Long have I been yearning for a game that challenges both my mental wellbeing and personal stress levels and with Darkest Dungeon that is exactly the game I got! A PC only title that has a unique graphical art style and pits you as the manager of a town with its various buildings and upgrades whilst directing a band of rag tag adventurers into the depths of various dungeons in the search for loot and treasure.
Delving deep into dungeons in the search for loot with a group of up to four different adventurers’ sounds like the usual plot line for a game but Darkest Dungeon will punish you at every turn if you don’t take it seriously and decide to wander into a dungeon ill prepared. You need to decide on a team that will complement each other in terms of skills, prepare their weapons, armour and accessories and then decide on what provisions to take with you. Do you need food (yes), shovels (probably), extra torches (YES!) plus a multitude of other items which will help you in your adventure. BUT, decide to take too much of something and it will fill up spaces in your inventory which will limit the amount of treasure and gold you will be able to bring back.
A stagecoach arrives weekly into your town bringing with it a bunch of fresh faced adventurers looking to join you in your quest. The classes of adventurers range from crusaders and highwaymen which can dish out a fair amount of damage to voyeurs that can heal your party or Antiquarians which can find rare treasures you can sell and add to your gold pile which other characters can’t find. There’s a whole host more classes each equipped with unique skills and abilities that will benefit your party through the deep and horrifying depths of the dungeons.
Once inside a dungeon, you direct your party through the different levels to reach the next room which can hold treasure, enemies, both or nothing. Map sizes vary from small to large, this meaning in large maps there are lots more rooms to explore and survive but the amount of loot you can acquire increases. Each dungeon comes with a quest which if you complete, you are handsomely rewarded for in terms of gold and other items. Dungeons range in levels and going into a high level dungeon with low level characters is just pure suicide and death is guaranteed. And in this game, death is permanent for your character so if you have been careless enough to get a party member killed, then I hope you haven’t built an emotional attachment with them because they are gone for good.
Now, I haven’t yet mentioned one very unique point of the game (although I cheekily kind of did in my opening statement – stress). Stress is a very, very important feature of the game and all of your characters suffer from it. Each time a character receives a critical hit or an event happens in a dungeon they start to become stressed. Once they hit a certain level of stress, they will either roll a positive or negative effect which will greatly increase or reduce their abilities for the rest of the dungeon you’re in. Stress can be reduced using some character skills but is mainly reduced by taking time out of adventuring and relaxing in the town’s Inn or praying in the Abbey.
Once you acquire a decent amount of gold and heirlooms from your adventurers, you can spend these upgrading the different buildings in your town which will allow you to de-stress more party members at once, upgrade their weapons, armour, or combat skills or give you the ability to buy rare trinkets to take with you and equip your members with.
Last but certainly not least are quirks which come in both positive and negative flavours. Examples of some positive quirks are more damage in certain dungeons or having more of a chance to scout out rooms before you venture into them and some negative ones are taking more damage or consuming more food than the rest of the party, which tears through your food supplies in dungeons. These quirks can be treated in the Sanatorium in town but it is a costly business, so not acquiring negative quirks in the first place is the way to go.
DD’s graphic style is a stunning combination of colourful, yet dark and gloomy medieval inspired art. Characters are detailed and the game gives you the option to change and customise the colours of the characters to whatever you desire so that you can easily tell characters of the same class apart.
The town and the dungeons themselves are all nicely detailed as well, with the dungeons each having a distinctive feeling and the town with its unique buildings. The cove for example, a dark and damp watery dungeon full of nightmarish fish men compared to the maze of the warrens with its legions of henchmen and bandits looking to stop you in your attempts to find treasure. Each of the monsters are also beautiful yet horrifying and your stress levels really begin to start elevating when you see a giant lobster facing off against your team with its nightmarish claws.
Along with absolutely stunning graphics which immerse you into the game, the sound and music really finish the job of immersion. A dark and hauntingly spine tingling sound track pulls you into the real horrors of the dungeons and the combat music really gets the hairs on the back of your neck standing up as half of your party are at death’s door and the other half aren’t far behind. The sound effects of your adventurers and the enemies hits draw you further in with each swing of a sword or slash with a pike, further increasing the panic of which adventurer is taking the next hit.
Replay ability and Value for Money
With a wide range of different adventurers it gives you the opportunity to tackle dungeons with a varying range of party build ups. Want to take four crusaders into a dungeon? Then you can do that, but if you want to actually be successful in tackling dungeons, taking an adventurer with healing abilities, shield abilities and hard, heavy hitting abilities in your party is the way forward. This does give you immense replay ability though as you can run dungeons trying different party build ups over and over again. The game never feels like a grind which it could of quite easily fallen into the trap of but the developers have done well in making sure every time you venture into a monster infested dungeon, you feel its genuinely for a reason and not just because you have to. Building up your stock of gold, trinkets or upgrade items for your town is enjoyable and you look forward to seeing what parties work well together and which don’t.
I would say the game is more than worth the money and you will definitely get a lot of enjoyment out of it, although with that comes a lot of adrenaline pumping and stress also! The game is usually around the £13 mark on Steam but can be upgraded to a deluxe version for a couple of quid more and for this extra money, you will receive the soundtrack to remind you of all those horrifying adventures.
Darkest Dungeon has terrified me so much, it’s been awarded a well deserved Gold Thumb Culture Award.
Pick it up, get adventuring and find all of that treasure! Just don’t blame me when your blood pressure and stress levels have gone through the roof though…
Lovely art style
Challenging but rewarding gameplay
Sometimes feels the game is totally against you
Have rapidly gone through underwear whilst playing…