The game of stress: ‘Darkest Dungeon’ review
Games today have become too easy by guiding you into making the “right” decisions and giving you a boost when things are going poorly, but occasionally the stars align and there comes a game that refuses to be your caretaker. The Kickstarter-funded “Darkest Dungeon” is Red Hook Studio’s newest PC game, and it was created to make your dungeon crawling experience a living hell.
Can a game be considered enjoyable when it causes you to spend hours yelling in anger at a computer screen? The answer is yes. Most of this game is unforgiving; your characters won’t come back to life when they die, and grinding money and items is no easy task. The harsh nature of “Darkest Dungeon” is appealing to the hardcore gamer, but it may be off-putting to the casual gaming crowd.
“Darkest Dungeon” doesn’t just offer a challenge, but it also gives the player a unique gaming experience. Dungeon crawling takes a toll your band of adventurers and finding the right way to manage their stress levels to prevent them from going insane is half the battle. Experimenting with different combinations of upgrades, items, and team compositions is the most entertaining part of avoiding the dreaded full stress bar.
“Darkest Dungeon” may be a 2D side-scroller, but that hasn’t hindered Red Hook Studio’s ability to create terrifying Lovecraftian monsters and environments. The graphics still have a strong sense of originality, especially when compared to games of the same genre.
The environments are each eerie in their own way, but because the game is still in the early access phase, it’s somewhat lacking in dungeon variety. After hours of trudging through the same three dungeons, the background visuals become stale and easy to ignore.
The Stuart Chatwood composed music in “Darkest Dungeon” does a great job of conveying hopelessness and despair. The soundtrack immerses you into the game by making you feel as if you’re in real life danger, despite the fact that you’re playing safely from your home.
While walking through a new dungeon, fearful of what could be lurking in the next room, the ominous music is there to let you know that everything is not going to be okay. Upon entering a fight against hideous creatures, the pounding of battle drums gets your heart racing and adrenaline pumping. Playing with the sound muted vastly takes away from the gaming experience.
“Darkest Dungeon” is the kind of game that you’ll be playing over and over again, but not because it was just so much fun the first time. At some point, whether it be five dungeons in or fifteen, you’ll find yourself having to restart the game because you ran out of money and all of your best heroes are dead.
It hurts when your most reliable squad falls in battle, and the pain only gets worse when it inevitably happens to their replacements. The key to “Darkest Dungeon” is learning from your mistakes, so you can make it further with each playthrough. Once you’ve finally brought every boss to their knees, the replay value becomes low until a major update brings new content.
Early access games have a bad reputation for stiffing gamers with a poor story, little content, and a pile of glitches. “Darkest Dungeon” may not be a story driven game, but it succeeds where most others fall short. Despite the story’s shallow depth, this early access game’s strong tactical gameplay is more than enough to keep you binge-playing until the early hours of the morning.
Have you had the chance to play Darkest Dungeon? Were you able to avoid rage quitting long enough to beat the game? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.