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Difficulty is a hot button topic for many, since what may be considered difficult for one person could be easy for someone else. Or, in some occurrences, you get those snobbish jerks that boast about how it wasn’t hard for them, and say you aren’t good enough to beat the game. First off, those people can go bugger off somewhere else, because they are some of the worst types of people. At least, if they are malicious about it they are. It’s gotten to a point where a lot of indie games love advertising that they are hard. Listen, it might have been a selling point back in the day, when game developers had the idea how to make a game worth its price tag by making it difficult, but you can’t just make it the only thing worthwhile about it. If the game isn’t fun, because the developer focused too much on the difficulty, then that’s a huge problem. So, why am I talking about difficulty at length? Because that is the focus for this review, Darkest Dungeon. Out of the cesspool of Early Access and Kickstarter, Darkest Dungeon was one of the most well-known success stories, because it was one of the best examples of doing a good job on both sides. It was a game that highly advertised that it was hard, and it was going to mentally break you. Still, is this RPG by Redhook Studio a really good game? Or is the difficulty too overpowering for my mortal mind? Let’s find out!
Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG that sets you into a nightmarish world where you go into this rotting and miserable town to take care of the troubling Lovecraftian horrors that consume the area. All due to an idiot who, while on an expedition to gain riches, unlocked a hellish portal that unleashed unspeakable horrors upon the land. The main goal is to take a group of adventurers of different classes that include, but are not limited to, crusaders, highway men, lepers, bounty hunters, vestals, plague doctors, and abominations. The combat takes place on a 2D plane, and you must make sure you place your crew in the right spots to take full advantage of their abilities, like keeping long-range fighters and healers in the back, and your heavy hitters upfront. You will need to go into different parts of the tainted world and do a slew of objectives, from exploring a certain number of areas, to clearing out all combat rooms, or taking down giant bosses. As you go into these dark dungeons, you will be able to take supplies with you, ranging from torches for light, to food to feed you all when you are hungry. On top of the monsters, you will need to watch out for possible looting and traps that could hurt you or put more stress on your characters. We will get to that part in a second. The combat is turn-based as you choose the different attacks and abilities to take down the creatures in front of you. It can be pretty tactical and stress-inducing once the game introduces the elements of stress, corpses, and heart attacks. Yeah, your characters you fight with don’t have flawless personalities. On top of some of them being greedy or arrogant that could ruin your formation of said heroes or stress the others out, you have a bar that’s above your health meter that you must keep track of. If it reaches a certain capacity, your characters will unlock a trait that could either help you or ruin your time in the dungeon. If the bar fills up more, the heroes could have a heart attack and die without even being attacked by a monster. It can be a bit much, but you can turn off stuff like corpses that get in your way in battle, and make the experience less stressful. Over time, you will need to make sure your favorites are in tip-top shape for the end goal, and that means you have to make sure they aren’t stressed out. You can recruit new “heroes”, upgrade your weapons and attacks, and take on whichever challenge you want. The game is lengthy at a recorded total of 50+ hours to get everything done. It can be taxing, since managing your party is tough, and characters stay dead if they are killed.
The graphical presentation was great. The Hellboy comic-style art really fit the vibe of this utterly depressing world. It gives off the vibe that you see in the Dark Souls or Salt & Sanctuary. You are in this non-stop world full of unmeasurably horrible things, and there is no hope. Not even a tiny sliver of it to give you the push to keep going. The music also compliments the world by being moody and atmospheric. It makes you feel like you are in some of the grungier locations from Game of Thrones, where you feel the grime and the blood that’s mixed in the mud as you walk. It’s a fully realized world.
Unfortunately, Darkest Dungeon has one major flaw. That one flaw that sort of ruins the end game is, well, the end game. After a while, you get the feeling that the developers didn’t really have an idea how to properly end the game. That’s because once you start getting into what you have to do, it gets repetitive and tedious. It’s clearly the case when you realize you are in the final dungeon with all of your favorite “heroes”. Once you beat it, you have to do it three more times with three other groups of heroes. That means you can’t use the ones you have been investing your time with for the other three runs. It becomes less of a horror RPG, and turns into a management simulator. The game becomes more of a chore, due to the reliance of the randomized nature of the dungeons and monsters. This is meant to be a soul-crushing game, like the already mentioned Dark Souls games. However, even the Dark Souls games lets you feel powerful once you find the right weapons, and know how to take down each challenge that gets in your way. Darkest Dungeon, on the other hand, is unrelenting, and it makes progress tedious. I feel like the vocal minority that loves super hard games because they are super hard, got to be too loud for their own good while this game was in Early Access, and that is probably why the game is like this. I don’t mean to fully put the blame on that community of people, but they never seem to realize that there is nothing wrong with having an easy mode or more customizable options to make the game easier for those not into teeth-grinding difficulty. It’s a shame too, since so many of the problems with this game could be fixed in a sequel, and I do hope they can make a sequel or another RPG in the same style, but with more customization options so that anyone can tone the difficulty to their liking. I don’t have time to play super-challenging games, and while I do enjoy some of them, I tend to play more games that aren’t just repeatedly bashing you against a wall. I want to say I can fully recommend this game, but since the last third can be such a painstaking chore, there is no real reason to beat it. Just start over to enjoy the first and second part of the game. Yes, it’s meant to be a difficult game, but just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean anyone can use that as an excuse for having problems. It’s like saying that I should ignore a film’s problem because it has an A+ cast and amazing visuals even when the story and execution is horrible. Oh, and while you do have a huge list of “heroes” at your disposal, the game is obviously meant for certain heroes to shine, while others are just for experimenting.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love Darkest Dungeon, and I do think it’s one of the year’s best games. It’s also another super-successful Kickstarter and Early Access experience that showed what you should do if you want to do either Kickstarter or Early Access. However, I think it loses some points for that third act, whether it is the developers or the community to blame. I can easily recommend it, but at the price it is right now, I don’t think I would pay that much. Maybe wait for a sale to get it. It’s a good game with a troubling third act, but it’s still a haunted and spooky good time.
This game gets an 8 out of 10.