Darkest Dungeon: Turn based RPG done right

Hey look, Kickstarter did something right!

Darkest Dungeon, created by Red Hook Studio, is what happens when Kickstarter works. A side scrolling, turn-based Role Playing Game, Darkest Dungeon is far from the norm while still being recognizable as its labels.

The game began its development as a personal savings project of two of the developers, but they turned to Kickstarter to continue funding. The game reached and exceeded its target goal and was off to the races. After a brief Early Access period, the game launched originally on PC and Mac and has since found its way onto every major console.

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You walk either to the left or right to proceed between ‘rooms’ on the map, but encounters are random and so are occasional things to loot (or at least, try to loot.)

The story behind Darkest Dungeon is grim. Your predecessor dabbled in things best left undisturbed and ended up finding portals to different dimensions. Monsters and mayhem ensued, putting the family lands in a bad state. You, the player, are charged with dungeon diving through various parts of the estate to find treasure and solve the mystery of what happened.

Sounds pretty bland, doesn’t it? Well, the story might be the weakest part of Darkest Dungeon,but in the end, it is actually pretty engrossing, if lightly seasoned throughout the game. Almost everything your parties do is narrated, and while it repeats often, the voice serves as a good way to keep the mood in the right area.

Combat is turn-based, but animated just enough to feel visceral and engaging.

Combat is old school turn-based, but with enough of a twist to stay interesting. Certain attacks can only hit certain areas of the enemy ranks (and vice versa) and some attacks inflict various status buffs/debuffs. Healing is at a premium, with only a few different classes able to do so during combat and little to no good way to do so out of combat. You might buy food before heading into the dungeons, but the longer you take in any given map, the more food you’ll need to not lose your sanity.

And sanity is a thing that really matters here. The darkness hides many horrors and your characters can and will go mad. Sometimes this actually causes good things, but mostly not. Sanity is tracked by a bar under your characters, and even walking with too dim a torch could increase their nervousness and cause them to fall closer to a breaking point. There are ways to reduce that number, but again, they are few and far between while in a dungeon, and take time in town.

Town is a centralized area where you can get your team healed, calmed down and almost normal. However, time only passes if you are in the dungeons, so you need at least two parties of capable adventurers to progress. And death is permanent, so a miscalculation while hunting can cost you hours of work and money on a character that you had diligently tried to keep sane and strong.

Overall, Darkest Dungeon is a fantastic game for fans of the RPG genre. It is challenging, enthralling and well put together. Even the sound design, which usually suffers in a small, largely self-funded game like this, is spot on, with haunting melodies and a voice narrator that hits the right chords to keep the tension high. I would highly recommend Darkest Dungeon to anyone, from old school RPG fans to anyone that likes a challenge in their games.

This is the town hub, where you can try to fix your adventurers, find new ones and upgrade equipment and the characters themselves. More options unlock the deeper into the game you get, but the graveyard can fill quickly if you aren’t careful.

 

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