I am always late to the party. Like, really, really late.
One of the streamers I consistently watch has played Darkest Dungeon off and on over the years, but oddly, I never actually stuck around to catch the gameplay. A couple of months ago, I finally stuck around for a Darkest Dungeon stream, and it looked like something I would enjoy. When I asked Rugjen about it, he said, “I don’t think you would like it. It’s hard.”
That immediately stopped me in my tracks because Rugjen knows that I don’t like games that are hard just for the sake of being hard (looking at you Dark Souls/Sekiro/Bloodborne).
As the days passed, this game was still beckoning to me from the darkest recesses of my mind. I looked it up on Steam, and like a call from a siren, Steam just happened to have it on sale for $6.00 with an hour left in the sale. Probably the best $6.00 I spent on a game. At the time of this article, you can pick up Darkest Dungeon at full price for $24.99 on Steam. It does go on sale frequently, so I suggest keeping an eye on the price. That being said, it is worth $25.
Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike RPG. What is a roguelike RPG? Whenever you come across the term “roguelike” or “roguelite”, it refers to a genre of game in a dungeon-like setting where you move room to room or level to level. There is usually a permanent death element where you may or may not be able to carry over equipment, talents, and/or currency. Most roguelike games are also turn-based.
The game is rated T for teen for references to alcohol, some nudity, gore, and violence. It is a dark game that could potentially be stressful for certain people, so I suggest watching some gameplay if you know that could be a factor.
The gameplay is centered around building a team of four heroes to take on expeditions in various dungeons. Each hero has a both positive and negative quirks that affect how the hero interacts in the dungeon. Each hero also has various skills that can be swapped in and out to become a better fit for different dungeons. For example, the vestal, which is a healing class, can be spec’d to be a true healer, or a damage-dealing healer. You can potentially have two of the same class in a party, but with two very different roles. After each expedition, you return to The Hamlet, the small town that provides stress relief and upgrades. With each expedition, you gather heirlooms that allow you to upgrade the buildings in The Hamlet allowing you to purchase upgrades for your armor and skills. Most expeditions reward the team with trinkets that allow for more customization of damage, speed, and other skills. As you lose heroes, and you will lose heroes, the stagecoach offers up fresh meat for the grinder.
What Makes Darkest Dungeon Great
In my opinion, what makes this game great is the sheer amount of options you have. There really is no one way to approach each boss. While there may be a general strategy, it is very flexible on how you decide to achieve it. Personally, I get bored very quickly with games which makes roguelikes very appealing to me. Even though the gameplay is the same, the context is different enough to keep me going back.
Is it Really Hard?
I’ve had this discussion with Rugjen and I’ll echo the same sentiments here. When someone tells me a game is “hard”, I immediately think of the skill required to play a game. I don’t think the game is hard to learn or hard to play. There is not a lot of gaming skill needed to play Darkest Dungeon. By gaming skill, I am talking more about reliance on reaction speed and muscle memory. For example, ever watch a kaizo Mario player? They will grind levels for hours to get the right muscle memory engrained. To me, that is what “hard” means to me. You don’t need to memorize boss fights or practice any timing in Darkest Dungeon. The game, on PC, literally only requires you to use WASD to move and mouse-clicks to choose your skill and select the enemy you plan to execute the attack on. So, to say that the game is “hard”, to me, is misleading. The game isn’t hard; the game is challenging. You might think I am splitting hairs, and maybe I am, but I feel Darkest Dungeon is very playable for any skill level. What makes it challenging is being able to juggle all of the elements the game gives you to build a strong team. If strategy or party management is not your strength, this game will be difficult for you.
That being said, I’ll disclose that I play on the easiest difficulty because I was new to the game and it was suggested by many to do a run through on the easiest difficulty to get a feel for the game. I whole-heartedly agree. There is a lot to learn and frustrating yourself with a harder difficulty out of the gate may make your attitude toward the game turn sour before you even really get a chance to play.
I have so much fun playing this game. Finding the right combinations of skills and trinkets to take down the bosses has been challenging, but very, very fun. I highly recommend adding this game to your library. I’ve been playing it non-stop since I bought it!