I haven’t become engrossed in a game as much as I have Darkest Dungeon in a long time. For those who haven’t played it, the game is a dungeon crawler in a turn based RPG style. The main draw to this game for many players is the incredibly steep learning curve that has earnt itself a reputation for being the “Dark Souls” of dungeon crawlers.
In this post, I’m going to look at some of the unique mechanics in Darkest Dungeon. This isn’t going to be a guide or a wiki, but a glance at what makes this game fun to play.
Stress can be a killer
One of the most unique aspects of Darkest Dungeon is how it reinforces to the player the psychological impacts of dungeon crawling on the characters themselves. Your party will get stressed in battle, in low light, after stepping on traps and even from hearing the rambling of another stressed out party member. Stress is everywhere and it can be a bigger killer than losing your health (I’ve had many a hero become stressed out, have a heart attack and die). It’s just as crucial to manage stress as it is to manage health and some battles require the player to bring a stress ‘healer’ to cope with it all.
Town management is vital
When not in a dungeon, the player can upgrade various buildings in their town which are a core part of improving your team’s power. This is also where heroes can be cured of stress, quirks and disease. The player must find a balance between improvements to heroes, upgrading buildings and keeping enough spare cash to buy provisions for those dangerous dungeons. Random town events also occur that can either be helpful, such as free stress healing in the tavern, or annoying, such as your hero getting drunk and losing a trinket. There are also a lot of bad things that can happen!
A party can make or break you
Each dungeon area, for example warrens or cove, has a different type of enemy. This means that there are a variety of strengths and weaknesses to be aware of. For instance, the abilities blight and bleed will be more useful in some areas and therefore it’s vital to make sure you take the right heroes along with you. Taking a plague doctor to the cove would help with the enemies that have high PROT (defence), as the blight stacks and does damage over time. Most enemies in the cove have bleed resist, making heroes like the hound master less useful.
Bosses require careful strategy
The bosses in Darkest Dungeon have unique quirks to exploit in order to take them down. For a player going in blind (not looking up a guide beforehand), some of these are not immediately obvious. Although in most battles the player should focus enemies on the backline (as these are where the more powerful yet weak ones usually hide), in some boss fights it might be better to avoid hitting them completely. The player must quickly adapt and figure out the strategy to beating the boss, or face being party wiped in a few turns.
Death happens often
Party wipes are not uncommon in Darkest Dungeon and quite often the player will find themselves leaving a dungeon with fewer heroes than they entered with. This is part of the experience however and new heroes can be recruited through the stagecoach. It does mean that while the game allows you to rename characters, it only hurts more when they are lost in battle. If you are lucky enough however, you may be granted an opportunity to bring one of them back from the dead.
Overall, there is so much depth to this game that really makes it stand out among other dungeon crawlers. It’s a refreshing and challenging experience that I highly recommend to players who like their patience, skill and perseverance to be tested.