Darkest Dungeon is a challenging gothic roguelike turn-based RPG about the psychological stresses of adventuring. Recruit, train, and lead a team of flawed heroes against unimaginable horrors, stress, famine, disease, and the ever-encroaching dark. Can you keep your heroes together when all hope is lost?
User reviews:
Recent:
Very Positive (298 reviews) - 80% of the 298 user reviews in the last 30 days are positive.
Overall:
Very Positive (15,933 reviews) - 85% of the 15,933 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Jan 19, 2016

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Reviews

“Darkest Dungeon is an incredible take on the classic dungeon crawl.”
9.25 – Game Informer

“I can't say enough nice things about Darkest Dungeon.”
90 – US Gamer

“Darkest Dungeon is an awesome game of tactics, management, and pushing your luck”
91 – IGN

About This Game

Darkest Dungeon is a challenging gothic roguelike turn-based RPG about the psychological stresses of adventuring.

Recruit, train, and lead a team of flawed heroes through twisted forests, forgotten warrens, ruined crypts, and beyond. You'll battle not only unimaginable foes, but stress, famine, disease, and the ever-encroaching dark. Uncover strange mysteries, and pit the heroes against an array of fearsome monsters with an innovative strategic turn-based combat system.

  • The Affliction System – battle not only monsters, but stress! Contend with paranoia, masochism, fear, irrationality, and a host of gameplay-meaningful quirks!
  • Striking hand-drawn gothic crowquill art style
  • Innovative turn-based combat pits you against a host of diabolical monsters
  • Narration system to celebrate your successes...and failures
  • 14 (and counting!) playable hero classes, including Plague Doctor, Hellion, and even the Leper!
  • Camp to heal wounds or deliver inspiring speeches.
  • Rest your weary, shell-shocked characters in town at the Tavern or the Abbey to keep their stress in check.
  • Classic CRPG and roguelike features, including meaningful permadeath, procedural dungeons, and incredible replay

Can you stem the tide of eldritch horrors erupting across your family’s ancestral estate?

Descend at your peril!

Awards and Honors

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Open GL 3.2+ Compliant
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
    Recommended:
    • OS: Windows 7+
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Open GL 3.2+ Compliant
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
    Minimum:
    • OS: OSX 10.9+
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Open GL 3.2+ Compliant
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    Recommended:
    • OS: OSX 10.9+
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Open GL 3.2+ Compliant
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
    Minimum:
    • OS: Ubuntu 12.04
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Open GL 3.2+ Compliant
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
    Recommended:
    • OS: Ubuntu 12.04
    • Memory: 2 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Open GL 3.2+ Compliant
    • Storage: 2 GB available space
    • Additional Notes: 1080p, 16:9 recommended
Customer reviews
Customer Review system updated Sept. 2016! Learn more
Recent:
Very Positive (298 reviews)
Overall:
Very Positive (15,933 reviews)
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10,867 reviews match the filters above ( Very Positive)
Recently Posted
The Lunartic
10.4 hrs
Posted: September 27
If Darksouls had a baby with Final Fantasy, and that baby got slapped by Lovecraft.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Negachip
26.1 hrs
Posted: September 27
If you enjoy punishing difficulty like bloodborne and dark souls you will enjoy this. The challange makes victory all the more satisfying, but fully expect some losses and shouting at the screen until then. Love the art style and the mechanics, there are several layers of "health" to characters including HP, sanity, diseases and quirks all adding to the risk vs reward of prioritising damage vs healing. 10/10 keep coming back.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
opa-brause
71.7 hrs
Posted: September 27
darkest dungeon got the darkest voice I ever heard - an extremely charismatic narrator and one of my personal things I like in the neverending game most.

It makes fun collecting money for the manor, brutaly pushing warriors to their limit and beyond. Some not killed chars will be sorted out to give other people a chance, first aim: collecting loot and money without fame. But some characters will be promoted and they will rise into next dungeon levels for more loot and money without fame.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Rex Power Colt
166.0 hrs
Posted: September 27
Wow so dark, many death, such madness, that's what await you in the ravenous clutching shadows of the Dankest Dungeon.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
kome360
116.4 hrs
Posted: September 26
Mother.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
clrkpearce
42.0 hrs
Posted: September 26
i got this game while this game was still in beta when there was only 3 out of the 5 places to play, i enjoyed it then and i enjoy it even more now. its a great classic and casual game that stays fresh.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Kamina
98.4 hrs
Posted: September 26
After almost 100 h of playing Darkest Dungeon I'm inclined to write a little review. First of all: i think it is a great game! I love it! It has a fantastic gritty artstyle and cool graphics, amazing soundtrack and challenging game mechanics with exciting turn-based combat. On top of it one gets the somewhat spooky narrator who tells the story of his downfall and sometimes seems to mock the player. But beware: never get to cocky! You will lose heroes whether they just die or get mad so you have to kick them out. You have to play carefully and calculate the risks to get your people back to the meager safety of your Hamlet. You need patience to make it to the Darkest Dungeon.

