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Darkest Dungeon: Bleak, punishing fun

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“In time, you will know the tragic extent of my failings…”

 It is a dark morning when you receive a letter in the post. Being of a noble bloodline, you notice that the letter is sealed with the wax seal of your House. Upon opening the letter and reading its contents, you find a personal account of the fall of a nobleman ancestor. Growing bored of the family’s prosperity and luxury, your ancestor finds the Family Manor to be a focal point for arcane mysteries, and begins excavating below the manor. The family’s fortune is all but expended to finally unearth a portal. Unsettled by their trespass, the portal brings forth madness and things not of this realm to our own. The letter requests you to reclaim your birthright and expunge this evil from the moor where the manor resides. You are on your own, for your ancestor has left the world by their own hands.

Darkest Dungeon is a very rare game for many reasons. It is a successful release with many statues it can display proudly on its mantelpiece, for it is both a Kickstarter success and a prominent Early Access graduate. Many have fallen taking similar paths, but Darkest Dungeon succeeded where many failed. It is not hard to see why.

Darkest Dungeon
A decisive pummeling.

Having been in development since 2013, Darkest Dungeon is a role-playing game that tasks you with making bands of four heroes from an expanding pool and sending them into the many dungeons surrounding the manor to expunge the evil from this realm. The atmosphere this game provides is nothing short of excellent craftsmanship. With everything drawn in a beautiful art style, the foreboding scenery of the dungeons and the bleak, decrepit starts of your estate are the stage for the actors of this show. The monsters of both terrifying and unholy design face against your heroes of various backgrounds and histories. While these heroes are brave for taking on this adventure for whatever reasons they have, they are only human. What you fight is not normal, and you will learn that this quest takes its toll on your heroes.

Stress is mechanic in this game that is more fleshed out than just a random roll for insanity in other games. Low light level from your torch, being hit with stress inducing attacks, or even your own fellow heroes are just some of the sources of stress. Stress in Darkest Dungeon is in a way its own health bar, but for the mind. When the stress level hits 100 for a hero, their resolve is tested. If you’re lucky, they temporarily become virtuous, and bring more benefits to your party. When you’re not lucky, they gain an affliction and become a detriment. If not treated for stress back at the estate, and the stress climbs to 200, the hero will have a heart attack. This world is not your friend, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dark Dungeon is a game that will not hold your hand, but I feel that is for the best. Heroes will die a permanent death. You may have to retreat from battles, or from your quest altogether. The disembodied voice of your ancestor comments on various events, your successes and your failures. The soundtrack brings anxiety-inducing ambience when things are ‘calm,’ and intense battle tracks for the combat. The turn-based combat is extremely satisfying with immediate results upon selecting a target and is very complex, for there are many variables to take into account in every battle. Your estate can be upgraded bringing more benefits to your heroes. There is so much to this game that I am going to dive in again after this review goes up. Do yourselves a favor if you have a decent PC- grab this game. It is worth more than the $20 price tag.

★★★★★ “Exceptional. A prime experience that should not be missed.”

Cody Poirier is an Entrepreneurship major, and is an Arts & Entertainment writer and critic for the University Chronicle. He wastes his time so you don't have to.

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