Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Darkest Dungeon is a progression-based role-playing dungeon crawler, in which you recruit and equip teams of heroes to crawl through dungeons where they will encounter turn-based combat, random events, boss battles, hunger, and darkness. Mixing elements of traditional fantasy with the writings of Lovecraft and Poe, the setting has you slowly progress through the story of your decadent ancestor as painstakingly cleanse his manor of the occult corruption that he has left behind. The game is ruthless, so expect your prized heroes to die, for good, especially when you are tempted by the prospects of carrying more loot…

Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is a great game with a relatively simple core gameplay loop: you recruit heroes, equip and train them, and send them to crawl through a procedurally generated dungeon. When they return (if they return), you can use the loot to upgrade the facilities at your camp and equip more heroes, to send on new and more dangerous missions. The combat is turn-based, with each hero able to perform abilities on the basis of their position in the group, damaging or poisoning enemies, healing or de-stressing your allies, or shuffling your enemies’ positions to get their vulnerable stress casters within range of your bounty hunter’s axe. 

Though the gameplay looks simple, it is kept engaging by the large number of different heroes, each with different abilities depending on their position in the line up, and the vast range of enemies with different strengths and weaknesses. 

The game’s strength is in its ruthlessness, and in the way it keeps tempting you. The game knows no mercy: dead means dead, and there is no way to resurrect your favourite hero or even reload a save. Things can go downhill very quickly, especially once a hero’s stress meter is maxed and they starts spreading despair to your other characters. A single poor decision can cause a cascade of failures that sees the entire party die or go insane. At the same time, you are constantly tempted to clear another room, or attempt a dungeon in the total dark, increasing difficulty and reward in equal measure. 

The only reason I’m not rating this game more highly is because, even though I realise it is literally the point, it can feel a bit disheartening to lose a hero or party as a result of a couple of bad rolls. The game is unfair at times (though that is advertised as a feature), and recuperating from the loss of a prize hero can take a couple of hours. You really do need to be able to stomach painful losses and spend the time to slowly grind your way up to the tough boss battles. I found that after a couple of bad crawls, I didn’t feel like sinking in too much more time – though writing this review has motivated me to pick it back up. Perhaps I’ll clear another dungeon tonight!

Finally, the game’s simple but beautiful art, and absolutely MAGNIFICENT voice acting deserve mention: if ever you are looking for an atmospheric gothic horror game, this is it!

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