Pros:
+ interesting combat system
+ large variety of heroes of which none is useless. One just has to figure out how to use them.
+ every hero has a up to seven skills but only four can be active at the time. You have to experiment what works best for oneself.
+ plenty of different group constellations with different tactics. The player has a lot of options on this one and can experiment on how to make a group work.
+ great lovecradtian atmosphere
+ intense immersion. You really suffer if one of your beloved level 6 heroes dies of a heart attack.
+ long campaign especially if you take your time and play carefully
+ atmospheric dark fantasy setting
+ mod support

Cons:
- sometimes it gets grindy
- only five different types of dungeons
- not much variety in the character design
- sometimes you just have bad luck which can be frustrating.

neutral:
sparse tutorial. I consider it not too bad because it's part of the game to drill yourselt into it!


bottom line:
I would give Darkest Dungeon 9/10, really a must-buy if you enjoy rogue-likes with permadeath and a real challenge.
It can be frustrating at some point or the other but that makes every victory just tastes sweeter.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
32 of 48 people (67%) found this review helpful
10 people found this review funny
Recommended
94.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 18
A truly fantastic game with a criminally low review rating. This stems from the game having changed a fair bit since early access, but all the changes have been positive. Making the game less exploitable is a good thing, people! The other complaints I hear are usually "The RNG is too severe! No skill!" Which is entirely untrue. All RNG in Darkest Dungeon can be avoided by careful planning and thought. On my second run through the ganme, I survived 100 weeks without a single death or a single quest failure and with only one resolve check encountered.

Pros!
- Highly addictive gameplay that keeps you coming back for more
- Tons of replayability as no run through the game is the same
- Very strategic combat; party compositions, trinket speccing, synergies... the list goes on
- Beautiful in every sense. Stunning art-style, effective animation, fantastic soundtrack
- Diverse and varied characters make for a lot of experimentation and fun
- Fair difficulty curve, challenging the whole way with difficult but achieveable boss fights at the end
- Lots of content for the price
- Unique regions to explore with thematic enemies and procedurally generated dungeons
- Perfectly managed stress and health systems with intriguing "Death's Door" and "Resolve Check" mechanics to keep you on your toes in and out of combat
- Wayne June's narration is golden. It sets the Lovecraftian atmosphere perfectly and oozes quality with such sophisticated, verbose vocabulary
- Town Events make things more varied in the Hamlet (For better and occasionally for worse!)
- Somewhat frequent updates with new heroes, new content, bug-fixes, and fine-tuned mechanics

Cons
- A little beginner unfriendly in some places like cluttered tooltips, lack of game-mechanic introduction, etc
- The fact it's not in your game library! Absolutely criminal!

There's plenty more praise I could sing this game but I should stop now. This game captivated me and I fell deeply in love with it. I hope other people do too after reading this review!
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12 of 14 people (86%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
90.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 26
Imagine playing a slot machine. If you win enough on the slot machine you can then play the next level. But if you lose the slot machine you have to start back at the first one. That's essentially Darkest Dungeon. Instead of dying and trying a new strategy to beat an enemy you just have to keep throwing your characters at it until you get lucky enough to deal enough damage before you go mad and die.
I've been playing since the early access and it seems like they only made it worse. When I finally made top level characters they would just get wiped at the next boss and then I'd have to grind again. Finally completing all bosses and recreating new top tier team they get killed in the new patch of levels. Back to grinding the small guys again.
Now they didn't die because I failed to play a certain way, they died because the combat system is entirely random number generated. There is nothing to learn from a loss to help on the next run. Just repetition.
Not only that but many anything other than dealing damage is a waste of time. Every attack deals damage and sanity loss to your team so using the Jester seems like meaningless. Any buffs would rather be used trying to knock out the enemy as late levels make the buffs useless anyways.
I love the art direction and story of this game so much but am very disappointed in such a lack of actual gameplay.
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10 of 12 people (83%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Not Recommended
44.2 hrs on record
Posted: September 26
Second review, first one was beta.
I really want to like this game. 1st fight - Highway (HW) vs Cutthroat (CU). CU hits HW for 8 and Crusader (CR) for 5. CR hits CU for 10, CU dead.

