Dark, deadly, deep, difficult, debilitating. There’s almost a sense of irony to the name Darkest Dungeon with how many words beginning with the letter “D” you can use to describe the game. Difficult is word that is now so often used to advertise games these days. To give it prowess, intimidate you and even empower you to take it on. There’s a certain pride that comes with playing and succeeding at difficult games. Others look upon you with envy when you describe how close you came to dying for the thousandth time, and when you’re behind the controller (or the mouse and keyboard), the feeling of narrowly escaping death is a thrill that only difficult games can provide. But difficult doesn’t even begin to describe Darkest Dungeon.
The thing about difficult games that’s always been true is that success and failure has (almost) exclusively rested in the hands of the player. And that’s where Darkest Dungeon makes its mark. Whether you live or die, succeed or fail isn’t necessarily up to you at all times. There’s an overarching sense of randomness that dictates not only the flow of battle, but in everything you do. You might enter a dungeon, expecting a short run through, enter one battle encounter and get completely wrecked by disease, fail to land your strikes and be forced to retreat, eating the cost of your investment in the journey. Other times you might try to reduce the stress of one of your heroes by sending them to the bar or the brothel and they might come back with a drinking problem or an STD that affects their base stats.
Everything in Darkest Dungeon is a gamble and the most important thing is knowing when to fold. With that, let’s take a look at what worked and what didn’t in Darkest Dungeon.