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Darkest Dungeon

by Josh Ennor

Darkest Dungeon reminds us that there are some Early Access Games out there that are worth supporting.

Darkest Dungeon stresses me the hell out. It stresses me out so much that often I will find myself needing to leave my screen for a few minutes (thank YOU turn based combat system) to grab a drink or cuddle my kitten until I am reminded that there is some good in the world. And you know what? I absolutely love that. Darkest Dungeon is a two-dimensional side scrolling dungeon crawler, akin to… well… not a whole lot to be perfectly honest. It takes you, the player (who resides as no more than an idea) gives you a decrepit town and a handful of mismatched adventurers and says “Here you go! Everything is ruined! Fix it” and you give blood, sweat (and in my case, tears) in an attempt to do just that.


Setting

Through absolutely beautiful landscapes and meticulously crafted characters (each of whom prescribe to a class archetype) you are forced to traverse randomly generated dungeons in a number of different environments, you find adversity in a number of creatures within these dungeons which plays out in position-oriented, turn-based combat. I honestly cannot fault the visual and audible aspects of the game. They have created such a brilliant atmosphere that it almost makes me think they’re building from the experience of being in the actual situation (citation needed).


Gameplay

The in-combat-resources (health and stress) play a major role in combat planning as well, as you attempt to keep your health topped off and your stress minimal, there is never a point in the game where things seem “okay”, there’s almost always someone close to dying or close to having their resolve tested (through the stress meter filling up) and as your characters get stressed, you get stressed! I’ve not had a video game cause me to mirror the feeling of the protagonist so consistently since Portal 2. There are only two things that I can fault the game on, both of which have complete justification in my eyes. One, I will discuss a little later on, and the other is that the combat can, at times, seem a little formulaic or repetitive. However any sort of “strategy” that you think you have concocted can (and will) be very short-lived as the adversaries that you encounter totally screw you up by pushing your freaking Crusader to the back of the freaking team and making him spend two of his turns switching places with the guys in front of him until he can freaking cast Zealous Accusation again. [FUCK THIS FUCKING GAME!]

When a character's stress level reaches maximum, their resolve becomes tested.

When a character’s stress level reaches maximum, their resolve becomes tested.


STORY – minor opening scene spoilers

The story of Darkest Dungeon is (currently) no more than a recollection of what has happened pre-your arrival. An old and wealthy family member has ended his own life after he opens a portal to hell (which he did due to boredom, jerk) and left you with his estate (wherein lies the portal). Which brings me to my second fault in the game, which is that content is sort of limited. There are often times where you get bored of sending your stressed-out adventurers to their death over and over again. However, the game is still in early access. There is so much more that they can, and probably will add in future, and the content that is there is so well polished, that if someone told me it was a full release, I would believe them.


Conclusion

Darkest Dungeon is, in all aspects, a well designed and well executed dungeon crawler. It is simple enough for anyone to be able to pick up and play, but has so much depth that even after 25 hours of play time, I’m still discovering new strategies and still losing players to stress and death. If you are someone who loves to invest yourself into a beautiful ( as well as dark, decrepit and depressing) world. Darkest Dungeon is for you.

Score: 8/10

Release Date: Out now
Available from: Steam ($19.99 USD)
Developed by: Red Hook Studios
Available on: PC/PS4/PSV

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Twitter @joshennor

As an only child with a single parent, money was tight. But his Mum scrounged and saved to get him his first computer. On it was DOOM, Dungeon Keeper and Take No Prisoners. From then until now, video games have ruled his life. Outside of that, he loves animals, books, a good conversation/discussion/disagreement and the Sacramento Kings.