2nd fight. Both enemies stunned HW hits Bloodletter (BL) for 3 Fussier (?) (FU) for 5. CR hits BL for 10, FU hits both for 2. BL hits HW for 11, FU this both for 2 and debuff. HW hits BL for 5, FU this HW 1 CR 3, CR hits BL for 8. BL hits HW for 12 (dead HW) and CR dodges... ended up winning fight with just CR. I get to town and can only hire 2 new characters, except you need 4 to do the next mission. Delete and start over.
I get this is supposed to be a hard game. It is exactly why I got it. I love a challenge. This however is not a challenge. The Random number generater (RNG) is complete and total bs. Nothing like being in a fight and they are dodging everything even after lowering their dodge chances and up'ing my hit chances. They dodge, and crit for 18 while I get to heal for a whole 4 in best case scenerio. Then to top it off when you finally finish a dungeon you get the lucky fortune of getting a crap bonus at the end of the trip. That in itself blows as you have to spend money to clear it out or risk players deciding, f that, I don't want your crappy 2 point heal, i would rather die.

I will admit I play most games on the default settings one time through. But after that I am on a mission to complete on the hardest settings. I love a challenging game but the RNG in this game is totally geared towards randomly killing off your players for no reason. I will read descriptions find combos, check forums on other players builds. Whatever it takes to succeed, but nope RNG designed to kill you for no reason that you can protect yourself from… b.s.

Also serioiusly, no Gamepad support. You move forward, rarely backwards. Character selection (4) enemy selection (4), spell selection (4), Item interaction and some town stuff. But NO…. too complicated to use a gamepad! Which means no steamlink!

FYI I beat Contra without cheats, that is the first type of game that I studied patterns and weapons and eventually beat. List actually contains most 80/90 games but pretty happy about contra!
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18 of 27 people (67%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Not Recommended
80.4 hrs on record
Posted: September 25
Beautiful art, effects, story and voice over, but horribly designed. The games sole purpose seems to punish the player with sheer randomness that is heavily weighed against the player. Once a single event goes wrong such as a failed save, 99% of the time it will turn into a domino effect that completely wipes a party of veterans in a round or two. The underlying strategy seems to be to throw as many bodies at a dungeon as possible, and never get attached to anything in the game no matter how much effort or time was put into it. If you like pure randomness that flies in the face of strategy and planning, then this is the game for you. If you like playing games to experience frustration instead of enjoyment after a hard day of work, then this is the game for you. If you like having characters you spent weeks building up to be flush down the toilet, then this is the game for you.It is a shame, everything about this game is top notch and amazing, except the combat design which is just plain amateurish and unbalanced.

Don't get me wrong I love hard games like Dark Souls, Don't Starve and Super Meat Boy where you can learn from failures and overcome them, but with this game there is no learning or overcoming randominess.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
14 of 25 people (56%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Not Recommended
38.6 hrs on record
Posted: September 25
Bad RNG can make runs more frustrating than they should be. A game being hard can be enjoyed if there are things to learn from losses. You learn nothing when losing in this game, wether you miss a hit or get crit-ed by enemy, because it was all a dice roll.

I like the idea of the game and what it does, but I find it hard to justify to myself to keep on playing this after having one bad luck situation after another. I feel no acomplishment finishing dungeons most of the time, because every time I feel like I had an ungodly amount of bad luck, even though I tried mittigating as much as possible any losses I had from it.

I'd say this needs more work, but it's already out of Early Acces, so I doubt they'll do more balancing/mechanics patches.

