Let me preface this by saying how much I dislike turn-based combat. In all my years of gaming, games like Final Fantasy and, well, any JRPG really, rubbed me up several wrong ways when I came back to the realization that my party and the enemy were taking it in turns to stand in a forest clearing and kick each other in the shins until the guy who didn't bring enough healing potions fell over. The only game with turn-based mechanics that I ever liked, even loved, was XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which felt like playing a massive, high-stakes board game where tactical positioning and cover was of the utmost importance, and the turns progressed in a way that made sense.
Well, after several years of being in a Pathfinder group, and about a decade of being in love with gothic horror in general, Darkest Dungeon did for me what XCOM did. It did the impossible. It got me to like turn-based combat all over again.
That said, calling D.D. a "turn-based" game is doing the fantastically well-implemented RNG elements a disservice. RNG is infamously difficult to get right, especially in rougelike titles where they basically hold up the entirety of the experience, but D.D. has found that precarious balance between unrelenting and fair, where challenges feel surrmountable and all of the numbers mean very important things that become gradually evident over time. There's this problematic occurance in a lot of RNG games I've played where the slightest mishap in balancing the numbers is the single, tenuous line between monstrously unfair and insultingly easy. D.D., to its credit and my endless amazement, has found the balance upon the edge of the knife.
And, holy crap you guys, this game is still in Early Access. Oh my good lord, but I cannot WAIT to see how these guys polish their formula, because it's already a mirror finish.
In general, there's a whole bunch to love about D.D., but I'll rattle off a few things that I find immensely pleasurable:
--The "crowquill" art style and gothic, Lovecraftian influences are drop-dead gorgeous. Props to their art designer (and also to Mike Mingola, who kind of started the whole thing) for making some of the creepiest, grimiest, flat-out prettiest aesthetic choices I've seen since Dark Souls (the first one, that is).
--The varied player classes and character builds makes for some damn fun experimentation and augmentation as you build up resources and plan your parties' ventures. I love how almost every class is viable in almost any position with the right build and gear. I've already had great fun trying out new kinds of parties, mostly failing, and learning a lot from those failures. There's some deep, rich mechanics under this game's surface, and I, for one, am eager to puzzle them out.
--The tactical positioning mechanics. Holy crap, this might have basically sold the entire thing to me. As I mentioned previously, turn-based games aren't my thing. Turn-based tactics, on the other hand, now there's an entirely different bugbear. The way you suss out how different squaddies fit together, the best party orders, the best adventuring combo teams, and then watching in abject terror as your team gets suprised and jumbled and your entire oder is screwed up and you have to scramble, sweating and swearing, to reassemble your precious roster row before that dreaded, incoming TPW. Glorious. Simply glorious.
--The weight of the player's decisions. Everything matters in this game. Every little decision the player makes can have massive consequences in the short AND the long. I seriously have not played anything so maschostically challenging, nor as powerfully rewarding, since Demon's Souls and Dark Souls.
That's about it. There's so much greatness in this game, and so much I could talk about. It is in early access though, so I think a brief list of more things I'd like to see is in order:
1. Random events in dungeons: coming across a lost family searching for a way out, or perhaps an ancient tome of eldritch power that the party can't decide what to do with, or maybe recuing a hapless villager from the clutches of the swine hoards. Those are pretty simple examples off the top of my head, but this game is absolutely RIPE for the odd proc gen, or maybe even scripted events that can only occur once per playthrough, that comes along to mix up the formula. Some great opportunities for challenging mechanics-driven decision-making here, guys. Love to see it implemented.
2. More character classes: yeah, there's already a lot, and I know some more have been planned, but holy crap guys, I cannot believe how many concepts for classes didn't make it in to a game like this. The Huntress, the Archaeologist (Indiana Jones, anybody?), the Librarian, the Investigator (I'm thinking Shadow Over Innsmouth), the Sheriff (or maybe Marshall?), the Muskateer, the Assassin, and that's just right off the top of my head. Seriously, to see more awesome adventuring dudes and dudettes to send to their untimely demises would make me just the happiest.
3. More insight into the world and the story of the Ancestor: seriously, the bridging narrative (what there is of it) in this game is turning out to be some sick, twisted, wonderfully macabre worldbuilding. I want so much more. I seriously can't get enough. If there's a way to implement it (as perhaps in a way similar to number 1 up above), more story missions would be the absolute tops. It's already great, you guys. I just want more.
So, yeah. Early Access. Already an absolute gem. Only going to get better. GIVE THESE GUYS YOUR MONEY. THEY EARNED IT. Want to see more of it. Probably will. Eagerly await new content and alterations.