Darkest Dungeon [Early Access]

Darkest Dungeon, an early access game now on Steam for about 20SGD (about 15 USD approx.) and having seen someone playing the game on a live stream, it peaked my interested. Decided to get it while it was still somewhat cheap (in my opinion) and give it a try myself.

The game is a turn-based RPG with rogue-elements. For an early access game, Darkest Dungeons is already well-polished. This gives me high hopes for the game when it is fully released in the future. It was also funded via kickstarter and I believe it reached its goal within the first two days.

Did I mention that this game is also really brutal?

For those who do not know anything about the game. Here is a very brief breakdown of how the game goes:

  • enter dungeon
  • kill things > try to not die > inevitable death of a hero
  • stress takes a toll on the remaining heroes
  • succeed/fail the quest
  • return to town with heroes who now have more mental problems than a psychotic ex-girlfriend you can shake a stick at
  • rinse & repeat

and your thought process goes along the lines of either of:

A)

  • first deathpure tragedy (aka NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO)
  • fifth death – unavoidable consequences 
  • ten+ deaths necessary sacrifices for the greater good
  • fifteen+ deaths meh I’ll just recruit another hero (for the slaughter)

or

B)

  • “this isn’t so bad. I got this”
  • “okay….uhm, okay we can still salvage this mission. just need to better manage my resources and gold”
  • “well…there went a hero…..”
  • “abandon the quest! I can’t afford to lose more heroes!”
  • “I got no more gold/food/torches….”
  • “I regret everything”
  • “how many heroes did I lose now? I lost count…”
  • “why didn’t I save more gold for supplies….*slams head on desk*”
  • “dammit ______ why didn’t you heal _____ when you had the chance?!”
  • “STOP GOING INSANE, I NEED YOU GUYS TO DO YOUR JOB”
  • “STOP REJECTING THE HEAL”
  • “STOP MISSING THE ATTACKS”
  • “oh my god I love you for doing the critical at the most vital moment/critical kills literally when I needed it the most”
  • “wow…that enemy is a douche”
  • “well, that’s enough Darkest Dungeons for one day. Time to do something else for the next few hours”

Now for the serious real review of the game.

As I said in the beginning of the post, the game is in early access. For an early access game, I am already impressed with what I have seen so far. The game seems pretty well-polished with no issues from what I seen. Red Hook Studios actively update the game to fix issues that players find, the last build update I seen was 27th February.

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Content-wise, the game already has ten different hero classes that you can recruit, three different dungeon environments, dozen types of monsters and over one hundred items that you can collect! There is more such as nine different town buildings that you can upgrade with the artifacts you find. Personally, I think that is pretty good for an early access game.  I am enjoying playing the game a great deal even if I now have a hate-love relationship with the game.

What I really like about the game is that the heroes are not perfect. They all have flaws and different quirks that affect them. Not all of these quirks are good however. For example, a hero could deal bonus damage to creatures but have a fear of the unholy, meaning they do less damage on undead creatures. Others may have specific quirks on how they relieve their stress, such as my crusader can only lose stress if he prays while another hero is a known cheat so you can’t allow him to gamble.

This relates into a feature of the game revolving around stress. Adventuring or dungeon-delving is stressful and the game reflects this. Heroes become stressed when they suffer an attack during battle or one of the heroes falls in battle. You have to manage the stress levels of the group carefully as if they reach 100 stress, they basically break down and become “afflicted”. This goes two ways when the hero’s resolve is tested. They can either get a beneficial affliction which helps your party overall or they become negative (i.e abusive) which stresses out your remaining heroes even more. My last game, my plague doctor who was my support became stressed out and turned abusive….which began the chain effect of stressing out my crusader who ironically became selfish which lead to the two non-insane heroes becoming afflicted as well. That was a stressful quest.

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All of that adds to the difficulty of the game which can prove enjoyable to some players, while others may not enjoy this as much. There is very little room for mistakes in this game, you are allowed to make mistakes but you have to quickly learn from them otherwise the entire party suffers (or dies). A great example would be when I forgotten to manage my gold and went a little overboard with upgrading buildings. When it came to buying resources, I literally had no gold to buy enough torches or even food. This lead to me being forced to fail certain missions on purpose so I could keep some gold at the cost of having nearly two parties (I divided the heroes I had into two groups and basically rotate them) going insane, with very little gold to help them relax.

……..

Yeah, I do not always have the best resource management skills.

The gameplay is pretty simple, you are allowed to either use the WASD or arrow keys to move around, you use the mouse (mainly the right-click) to use items in your inventory. The navigation on the map could use a bit of tweaking since I always forget you cannot move the map unless you actually right-click on it first before dragging the map around. Although I think my mouse is the problem since it has acted a bit twitchy since I dropped it a few weeks ago, you have to click on the next room before you could actually go ahead. So my main complaint that the map navigation could be improved but it works.

Visually, the artwork suits the gothic feel that Red Hook Studios was going for. The game is dark and moody, even the music reflects the tone of the game. Although I am still unsure how I feel about the narrator of the game, although I suppose the narrator is actually the caretaker of the estate. It just feels like his voice is a little too loud but his commentary while repetitive after a while, just seems to match with game especially with its dark atmosphere.

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From what I have read off the Steam store, they plan for this game to stay in early access for six months. During this time, they aim to add more dungeons, heroes and new features into the game. The planned release date for the full release is around 2nd half of 2015. Unlike the early access version, the full version will have an actual end to the story since the early access does not have an end, allowing players to play quests indefinitely.

As for the pricing, it remains to be seen but it will not be lower than the current pricing for the early access. This means that the game will either be kept at the same price or be increased. I do not see it being kept at the same price that it is at now, so I assume the price will increase. Hopefully the price increase will not be too bad.

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