Written by: Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong
Title: Darkest Dungeon
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Publisher: Red Hook Studios
Genre: Strategy RPG
Price: $24.99 (Steam)
Also Available On: PS4, PS Vita, Linux, Mac
Stylish, grim and very difficult, Darkest Dungeon represents the best of Red Hook Studios. Called back home, you learn that your relative’s once beautiful mansion has something dark and terrible hidden below, and it’s up to you to lift the curse that haunts the place. Only by assembling a brave party of four adventurers tough enough to survive the depths can one find and conquer the root of the land’s corruption.
Two major things strike you upon starting Darkest Dungeon.
First, the game looks and feels absolutely amazing. The most enjoyable parts of Darkest Dungeon lie not in the gameplay, but in the exploration of the universe it manages to create, and experiencing the game’s twisted backstory first-hand. The hand-drawn artwork combined with the brooding narration and the rumbling, mournful tones of the game’s soundtrack form the game’s strongest points. There’s nothing quite similar to the experience. Exhibiting charm that manages to be both hideous and beautiful, this deliberate hammering of the game’s depressing backstory is a welcome thing when paired with a style this sleek. Darkest Dungeon manages to create an aesthetic design that is depressing, but not overbearing to the point of suffocation.
Second, Darkest Dungeon is hard, almost to the point of being unfair. While difficult titles like Dark Souls exist, these usually use player skill as a meaningful bar. Darkest Dungeons takes this to a next level. Yes, skill is still important here – but so is luck. Relying heavily on percentages and dice rolls, Darkest Dungeon is brutal if you don’t have fate on your side. The many random mechanics in the game (random loot, random treasure, random enemies, random hit chances) combined with features such as permadeath can often make for a very frustrating experience.
Still, it’s all well and good.
The beauty of Darkest Dungeon: You should expect to fail. Again and again. It’s practically written in the setting. It pounds you with dark imagery and blasts you with dreary narration; it sets the mood that you should have no hope – and indeed, it is difficult to have hope when a large part of the game relies solely on chance.
And yet, you go for your best odds, constantly trying to finish a dungeon and escape death with just a sliver of health remaining. This is the feeling Darkest Dungeon is going for – the satisfaction at proving the game wrong, at having conquered the unconquerable despite the many setbacks.
Darkest Dungeon is not a game for everyone; But for those willing to brave the darkness, give it a try. You won’t regret it.
- Beautiful artwork
- Stylistic and polished
- Good depth in combat
- Intriguing (if somewhat confusing) storyline and setting
- Can sometimes feel unfair
- Can get somewhat grindy