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Darkest Dungeon Review | A Dark Fate, Even Darker Decisions


Developers: Red Hook Studios

DLCs: Crimson Court, Color of Madness, Butcher’s Circus

Genre: Single-player, Turn-Based Dungeon Crawler, Permadeath Roguelite, Dark Fantasy, 2D Indie Game

Rating: Nail-biting adventure: A guide to making every strategic loss feel impactful.

Prepare yourself and brace your mind, the Darkest Dungeon can be an unforgiving game to those expecting an easy path to victory. The parties of mishaps, rogues, glory-seekers, and zealots who rally to your cause will find that sacrifice is necessary for your success.

Beating this game and playing through the DLCs was an intense but satisfying challenge. With almost 500 hours put into it, Darkest Dungeon is a special recipe for hard-won victories and harrowing defeats. Very few other games come close to the type of intensity that ensues when your favorite characters come close to death in this game.


Darkest Dungeon is all about learning how to handle a team of mercenaries under your command to progress through varying dungeons. Monsters and traps wait to spring into action with every step you take. Sometimes, the worst enemy is the mind itself, as your party will slowly manifest psychological trauma with the more horrific things they encounter. If you want to uncover the secrets of the Darkest Dungeon, you will have to push those you have hired to their breaking points. This includes the ultimate price, as each and every one of your lackeys, experienced or otherwise, can permanently die.


Taking elements from H.P. Lovecraft’s existential horror and many other visceral horror genres, Darkest Dungeon contains themes of impending doom, overarching inevitability, and destroyed remnants of a once thriving village and manor. As you are introduced to the story by the narrator (The amazing voice actor: Wayne June), things have gone terribly wrong in your recently deceased ancestor’s estate, and you have been sent to reclaim the prestige of your birthright. Not much more is explained about your condition until you assemble a group of mercenaries to adventure and fight on your behalf. Heading out into various sections of the village and estate leads to the realization that crawling and grasping horrors seek to push you back at every turn. Your ancestor is no longer innocent as you learn of the partaking in gruesome and occult experimentations. To learn more of what truly occurred, you must push further towards the manor and uncover the many notes left behind by your ancestor that reveal even greater horrors in wait. Darkest Dungeon doesn’t hold any punches when it comes to grim story-telling. You will be genuinely surprised at how intriguing yet sinister the characters can be, and how unforgiving they are to their world’s inhabitants.


Difficulty in games can come from multiple obstacles that developers put in your way, and the developers at Red Hook know just how to throw your hopes of victory into a woodchipper. As you begin your expedition into the Darkest Dungeon, you will come across the ruins of the hamlet where your ancestor once resided in. This is the hub where your party of adventurers will reside, tempted to your side through the promise of treasure and glory. You can recruit many types of mercenaries as they step off the coach wagon that brought them here.

All of your team members will have skills and equipment that can be upgraded so long as they survive dungeon crawls and make it back to the blacksmith and adventurer’s guild within the hamlet. As you might imagine, weapons and skills need enemies to be tested on, and Darkest Dungeon focuses on turn-based combat in allied parties of four against four enemies. Weapon skill determines damage numbers and hit chance, while skills can vary from dealing damage, healing, moving enemies/allies positions, or applying status effects like stun or bleed. Party members can also use trinkets they find throughout dungeons to increase stats and skill effects, but only two trinkets can be equipped at any given time. The skill ceiling in Darkest Dungeon is knowing which adventurers to group together and what enemies they are best at defeating. Some enemies and bosses in the game heavily punish play styles that are too passive or not flexible, and can easily kill an unprepared party. Did I mention that your team can be permanently killed, losing any trinkets and levels that they have? Monsters reside in multiple dungeons outside of the hamlet based on which one you choose to explore each in-game week. The main areas are the Ruins, Weald, Warrens, Cove, and Manor for the base game, each containing different enemy types like skeletons or pigmen.

Each area has missions to choose from of varying objectives and lengths. Your party traverses the mission like a board game, randomly running into interactables and enemies along the corridors in between dungeon rooms. Delving deep into terrifying challenges will push your champions to the limit, testing their resolve in unique ways. As they run into progressively more horrific encounters, their insanity bar will increase like the opposite of a health bar, eventually reaching a breaking point at 100 insanity. The mind is a tricky thing, and each party member will have a chance to rise above and become heroic (gaining buffs) or fall into multiple types of insanity, causing them to act out of their control in various ways. Each dungeon culminates into multiple boss fights, requiring high-level skills and gear to defeat. The hardest dungeon is the Darkest Dungeon located in the Manor.


A great take on 2D side-scrolling dungeon crawling. Heavy and dark themes blend seamlessly into the character designs and backgrounds for the whole game. The depressive yet awe-inspiring monster depictions will leave you wondering what experimentation could lead to creating such abominations. You will see that the evil nature of each dungeon zone has crept into everything that surrounds your character, from fungus-infested pools to piles of bones blocking your path, or tendrils surrounding doorways. I must say that the sound design is fantastic, you simply have to hear the swine men screeching in the distance while traversing the Warrens dungeon or the eerie call of the Siren in the Cove. All of these elements coincide to make each dungeon crawl feel suspenseful like you could lose it all at any moment. No need to worry about PC specs for this, almost any type of computer can run this indie gem.

Is It Fun?

The RPG elements in Darkest Dungeon in combination with the unique character designs/interactions will make you feel very invested in keeping your team alive. This can be incredibly fun but also very rage-inducing, especially when your favorite team member gets focused down by a boss. The challenge brought me back to Darkest Dungeon over and over, an incredible experience I won’t soon forget.

Should You Buy It?

With Darkest Dungeon 2 in its early stages, this is a perfect time to play through the original. Especially if you are waiting for the Epic Games exclusivity to end for the second game. Both games will be great for players that like challenges that can be overcome with the proper preparation. All the DLCs add sizable chunks of content that will grow in difficulty but improve your capacity to strategize, and the Butcher’s Circus free multiplayer add-on still has a devoted player base to interact with. You can’t go wrong with a game that gives so much replayability and only asks that you keep up with the learning curve.


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