Also, self buffs are a waste of time. Buffs in general are a waste of time, because dealing damage to an enemy and making it drop dead is better than getting ANY buff and losing an attack.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
867 of 929 people (93%) found this review helpful
736 people found this review funny
Recommended
82.4 hrs on record
Early Access Review
Posted: May 31, 2015
Imagine being stuck in a car for a fourteen hour drive. With three people you hate. While every other driver on the road is either drunk or deliberately trying to run you off the road. And you only have one sandwich left. And no head lights. Thats basically what the first few missions feel like. After that, it only gets harder because your driver has been blighted, your navigator was killed, and the other guy ate the sandwich because he had been driven insane. Eventually, after replacing a few people, you get to the point where, after a few pit stops, you manage to get rid of them and youre happily riding along with great people, and you think nothing bad is going to happen because youve got the perfect group of passengers. Then an eightteen-wheeler smashes your car killing all of you. Thats basically how this game plays. 10/10 would make that drive again.
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1,318 of 1,459 people (90%) found this review helpful
45 people found this review funny
Recommended
257.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 25
To anyone reading these reviews who is confused by the massive swings between positive and negative, you need to know one thing: Darkest Dungeon is an emotional game. To people just starting out, it can seem baffling, unfair, and deliberately obscure. To people who have been playing since Early Access, and who have seen favourite party compositions and strategies rendered obsolete, the Steam reviews page is more of an extension of Reddit than anything else - a place to air grievances (legitimate or otherwise) over a game that they have dedicated a lot of time to.

What a lot of these reviews miss out is... y'know... the actual review part. On that front, I would say the following: the core gameplay is rock solid. At its heart, Darkest Dungeon has taken a minimalist, turn-based, four-man combat system and imbued it with massive potential for tactical thought and personal flair. Figuring out the best role for each of your heroes (chosen from a fairly generous pool of classes) and suddenly realising a unique way of getting them to synergise is immensely gratifying. Unlike a lot of games, it doesn't feel like there is a a ring-fenced area of "correct", vanilla play that only the very high-level players can get past; instead, you are encouraged and rewarded for coming up with your own strategies from the get go. The central combat system is smart, it pushes you to experiment, and there is a lot of room to come up with a playstyle that feels like your own, unique creation.

HOWEVER! If that's all Darkest Dungeon was, it would be a neat tablet-based distraction, but ultimately sterile. It is the stuff that comes layered on top of it that is the source of its intrigue - and also the source of a lot of the frustration you'll see directed at it. As a typical RPG player, you naturally do everything you can to guarantee the safety and efficacy of your character(s), and it feels inherently uncomfortable to work in a game environment that leaves you perpetually on your toes and at risk of failure. DD refuses to let you settle into a comfortable routine, and a massive enemy critical attack, an ambush in pitch-dark while camping, or a series of misses on your part can topple you from a seemingly-unassailable position to a very desperate one. The potential for a fail-cascade is what turns off many new players, and even drives experienced ones to the occasional rage-review, but it is also vital to the fundamental risk-reward balance of the game, which is designed to punish complacency and encourage the utmost thought on your part.

As you progress through a dungeon, you constantly need to balance a dwindling supply of light, food, sanity and health (although they can be restored in some ways), while also trying to complete objectives and collect much-needed loot with limited backpack space. Usually, this is the sort of gameplay I dislike; feeling that there is a time-limit, that I can't plough through something at my own speed in relative safety, is an uncomfortable experience after most games. However, the actual result is some very effective tension. In a normal RPG (say... Diablo), the steady drip of ever-increasing numbers is satisfying in a functional sort of way, but in DD the stakes are so high that getting a critical hit or dodging a huge attack always feels like a moment rather than just a nice bonus.

It can initially feel punishing and unfair, since most gamers are hard-wired to see a hero death (which is permanent), a catastrophic turn-around, or a "tactical retreat" as a failure. Likewise, the element of randomness can make it feel like your hard work and smart play has not been rewarded, like you're just a random collection of atoms buzzing around in a meaningless void where there is no God or higher authority to dispense justice or distinguish right or wrong.... It takes time to realise that you were never meant to have it easy, that it's always been a gamble, and you can't expect a perfect S ranking - all you can do is make the best play you can with the information you have. It takes time to realise that the game is pushing you to accept loss and difficulty as part of the game, rather than a failure.

Even I rage quit every now and then - but I always come back, because, as I said, Darkest Dungeon is an emotional game. You invest (real) time and (fake) money in your group of heroes, the odds are massively stacked in the House's favour, none of your guys is going to come out unscarred, you are going to face some serious setbacks, but you return because actually making it, actually landing that last hit at the last possible moment, realising you've scraped through again, is always a surprise, and an amazing one at that.
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620 of 695 people (89%) found this review helpful
745 people found this review funny
Recommended
103.2 hrs on record
Early Access Review
Posted: February 5, 2015
This is a story about throwing redshirts into a dungeon until a couple come crawling out, barely alive with a whole bunch of loot and PTSD, only to be boozed up and thrown back in.

