Darkest Dungeon — 2/5 Stars
Darkest Dungeon is a dungeon crawl roleplaying game from indie developer Red Hook Studios. You play as the inheritor of an estate that has been overrun by horrors, in a story inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Players recruit, manage, and lead parties of adventurers to reclaim the estate and ultimately find the source of the evil in the “Darkest Dungeon.”
Players manage a small town featuring a handful of amenities to aid adventurers. There is a tavern and an abbey where adventurers can relieve stress, a sanitarium where physical ailments are treated, a blacksmith to upgrade weapons, and a stagecoach where fresh adventurers can be recruited.
Dungeons are laid out as a series of connected squares. Players strategically move their party through these squares to complete their objective and get everyone home safely. Combat is turn-based, with the adventurers and their enemies alternating actions based on their speed. Enemies attack physically to damage health, and psychologically to increase stress. If a character’s health reaches zero, they can die, and if their stress gets too high, they risk gaining a negative trait. If a character reaches their stress limit, they could have a heart attack. Needless to say, Darkest Dungeon can be quite stressful.
Light plays a key role in the game. While adventuring in the dungeon you can use torches to stay in the light. As you run out of torches, the dungeon becomes darker, and the monsters become stronger and deadlier. In the darkness, your party becomes more vulnerable to stress. However, if you can keep the light shining brightly, you can gain several advantages over the monsters. As dark as these dungeons are, when a light shines in the darkness, the darkness will not overcome it (John 1:5).
Darkest Dungeon features a striking art-style that evokes an edgy comic book and makes the characters jump off the screen. The animations are simple, sharp, and exciting. A strong sound design and haunting soundtrack create a dark atmosphere of otherworldly nightmares. The game also features a pessimistic narrator, giving bits of story and commentary on your dire situation.
The story is told through short sound clips on loading screens. However, these clips total up to just over 10 minutes, which doesn’t feel like much story in a game that takes several dozen hours to complete.
Darkest Dungeon ultimately felt repetitive, as you complete the same basic tasks over and over. I enjoy challenging games, but the brutal difficulty of Darkest Dungeon brought me to the point where I had stopped having fun. If you enjoy a hearty challenge, you’ll get what you’re looking for, but be prepared for a lot of frustration as well.
Chris Clark | Portland | Northern New England