes on their way to ruin, and it's up to you to keep them sane, hale, and hearty... good luck!
Reviewed On: Steam
Published Jan. 23rd 2016

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