Highly recommended.
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577 of 644 people (90%) found this review helpful
18 people found this review funny
Recommended
32.9 hrs on record
Early Access Review
Posted: February 5, 2015
This is a living review, I will continue to update it as my experience evolves; see comments for additional updates.

TL; DR Overall, the game is fun and I can foresee getting many hours of solid gameplay out of it which is why I have recommended it. Be prepared to experience the consensus "cons"; which can be blisteringly frustrating in the early game. If you think those things will be enough to trump the enjoyment you would get from the things the game does well, do not purchase it.

The most common criticisms of Darkest Dugeon are the inability to turn off combat animations, combat speed, dialogue animations causing you to be unable to interact with anything until completed, and RNG. All of these things exist in varying degrees.

Combat animations + dialogue have the potential to draw combat out for far too long. The animations themselves, while cool, can start to feel really repetitive if you're having a bad stroke of RNG (missing a lot, despite a high chance to hit). They also are very herky-jerky (there's a zoom during an animation) that leaves me feeling like I'm rocking on a boat. If I play on an empty stomach, sometimes I feel slightly nauseous.

The chat bubbles also leave something to be desired. They become repetitive very quickly and interupt the flow of exploration and combat. I suspect they were included to create atmosphere, but I find they actually detract from it because of how herky-jerky they become - this causes your immersion to be regularly broken up/halted. This is typically only an issue if your party is afflicted by negative quirks or your torchlight is dimming. Characters become more talkative when things are going poorly.

RNG. I originally wrote that I didn't find this particularly irritating and chalked up the experience to most people just being unfamiliar with game mechanics (IE Chance to Hit, Resistances, etc). I've chosen to recant that. RNG is crippling, but only in the early game. Darkest Dungeon's biggest problem, in my opinion, is the early vs late game balance. Early on, resources are tight. You don't have a ton of gold that can afford you to recoup your losses if you have to abandon a mission. You don't have a town that has been upgraded to reduce the cost of removing negative quirks/high stress levels. Due to this, you often feel overwhelmed - particularly if you have a bad stroke of RNG (IE. You get crit multiple times early in a dungeon, multiple characters have very high stress levels from it, etc). Later in the game, once you've upgraded your town some, prices aren't has crippling (maybe 750-1000 gold instead of 1500) AND you're getting more money from missions. In addition, you might be able to remove quirks from 2 characters at a time, instead of just one. As the game progresses, you almost start to feel overpowered - not in the traditional sense, as things can still go terribly wrong, but when compared to your early experience where EVERY thing feels stressful.

Getting crit increases stress by 15-20. Landing a crit reduces stress by 5-10. Therein lies many of the inherent problems in every facet of this game. When something goes wrong it is always nearly TWICE as punishing as the beneficial aspect of something going right.

My personal biggest qualm has to be the lack of an easy way to discern combat attack order. There exists a "SPD" stat, which I assume is speed and I also assume determines attack order. Rifling through each monsters' stat in an effort to figure out what will be attacking when is not an intuitive, efficient, or easy system. It also feels like the order isn't static, as the encounter progresses the same monster isn't always attacking in the same spot (or so it seems - I could be incorrect in this claim). The reason this is problematic is because it forces you to pay astronomically close attention/have an excellent memory of when something attacked to determine whether you should disable (stun) or gamble for a kill (powerful regular attack). This becomes further complicated when trying to "combo" attacks. IE. Stun with a character so another class that has an attack with a dmg increase against stunned targets can eliminate it. Since combat positioning matters, if I stun, then my character gets pushed into a different position, and the new position renders me unable to use my bonus dmg against stunned targets attack, I have essentially wasted that initial action.

Beyond some of these troubling mechanics, most of which I foresee being tweaked to be less punishing/better tuned, the game has some very neat features. Stress, while annoying to some, was a big selling point for me. I would like to see stress become more balanced around fight/flight. What I mean by that is, currently, it feels like the vast majority of stress mechanics are negative. Indeed, I would say upwards of 80% of the time my characters have become stressed they have suffered negative mechanics as opposed to positive. I would like to see this number brought closer to 50/50. Not to get too invested in "real life" comparisons, since this game is hardly reminscent of "real life", but stress serves a pretty strong evolutionary purpose and definitely is not something that is 80% negative (even if it has been shown to reduce your life span). The same could be said of what happens when you "gamble" on opening chests/sarcophagus. It feels, more often than not, like this is a greater risk than potential reward.

