Author Topic: Darkest Dungeon  (Read 1192 times)

Clockwork

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Darkest Dungeon
« on: June 20, 2016, 02:12:42 AM »
I hope Orange Bison is okay with this. One PM and I'll take it down.


Every now and then gaming produces Lovecraftian horror. Darkest Dungeon may be the first to get it right. The game had been in early access since February 3rd 2015 and was released January 19th 2016, so there has been plenty of time to see what it’s about but for those of you that don’t know; Darkest Dungeon is a turn based strategic dungeon crawler. And for those of you that want to leave at the mention of ‘turn based’, wait a moment. Usually when I hear this genre being slated it’s because there is little to do moment-to-moment. Not so here, every animation plays quickly and the feedback on what just happened is instant. And that’s something very integral to the tension of this game, so many times it feels like all could be won or lost in just a single action.

(Really the guy with the shield should be on the frontline instead of the back, but RNG decided to surprise me)

If ever there was a game which built an entire narrative around mechanics, it would be Darkest Dungeon. What I mean by that is from the very moment you load it up, watch the intro and look at the menu, you’ll be able to ascertain something. This game looks like it’s going to be a challenge. Thankfully, it delivers.
With your party of four heroes you’ll be delving, room to room, into the depths of five dungeon settings each with presumably near unlimited randomly generated content before heading back to town, loot in tow. So far, so standard. What really makes it hard is that the deaths are permanent, pickups are scarce during missions, enemies can and will take all your health in one crit and drive your heroes insane. This is kind of unique to Darkest Dungeon, the insanity system. During dungeon delving your heroes will become more stressed due to enemy attacks and different objects that you can interact with during your dungeon delving.
As your intrepid heroes walk through the many dungeons, there will be objects on the floor, most of which contain loot but can give a severe penalty for being tampered with. To aid this seemingly bad trade of loot for insanity and disease; the right items bought in town to alleviate the danger. Not that the game tells you which (if any) of the seven items to use on a particular object.  Herein lies part of the progression in Darkest Dungeon. Not only do characters have weapons, armour and skills to upgrade but you try out different items on different objects and your knowledge of the game expands.
One last thing which sells this game as a difficult game is that there is no difficulty level. There is a New Game+ which is harder but the game needs to be beaten before that can be unlocked. Instead of Easy/Medium/Hard there are options that can be toggled on or off which make the experience more or less difficult such as your heroes getting more stressed the longer you take in a fight or enemies will do max damage on a crit instead of a damage multiplier.



This is a game that you can tell has been built from the mechanics upwards, the enemy types each have strengths and weaknesses with heroes compositions being strong or weak against the different variations. After each mission you’re rewarded with just enough tokens to upgrade the town a little and just enough money to try and cure an affliction or two. It gives the feeling like you’re catching up gradually until you get a run through one of the levels which everything just goes your way and you end up with a ton of loot and you can heal up all your heroes and get some breathing room.
If you can deal with the first few missions you may encounter a boss – these dungeons are like any other except that in one room there will be an encounter a fight significantly harder than anything else in the level. Usually boss fights will require you to see what the boss can do, retreat from the fight (unless by happenstance you managed to bring a good combo) and then come back again later with a party specifically designed to kill it.
 


 Unusually for a game with randomly generated elements Darkest Dungeon has a lot of hero classes and while they have a general role that may be in common with another class, each of the fifteen has a use or niche unlike the others. For example, the Leper and Man at Arms have roughly the same role as a frontline to take damage but while the Leper has some self-buffs and can attack the first two spaces, the Man at Arms has party wide buffs and has attacks that hit any of the first 3 spaces. Tacticians among you will find more than enough to experiment with to give many hours of entertainment trying to find the optimal combination for each encounter.




The aesthetic used is fantastic, very narrow but stylised colour palette with seemingly hand drawn artwork makes it a visually striking game. The animations are simple but convey what is happening at the time and they are quick and numerous enough that they don’t become repetitive. Assisting with setting the scene is the ever present narrator (Wayne June), murmuring unsettling developments and musing on your progress. It all fits in to give this game a wholly cohesive theme that any game regardless of budget can learn lessons from.

All that being said, if you’re not a fan of RNG making this both easier and more complicated or the game looks and feels too dark then fair enough: this won’t be a game for you. There are faults with how easy the game is during the mid-end of the game but the game is getting tweaks to difficulty fairly regularly.

Personally, I’ve loved every minute I’ve had with Darkest Dungeon but that aside it is a great example of how to do a turn based party vs party game and I’d be surprised if carbon copies didn’t crop up sometime in the future. Darkest Dungeon retails on steam at £18.99 or your regional equivalent.

Pros:
·    Great atmosphere, both sound and visuals.
·         Solid tactical gameplay.
·         Fantastic narration with mystery and horror.
·         Balances challenge and reward well.
·         Updated frequently since release.
Cons:
·         RNG can feel unfair.
·         Early game is punishing.
·         Late game is more of the early game.
 
Overall: 10/10 At the time of writing this is legitimately the best game in its genre because there isn’t another game like it at the moment. The closest I can think of is Legend of Grimrock, Might and Magic VIII, and X:COM but even then the difference is greater than the similarities.
 
Rob Mitchell

- smallerized photos by request : CG -
« Last Edit: June 20, 2016, 02:51:55 AM by comrade_general »
Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.


comrade_general

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Re: Darkest Dungeon
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2016, 02:23:44 AM »
Nice review, looks great mate. ;)
I'd be more apathetic if I weren't so lethargic.

Clockwork

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Re: Darkest Dungeon
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2016, 02:29:30 AM »
Thanks <3
Once you realize what a joke everything is, being the Comedian is the only thing that makes sense.