Darkest Dungeon was available in early access for just over 1 year before it’s official launch a few weeks ago on January 19th. So while the title indicates that this review is a first impression, it is more my thoughts on version 1.0 rather than first impressions on a game which has been around for a fair bit of time.
Having signed up for the early access to Darkest Dungeon, I previously racked up around 3-4 hours of play but then made a conscious decision to stop playing. Various aspects of the game were still changing on a frequent basis, so I figured I would wait, biding my time for the game launch to complete it, which in my view is the best experience.
If I had to describe Darkest Dungeon in a few words, I’d say it is a side scrolling Dungeon RPG in which the game tries its up-most to make you lose.Set somewhere in 15th-16th century, Darkest dungeon is a game about management and taking risks, pushing your luck where you think you can and dealing with the consequences when that game hits back at you for pushing to hard. You are the player and as far as story goes are tasked with restoring an old man’s manor. The only problem is that the depths of hell have spilled out below the manor and taken over the surrounding cellars and grounds. You assemble a party of 4, based on many different classes available and set out into the Darkest Dungeon to reclaim what has been taken away and left to rot.
The first thing you realise is how much the game is against you; at every turn you are taking damage, be it a blow from a cult zealot or from looting treasure from a cursed wardrobe, you are always fighting an up hill battle to survive and keep your party alive. Darkest Dungeon works on both health and a stress mechanic. Health is as you expect. Should a party members health reach zero, they die. Stress brings a whole new element to contend with, for if a character gets to stressed then he/she can develop a bad trait that will in turn bring the rest of the party down resulting in more stress and potentially more bad traits.
Darkest Dungeon looks great, taking its art style from graphic novels it provides an eerie feel as you wander the depths of the manor trying to stay alive. So far, I’ve played about 12 hours of the game. I’ve been taking it slow, trying not to lose anyone along the way and thinking about each move before I decide to commit. For the most part I feel I am doing well, but I have a feeling death in this game can’t be helped and it won’t be long before a key party member falls and I have to pull in a rookie to fill the gap.
When I first ventured into my medium size dungeon I thought I was stocked up to take on anything, and while I had an answer for the most part, nothing was going my way. Every strike was a miss and every chance to loot some goods had some ill effect on my party. My party was stressing and so was I. Finally made the choice to flee, valuing the lives of my party over the glory of completing a dungeon. Fleeing allows you to keep all the loot you have currently gathered, but your party takes the hit of keeping any stress and ailments that were endured during the run. Some of the ailments can have dire effects on the moral of the rest of the party; for example a party member can become abusive and will shout curses and jibes at their comrades, thus in turn bring down party moral even more.
Darkest dungeon has a nice pace that I could and have passed a whole Sunday afternoons playing. Anyone who enjoys a good RPG dungeon crawler or rouge like games then Darkest Dungeon is for you.