Combat positioning and class synergy are very cool. Unfortunately, I don't think they are explained in a proficient way for new players which leaves one floundering in the dark for quite some time. This type of trial and error experience feels a little bit exhausting. Perhaps the addition of a tutorial or "practice" mode that has some examples of "combos" would be helpful. IE. a guide that says, "Try using class X ability Y following using class Z ability T".

The town is also neat. The availability of upgrades makes it highly customizable and meaningful. Much like the class system and synergy, though, it can feel quite confusing and overwhelming. Resources are definitely finite early on and with so many different options and features to upgrade, I have often felt at a bit of a loss. Discerning what is important in the early game versus what can be ignored until resources start to become plentiful in the late game is extremely difficult.

I've heard some argue that upgrading character abilities and weapons/armor doesn't feel worth it for the cost. I whole-heartedly disagree. Upgrades are ABSOLUTELY worth it. Sure, your damage doesn't go up astronomically, but your accuracy does. Accuracy, to me, is probably the most important stat. Also, they aren't that pricey as long as you invest in reducing cost - something that I think people aren't doing.

Class balance could be improved. There are a few classes that just feel worthless when compared to their counterparts. I think both Plague Doctor and Leper are worthless. Jester, other than people abusing their "stress heal" mechanic, leaves a lot to be desired as well.

Ultimately, this game is really about two phases of gameplay. Early game is soul-crushing and you feel like a victim to every mechanic. When I read negative reviews, I can see why people are frustrated. Early game can be THAT frustrating. Frustrating to the point of wanting to smash your keyboard against the wall. Most of these things are resolved by mid-late game, though. If you survive early game, Darkest Dungeon opens up and becomes incredibly fun. My hope is we will see some tuning regarding early versus late game. I suspect we will.

If you don't think early game will be too frustrating or are willing to soldier through that frustration, pick up Darkest Dungeon. The game is done remarkably well and, despite being in an older genre, has a lot of innovation which makes it stand out from its peers.
Was this review helpful? Yes No Funny
683 of 781 people (87%) found this review helpful
208 people found this review funny
Recommended
131.6 hrs on record
Early Access Review
Posted: February 3, 2015
Full disclosure: review copy provided by developer/publisher!


“What, you'd like to know my story? There's not much to tell, I'm sorry to say. I came here, same reason as you – for glory, for gold. And not one man can fault me with cupidity, no. I tempted good friends, capable friends, spewing that very promise, HA, and don't let them tell you, CONVINCE YOU, that their hands were forced. They came willingly, yes.

“Like pigs to the slaughter.

“The first month was uneventful at the estate. Harried heroes came and went, but my friends and I were heartier fare. We spent what treasures we pilfered on libation, often causing a ruckus in the tavern. New adventurers would swagger in, ♥♥♥♥♥ure, and we'd put them right in place. We'd usually frighten the greener ones off... the rest would perish, often crying out – for God, for their mother, for the sweet release of death. Fools.

“My friends and I, we don't adventure anymore. We tend the estate, greet would-be heroes such as yourself, to give fair warning. All your skills, all your learning, all your experiences past mean nothing here. You will die, likely alone and raving in the dark. Death is all that you can count on. Death is all you will know.

“What, my necklace? No, these are no ordinary charms, child. These are my friends, you see. I carry them with me still, even after death. They quiet my mind, when the dark comes, you see. It was the least I could do; their bodies gave me sustenance – their bodies give me sustenance, HA, and don't let them tell you, CONVINCE YOU, that their hands were forced. They came willingly, yes.

“And so will you.”

Darkest Dungeon is an RPG turn-based roguelite dungeon crawler – and yes, I've written this phrase so much it autocorrects genres without prompting. I've named my dog “RPG turn-based roguelite dungeon crawler” and he hates me. But I digress. Story is that your wealthy relative has died, not before sending you a letter, urging you to come to the ancestral ♥♥♥♥ hole to spruce things up and purge the ancient, unknowable evil that lurks, broods, and taints up the place like an unruly teenager. The game starts off with a neat little tutorial, explaining some of the nuances of gameplay: tactical placement of characters, attacks, effects, etc. These are all standards we've come to know and love in the genre, nothing out of the ordinary. But there are a few twists that set Darkest Dungeon apart.

