I’m not a person that’s ever paid much mind to the comings and goings of Kickstarter developments. Kickstarter is an excellent resource to get a tiny peek behind the curtain of game development, however limited that may be, and building an unprecedented level of excitement and, for lack of a better word, hype. I really started to pay attention to Kickstarter around the time of Massive Chalice, but the game that really turned me around on what a successful Kickstarter campaign, and product, could look like was Darkest Dungeon.
Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike RPG with turn-based mechanics, interesting gameplay loops, and a phenomenal setting and visual aesthetic. I’m a sucker for anything even remotely inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Darkest Dungeon harkens on the general unease and dread of a Lovecraftian horror and couples that alongside some exceptional writing and voice work. To this day I’ve spent nearly 30 hours with the game and loved every second of my experience.
With the PS4 release date fast approaching, I’d like to give each and every one of you who haven’t played Darkest Dungeon a few reasons as to why you should play this game.
5. Darkest Dungeon hates you (but in a kind of dementedly sweet way)
I’m serious. This game does not like you. It does not want to be your friend. It’s a tough-as-nails experience that is not for the easily frustrated. Enemy encounters are difficult and will be physically and mentally draining for both you and your party of adventurers. You will die… frequently.
But, each victory will seem all the sweeter. Darkest Dungeon will demand quite a bit from you and it is not afraid to beat you every now and then, but when you get to the end of a dungeon that you’ve been hopelessly fighting through, starvation nipping at your heels and the idea of mental sanity becoming more and more of an afterthought, you will feel like you have climbed a mountain of insurmountable odds and came out more experienced. I like to call this “The Cycle of Hatred” or, as it is more colloquially known, “My Time with Dark Souls”.
4. A Visual Feast
Darkest Dungeon is gorgeous. Don’t let the screenshots fool you. Darkest Dungeon has a sweeping visual aesthetic that is so unique and unlike anything else that I can’t help but feel instinctually invested in the art. The art perfectly complements the Gothic architecture that is shown throughout the overworld and in the dungeons themselves. The buildings look so painstakingly accurate that I can feel Abbot Sugger and the hundreds of other Gothic architects rolling in their graves.
The graphic novel art style helps with adding a unique flair to an already intriguing style. Every character is portrayed in a way that you can feel their suffering. The dark shadows hide features such as the eyes and other distinguishing details but this helps to elevate this general theme of hopelessness against insurmountable adversaries.
3. The Voice Acting is Amazing
I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say the word antediluvian and I genuinely thought that that person was a badass. Yet, both the voice actor in the opening trailer and the narrator both sound like monumental, almost mythic figures. They deliver each line with and such power that I couldn’t help but feel drawn to their voice.
The delivery of each line was so astoundingly impressive that I’d say the opening monologue is worth the price of the game alone… Ok, fine. I don’t really mean that. But, they are fantastic nonetheless and add to an overall immersive experience. These are the only guys I want doing the audiobooks for Lovecraft from now on.
2. Astounding Writing
While the writing in Darkest Dungeon is sparse, what is there can only be described as exquisite. Each sentence is wondrously crafted to evoke that euphoric cacophony that is littered throughout Lovecraft’s work. Again, this is me talking as a fan of Lovecraft’s work, that Darkest Dungeon is one of the best examples of any work that has attempted to mimic the iconic style of Lovecraft. Here’s just one quote that may help you understand what it is that I’m talking about, “’Fattened by decadence and luxury… and yet I began to tire of conventional extravagance. Singular unsettling tales suggested the mansion was a gateway to some fabulous and unnameable power. With relic and ritual, I bent every effort to the excavation and recovery of those long buried secrets, expending what remained of our family fortune on swarthy workmen and sturdy shovels. At last, in the salt-soaked crags beneath the lowest foundations, we unearthed that damnable portal of antediluvian evil.”
The content of the sentence is dreadful and eerie yet its construction creates a rhythmic proceeding that eliminates any drawling intonation. It’s, at least to me, really appealing especially coupled with a great voice actor.
1. Darkest Dungeon feels great to play
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of a game is its playability. Does it control well? Is it fun? And all of these questions are valid and important. I’d like to debunk a misconception though: Darkest Dungeon isn’t fun to play. It plays great but no part of it is fun. It’s about as fun as something like Dark Souls. And I’d argue that Dark Souls isn’t meant to be fun, it’s actually quite frustrating.
Darkest Dungeon is a lot like that. It wants you to struggle because the characters in the game are struggling. No one is having a good time, so why should you? It places you alongside your party members and makes you feel their mental anguish. That’s why I feel that the insanity mechanic in Darkest Dungeon works so well. There’s an incentive in keeping your characters in good mental standing, your sanity. If they’re good, you’re good. If they’re struggling, you’ll be feeling that sluggish pain right alongside them.
The party system is balanced in a way that encourages experimentation and exploration. Another aspect of the party system that I really enjoy is the unit position mechanic. Basically, you determine the order in which your units will be standing in. This creates a lot of opportunities to experiment with the different classes and how their position can affect the flow of a battle. It’s a novel idea that I hadn’t really seen implemented anywhere before and it really encourages the player to strategize and think. This masochistic approach to gameplay is frustrating but rewarding in the best possible way.
I hope this piqued your interest enough to go and pick up Darkest Dungeon. It’s not a game for everyone but those of you who do enjoy this type of turn-based rpg with a rich setting will absolutely fall in love with Darkest Dungeon. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, the PS4 and Vita port of the game is coming soon and is looking to be a great version of an already exceptional game.
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