Eldritch horrors, secrets hidden in the ruins of a fallen estate and the promise of victory all wait for the player who tries to brave the “Darkest Dungeon.”
An indie title from Red Hook Studios and funded through Kickstarter, “Darkest Dungeon” is a rogue-like turn-based combat game. As you crawl through the ruins of the estate, you’ll be able to complete missions that force you to kill enemies, explore rooms and cleanse the grounds of evil.
Your parties are made up of mercenaries who come to the estate via coach. Each time they go into the dungeon, the stresses they face take a toll on them. At the end of each mission, successful or not, your mercenaries will receive buffs or debuffs that will alter their stats.
Couple this with a stress meter that fills steadily as their crawl continues, and you might have a few crew members who flip out during a fight or rally the team to do great things.
Outside the ruins and mires near the estate proper, there’s a small town in which you can upgrade your team with the treasures that you find. The buildings offer stress relief, gear upgrades, skill training and the removal of negative traits that affect characters in the party.
The maps are all random, basically the bland type of backgrounds all the time, but the game is really about the gameplay. The art itself is not boring, but after a while you sort of stop looking at things because there isn’t much variety. The characters and monsters are the really cool stuff.
Iron Man Mode is not something I recommend for gamers in most situations. Games like “X-Com,” “Europa Universalis” or “Endless Legend” tend to be the games that really challenge the player with such a mode. But at the end of the day, those are really for the experienced players who don’t mind screaming to the heavens when misfortune befalls them.
“Darkest Dungeon” has a permanent Iron Man Mode. I will say that this is quite possibly the biggest obstacle to face. The game is hard. Not terribly so after you’ve taken a couple of cracks at it and learn a thing or two about how it plays, but decidedly difficult. At times you’ll be playing through a mission with nary a care in the world before finding yourself be six rooms deep in a dungeon with an entire team fighting each other and your healer just committed suicide.
I never got into a situation where I lost a team and only had two characters left back at the town (which is problematic since they tell you to have a group of four for each mission), but I get the impression the game might balance itself a bit to keep you in a position to constantly move on.
“Darkest Dungeon” isn’t a relatively new concept, and it’s not revolutionary. But what it is, is well done. I can honestly say that while I might get frustrated at times with the game, I find it terribly addictive and fun to play.
This is definitely a game to look at and pick up if you’re interested in something new on Steam. You want to see what can be accomplished by a small studio? “Darkest Dungeon” is definitely a great trophy to put on the mantle piece of Red Hook Studios. Many indie companies wish they had a title that was this polished and this good.
“Darkest Dungeon” is available on Steam right now for $20. Pick it up if you feel like staring into the abyss.