Darkest Dungeon Review

Find out if you should play Red Hook Studios’ unique dungeon crawler, Darkest Dungeon.

July 8, 2016 by Morgan Shaver

Darkest Dungeon is an RPG dungeon crawler that shifts away from the primary focus of scoring better gear and reaching higher levels and instead deals with the wellbeing of the game's characters as they fight to stay alive. The story is straightforward. You inherit a creepy-looking mansion from a relative who went insane prior to ending his life.

You soon discover the culprit of your relative’s insanity. Turns out, the dearly departed stumbled upon some terrifying things lurking in the caves, woods, and catacombs surrounding the mansion. It’s now up to you to defeat these monstrosities as you struggle to maintain your sanity. Darkest Dungeon includes everything you’d expect from a roguelike, including turn-based combat and exploring mysterious dungeons. However, dungeon crawling isn’t all you’re expected to do, as you’ll also cough up some coin to keep your town functioning, and purchase fighters to aid you in navigating dangerous locations. In these locations, you’ll fight a wide variety of foes using standard turn-based RPG combat.

Your party consists of four members with four available attacks. They are arranged in a line formation, and where they’re placed in your party determines the abilities you’re able to use in battle. In addition, the location of enemies in relation to your fighters affects which ones you can hit based on range of attack. Combat places heavy emphasis on strategy, as you’ll have to balance your stats, health, buffs, and party positioning. Keep in mind, enemies can alter this positioning, which ruins your desired attack formation and forces you to take a different approach (though you can do the same to them in return). You will also want to keep a watchful eye on your stress meter. Increased stress will decrease the effectiveness of your party members in a variety of different ways, and cause them to take on some crippling personality traits.

These traits are unique to each character since each of your individual party members will progress and decline in different ways. Thankfully, this stress meter and the negative personality traits tacked on due to high stress can be removed. You can send your party member out for a drink or even place them in a sanitarium. While this costs you time, money, and resources, it’s in your benefit to tend to your team because death is permanent.

Darkest Dungeon increases its management difficulty over time, especially in relation to each character’s stats and personality. For example, a highly ranked character will refuse to go on missions below their rank, forcing you to recruit some new members if you need to double back. Nevertheless, this added difficulty makes Darkest Dungeon an enjoyable dungeon crawler. While some elements of the game are inarguably frustrating and annoying, they also serve as inspiration to improve.

Buy Darkest Dungeon on Steam

Pros
  • Complex character progression
  • Unique spin on dungeon crawlers and roguelikes
  • Difficulty makes completing the game rewarding
Cons
  • Difficulty might turn off some players
  • Players may grow detached to heroes over time