When you set out on a journey you'll select your adventurers, and there are a lot to choose from. Some are tanks, some are roguish, some are healers, and some suck (stupid damn plague doctor I HATE YOU SO MUCH). You can select your character order as well, and right clicking on a portrait provides insight into their ideal placement. Different heroes provide different bonuses, like scouting ahead to spot traps and treasure. After you pick your team you'll need provisions, a risk and reward proposition... are you detecting a pattern? You'll need food for characters, particularly on the longer treks (there's even a camping/survival mechanic to replenish health and stress for such undertakings), or they're liable to starve. You'll need torches to light the way and keep characters from intermittently having nervous breakdowns. And you'll need various health items to keep bleed and blight effects in check. Does this sound like a lot to juggle? Because I am not doing the death-defying, chainsaw spinning, greased up, foot juggling spectacle justice, I assure you. There aren't enough words. After your quest these provisions don't carry on to the next journey, unfortunately. So do you risk spending too much, or spending too little? Both carry consequence.

But there's more.

Every hero and heroine has a stress bar beneath their health. With each enemy encounter, trap, and the act of WALKING, the adventurers will accrue stress. This is countered by killing blows, critical hits, and some support abilities. Inevitably someone will reach their breaking point after one too many knock knock jokes and one of two things will happen: they'll rally courageously, lowering their stress and everyone elses, or become afflicted. This affliction, whether it be cowardice, masochism, irrationality (and more!), means you won't always be in control of that hero, often to their detriment and the team's.

After you clear (or flee) a dungeon you return to the estate, a hub where your weary adventurers can get some much needed R&R. Mirroring the core gameplay, your decisions in the hub world are deeply tactical. Some characters are religious, and will only be willing to visit the abbey to relieve stress. Others will happily drink and gamble their sorrows away. And as less savory quirks develop (buffs and debuffs gained through adventuring and R&R, separate from affliction), you can send them to the sanitarium, where presumably all the fun is. All of this is costly in time and money, and you'll have to manage carefully. Fresh heroes and heroines are wheeled into town after every adventure, but they are newbly in nature. With each subsequent successful quest, estate properties unlock, providing you the ability to upgrade abilities, armor and weapons, survivor traits, and more (you can upgrade your town's buildings to improve their respective output). Expect to spend a lot of booty.

After enough victories more procedural dungeon locales unlock, bosses become available to fight, and the game gets tougher. I'm not joking when I suggest that YOU, the player, will experience every quirk, affliction, and solace your characters do. I was paranoid. I was stalwart. I was masochistic. I was even hagiophobic (the last time a game introduced me to such cool vocabulary was Eternal Darkness). That is an accomplishment. And it was all worth it, every second of crawling, creeping madness, to play this game.

It's only February 2015 and this will easily be a contender for GOTY, of that I have no doubt. The art direction is spectacular; beautiful and visceral at the same time, like an old, dusty, medieval anatomy book. The turn-based attacks are so cool, so varied. The enemies are bizarre, terrifying, and menacing. The heroes and heroines are flawed, heroic, almost real. The dungeon crawling is rewarding, the victories are often bittersweet, and the office cooler conversation potential of this game is off the charts with so many variables. But the narration, sweet tap dancing Allfather, Allmother, and every Allrelative in between, the narration is amazing. It's omnipresent, in the hub and dungeons, raising hopes and dashing them in dulcet tones. It's like Vincent Price and Paul Frees' (Disney's Haunted Mansion) voices got married and Cthulhu officiated.

I have a few teeny, tiny criticisms. The game can be unrelentingly punishing at times, unfair even. And while there is no fail state per se, things can get so bad that you'll want to just restart. I'd like the option to play a game in which I can save. XCOM has a save mode AND an Ironman mode, and I'd prefer that option here as well. There are also little technical glitches here and there, grammatical and spelling errors occasionally. That's about it. That's the sum of my complaints. I'd like to be able to save and there are a few little errors. And this title is in Early Access, which means we can anticipate lots of fine tuning and HOPEFULLY some cool additions as well. But what's already here, what's already been done, is spectacular.

It would be a grave crime against the Elder Gods to pass this up, and madness will surely follow.
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