If you want a game that simultaneously has very little writing, but a lot of room for character growth, attachment to NPC’s and room for potential bonds to be made between you and the characters you control then Darkest Dungeon is the game for you.
It does all of those things and more, including making you watch your heroes slowly become more and more stressed, and stressed, and stressed to the point of near insanity – at which point you’ll be forced to see them die a gruesome death by the hands of sentient pig holding a cleaver, or perhaps a fish with a spear. Afterwards you can go to the cemetery and read about how they gradually bled to death over the course of serval minutes, and have horrific flashbacks to how their allies abandoned them and chose to return home without getting the reward for going into the dungeon.
Indeed, existence and adversity are one in the same when you play this game.
Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based dungeon crawler with RPG elements, in which you recruit heroes to your roster and level them up and try to take back your once magnificent manor from cosmic creatures, unconceivable. Simple, right?
Once upon a time, a man named Brachus joined my roster as a lowly level 1 man-at-arms. I found he was able to bolster the morale and abilities of his allies, even if he couldn’t engage in combat, so I kept him around for the hell of it and decided to level him up. Once, while plundering a dungeon, a Skelton spilled some wine all over Brachus’ armour. Brachus became so stressed by this that he spent the rest of his time there complaining to his allies. Eventually Ivan, the resident sharpshooter, felt so oppressed by Brachus’ constant whining that he actually died of a heart attack.
This is a fun game, I swear.
So I forfeited the loot from the dungeon, fearing another Brachus-induced cardiac arrest, and sent everyone home. To try and destress Brachus I sent him to the brothel where I hoped an entire week of nothing but the finest women in the hamlet would calm his nerves about the stain on his armour. And it did… Too much. On the next week, when I had hoped to take Brachus out again, he refused to leave the brothel and I had to substitute him for someone suffering from leprosy.
Fortunately, the week after that, I was able to take Brachus out again. Unfortunately, inside of the dungeon, Brachus heard a sentient pig playing the drums and became hypnotised by paranoia. Because of this paranoia, Brachus struck dead one of his own allies instead of the drum-beating pig and nearly got the entire party killed. And because the person he struck dead just happened to be the only person with any healing abilities, the party was once again forced to retreat.
Once more, I needed to quell Brachus’ stress but there was a problem… He would only go to the brothel to relieve stress because he had a love interest in there. So I did what anyone else would do, and sent him straight to the sanatorium where I told the doctors to sever this dependency he had on “feelings”. I cost me 2000 gold and was worth every penny.
After another particularly stressful day out, however (this time due to Georgian mosquitos), there was only one place I could send Brachus to relieve his stress, as everything else was in use… The penance hall. Yes, for one whole week I payed 1500 gold to force a man into a scenario where self inflicted pain was the only way to deal with negative emotions.
Next week I took Brachus out on a special trip to the Ruins where he and his buddies were tasked with slaying a Prophet, a man who kills people by accurately depicting where a chuck of rock is going to fall from the ceiling above your party. In one instance, a hero at low health was a moment away from being crushed under this rubble until Brachus swapped places with them and absorbed the blow. Now at deaths door, Brachus was extremely vulnerable, but his ally would live on. And that’s when it happened… Once again rocks crumbled down upon Brachus, but this time they made sure to bury him… Death blow.
Now Brachus lies in cemetery as a man who lived his best life using and abusing his allies, having died a man who protected someone after being subjected to emotional abuse and physical torture. Oh, Brachus, I will miss you.
And if you thought that story was crazy, that was for just one of my characters – by the endgame you can have up to 30 heroes in a single roster, though only four at a time can embark into a dungeon.
Darkest Dungeon truly is an amazing game that, while crafted around the management of resources and people, somehow gets you to connect with those people in spite of there being no written dialogue between the two of you.
So with a sequel announced by the developers, Red Hook Studios, I encourage all to the play the original and to get a taste for it, and to see if they can conquer the Darkest Dungeon.