The Grueling nature of Darkest Dungeon

(And why I keep coming back for more torment.)

DD is an exciting game. It’s a combination of a dungeon crawler, RPG, light base management (the hamlet) and an intentional harsh difficulty.

You’re not supposed to win, you are meant to scrape by, and always be hounded by dead heroes, afflictions, your vestal on a bender in the brothel or some high-level boss showing up when you’re least prepared. 

I usually dislike games that are overly difficult or punishing, (and “punishing” is likely the best single word to describe Darkest Dungeon.) But DD captured my heart with its striking art style, spectacular narrator, and solid tactical combat. Seriously, the narrator is fantastic and worth checking out the game for that alone.

I got the game in early access and played it for about 100 hours over 3 years on and off. So I’ve been able to see it evolve in balance changes, new dungeons released, and DLC added. Some of these things made the game more manageable, and some more difficult, but like the dungeons themselves, kept the game evolving, some new horror unearthed to amuse or torture the player.

I had a favorite party comprised of my first four heroes. A Vestal, A highwayman, A Crusader, and a Hellion. I had them for years until my Hellion died of a heart attack retreating from a boss, and my Legend Vestal (known affectionately as “Bitchin’ Heals” sadly died to the Crimson Curse since I didn’t know how it worked. Feelsbad.

Exacerbating these punitive measures was the final boss has a move to auto-kill any of your party members. You get to choose of course, but sadly I was forced to sacrifice not 1, but 2 of my legendary champions to the void before I could consign it to slumber once more. Only Dismas and Reynauld made it to the very end, with many a teammate falling along the way. Perhaps, even worse, I did not get the achievement for these specific two characters making it all the way to the end. Even this game’s steam achievements mock me.

Despite all this, I kept coming back to Darkest Dungeon over the years. Upgrading your characters, acquiring items, building new Hamlet options, and getting surprised by events or bosses. There’s always something to do and something new around the corner that provides a curious sort of satisfaction I haven't been able to find in any other title. I love the game, but still wanted something different after my 100 hours of play. I didn’t get color of madness DLC as I don’t think a horde mode suits the game. Also, I just had enough, and I like the style, but I want something different. 

Fortunately, A  Darkest Dungeon 2 teaser was revealed recently, and in an interview with PC Gamer, the developers say they are making significant changes to combat and gameplay structure, so I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel that will capture my attention yet again for years to come.

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