Darkest Dungeon Brutality
First and foremost, the Darkest Dungeon is a Kickstarter, Indie game in the truest sense. Published in early 2016 for PC/OS X and later that year for PS4. It is a beautiful mix of Cuthlhu, Ravenloft, and Eye of the Beholder. As you can guess, the game mechanics play a certain homage to the old Dungeons and Dragons video games. Gather together a band of four very unlucky adventurers and hop into one of four dungeons (a fifth end of game dungeon is available later and a sixth DLC dungeon as well).
It is a true strategy game that requires carefully planned thoughts from multiple aspects. The first fairly unique resource that must be accounted for is torchlight. An adequate amount of torches is extremely necessary. At low levels, monsters and encounters become harder but you receive better loot. At higher levels, the loot is average and you are more likely to surprise the monsters. Food is both a periodic resource that punishes you severely for running out and is the only source of healing outside of combat (but you can get full quickly and not want more food).
Other items like medicinal herbs, bandages, holy water, antivenom have a dual purpose. They remove status effects but can be also used on objects out of combat (curios) that provide beneficial buffs and bonus items. Without these items, you will find that the curios will have a chance of debuffing your characters or apply DOTs (Blight or Bleed effects). However, be careful as using the wrong item on a curio will have you lose that item or provide a negative effect as well (it does not pay to use a shovel on a grave).
Oh did I forget to mention, you get a maximum of 16 inventory slots in a dungeon, so you must balance what items you are going to bring. Why? Because you are going to get a lot of loot that you want to bring back to improve your town and characters. Gold is the most obvious resource, but there are also Heirlooms that are used to improve your town.
An additional meter that makes this game brutal is Stress. Reducing your hit points to zero puts your character at death’s door. Every attack on that character increase the chance that your character will visit the cemetery. Permanently. But, stress is another whole different mechanic similar to hit points. At 100 stress, your character flips out and begins to do odd things. He will refuse healing or attack randomly or just hit himself depending on the status that he receives. At 200 stress, he will be at death’s door similar to if he was at zero HP. At 100 stress, he will also start to stress out the rest of the party with dark thoughts.
The roster selection and position of the party members are extremely important. There are 15 very unique classes (with one more in the DLC) that you can add to your roster. Some prefer the front, middle or back and target better in different areas of the monsters’ positions. During battle, monsters like to force your members to move which plays havoc with your perfect setup. Just be warned, position management counts. Your tank does not like to be in the back. There are more classic front line tanks and back line healers, but you will find several hybrids of the classic tank, healer, and damage dealer. Finding the right mix is half the fun. But you want to have a large roster because you want one group in the dungeons while the latest group recovers from a tough dive into a rough dungeon.
The town is just as much a character as the heroes. The town gets leveled up and will require proper management by you. Here you can recover the sanity of your heroes and reduce their stress (going to the tavern or the local church). Their is a guild to improve your skills and a blacksmith to upgrade your armor and weapons. My favorite is the local hospital where you can remove diseases you picked up or remove a quirk that you do not like (another level of management that I will not go into, but will let you figure out yourselves).
Final Verdict: 9/10
For what it is billed to do, it is amazing but you have to be into tactical games that will push you. If you dig “just one more turn” games, then this is for you. If you like twitch based video games or platforming games, then you will get bored with the system management. You will find yourself wondering if you should push your heroes for one more area or pull out. Do you grab a bit more loot at the expense of your last torches or food? Choices like this are plentiful and over exerting your heroes have drastic consequences on them. But there is always fresh meat waiting to come in.
Sir Talmor; Contributor