Thoughts On: Darkest Dungeon

 photo darkest01.jpg I realized that I haven’t done many Thoughts On in a while. It’s not because there aren’t upcoming games that I want to talk about, because there are, like Insomniac’s cartoony and personality-filled Sunset Overdrive, The Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation, and a ton of indie games I would love to talk about, but I have had a lot on my plate and sometimes I can’t tackle them all in the time I have. Plus, I make lists so I can give my thoughts about games in a more focused way. However, if I have time, I will cover any game I can. That goes for the Kickstarter Shout-outs, and today’s Thoughts On about the grim RPG, Darkest Dungeon. Just like with Kickstarter Shout-outs, I don’t have time to cover everything, and I’m sorry I didn’t cover this game when it was on Kickstarter, because it’s honestly one of the cooler ideas for an RPG. Well, I personally think it’s one of the cooler set-ups for an RPG. Let’s not waste any more time, and light up our torches to explore Darkest Dungeon!

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The game is more about the set-up than an actual story and characters, so I will move onto the gameplay. It is up to you to gather a team of four flawed heroes of multiple classes, and travel across gothic-themed dungeons finding loot, killing monsters, and redeeming the heroes that take the risk to travel into the darkness of the dungeons, which reveal their fears and failings of their body and soul. The game takes place in the 2D, and the dungeons have the ever-so-popular rogue-like elements, with dungeons, enemies, and bosses being randomized. The playable classes include Plague Doctor, Highwayman, Hellion, Leper, Arbalest, Bounty Hunter, Jester, Crusader, Houndmaster, Merchant, Vestal, Occultist, Man-At-Arms, Grave Robber, and one more class designed by the guy who made a $5K donation to the project. Personally, I don’t know if I am willing to throw down that much cash for a Kickstarter, but that is beside the point, I don’t have $5K anyway. Each class with have the strengths and weaknesses, including the flawed morality. Once you have recruited your team members, you can then go into the dungeons. The combat in the dungeon is executed in a turn-based style with all party members and groups of monsters in a straight line, kind of like Paper Mario Sticker Star where all the enemies stood in a single file line. There is a lot of strategy to this design choice, since you will probably want to put your healers and spell casters in the back, and your melee fighters upfront, in a similar way of how you would strategize in games like Lost Odyssey. The biggest problem that you will have traversing the dungeons is not the monsters or the bosses you may encounter, but the torch that is at the top of the screen. That torch is a symbol of how dangerous a dungeon or section of the dungeon can be. The more it’s lit, the easier it will be to traverse. However, the less lit the torch is, the graver dangers, but bigger rewards will lie amongst the darkness. This not only helps set the difficulty level of the dungeon, but it also will result in how your party members act. This is a game about flawed adventurers wanting to redeem their moral fiber, and none of them are knights in shining armor. They will be afraid, they will have effects put on them, and they will go mad. It reminds me of Eternal Darkness, where the sanity meter would screw with you more as your sanity meter lowers. These adventurers are flawed, and you need to be prepared to heal those mental fears of theirs as much as their health, or else you could end up in a bad situation. This is a very interesting mechanic, but I have my concerns about it that I will talk about later on in this article. Outside of the dungeon exploring, you will be able to go to a town to heal up your party, tend to them, or recruit new party members.

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The art style is one of my favorite aspects of this upcoming RPG. It reminds me of the same art style used for the Hellboy comics made by Mike Mignola. I bet you that if I put the art style of both Hellboy and Darkest Dungeon together, you could swear they were made by the same person. Each has those unique design aesthetics of darker color and design of the creatures and the heroes. The music is both grand and ominous as you traverse the dungeon. The composer for this game is Stuart Chatwood, the mind behind Road Rash 3D, NHL 2002, and a huge number of the Prince of Persia games from Ubisoft from The Sands of Time to the 2008’s Prince of Persia.

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One of my only real concerns for the game is that insanity gimmick that the heroes will be afflicted with. I love the idea, but I hope it doesn’t become a huge annoying burden, instead of something that players honestly want to keep track of. It has to be balanced out once you go through the darker areas of the dungeon so you don’t get yourself screwed over before you can make any real progress. I really don’t like it when fun, but super-difficult games will make you feel like you have made no progress. Games like Rogue Legacy have this issue, where it seems like you die multiple times, and due to the difficulty, you feel like you aren’t making a step forward towards beating the game. I also hope the randomized nature of the dungeons doesn’t punish you if you pick out the wrong team to explore the dungeon with. There is nothing more infuriating than going into a level knowing you can’t do jack to beat it.

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However, I bet this team will do fine, because this game looks awesome. I love turn-based RPGs, and I love the art style and tone of the game. Like I said, the game has already been funded, and you can go to the game’s website to preorder it, which includes a $49 digital pack, which gives you access to the game, the alpha build, soundtrack, art book, journal, and map. Or if you have a huge hole burning in your wallet, you can spend extra for the $95 digital pack, which includes all of the above and a diorama. I wish they had a $15 or $20 preorder option for people who just want the game. It seems like this preorder style will alienate people who can’t afford the $49 or $95 version. Either way, I still think Darkest Dungeon should be on every RPG fan’s radar. So far, the only platform this game is coming out on is the PC, but with how the game looks, I think it would be perfect on the Wii U, due to the GamePad acting as the map and menu system for the game. They have shown interest in bringing it to the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita, but in my opinion, I think their screens are too small for such a game. Are you ready to keep an eye out this gothic RPG? Well, you should. You don’t know what might be lurking in the darkest dungeon.