Red Hook StudiosFour years ago I backed a little game I saw at PAX East called Darkest Dungeon. Since then I have played for dozens of dozens of hours over the course of the beta, full retail release and a handful of subsequent updates. Now, the moody dungeon crawler has made its way to the Nintendo Switch where my love for Darkest Dungeon has been rekindled due to the Switch’s easy to use touchscreen and the DLC that I missed on the previous releases.
For those of you who don’t know, Darkest Dungeon is a super fun dungeon crawler where you lead a group of adventurers through your ancestral home. Turns out your uncle or grandfather or something was an occult weirdo who delved into an antediluvian horror show. His words, not mine. Once you reach your families manor you realize that a small town has sprouted up around the various dungeons you will be delving over and over again. As you progress through the first several jaunts through the various thematically named locations, The Weald, Cove, Ruins and so on, new buildings sprout up giving you more options to strengthen your brave, but disposable, warriors. And oh momma will your heroes die. Failure is all apart of what makes Darkest Dungeon great. When you are one wrong move from a total party kill which is incredibly difficult to pull your self out of, your entire body is responding as if you are in actual danger. It is a great affect.
Anyway, you go on various delving missions, come out with loot and, hopefully, stronger adventurers, then you use said loot to upgrade your town or heal any negative affects your adventurers may have received. Then, you go back in and start the process over again. Maybe this time you brought back an especially powerful piece of equipment and your dudes chances of survival are just that much better.
Of course the wounds gained the deeper you descend into the Darkest Dungeon are not just skin deep, oh no, all of your adventurers suffer stress from the eldritch horrors they face which could cause them to break and panic during battle, or if you are extremely lucky, dig deep into a well of strength they didn’t know they had. It is a great system that takes some time to balance. Sure, the spooky black numbers are obviously bad when you first start getting them in the dungeons but as you continue room to room your own personal stress increases because your units stress is not lowering. After many hours you learn to fear monsters who cause large amounts of stress damage over those that hit hard.
The DLC adds vampires, which is both cool and a huge pain in the ass. But, the entire game of Darkest Dungeon is one pain in the ass so the vampires don’t feel so bad. It is just another place to explore and learn more about your weird, creepy uncle or grandad or maybe even great grandad. I refuse to look it up. The hell bugs from the DLC eventually start invading the other non-DLC areas of Darkest Dungeon giving an added layer of variety to each run. Sure, you now have a higher chance of becoming a vampire, but being a vampire is pretty cool. You drink blood and get stronger! I haven’t beaten the DLC area – the Courtyard – yet since it is a huge dungeon that is made to be explored over and over again as opposed to the randomly generated rooms of the main game’s dungeons. You enter The Courtyard and over the course of a few runs you eventually face off against one of the strong boss characters. But, the dungeon itself doesn’t reset. Which is cool!
I also bought the DLC unit The Shieldbreaker and the Flagellant. I think the Flagellant came with the Crimson Court DLC aka the vampire DLC. I haven’t used the Flagellant much since he seems real weird in that he hurts himself to buff the party or to cause powerful bleed effects on the enemies. Now, the Shieldbreaker, she became my favorite unit. She is kitted out with a ton of abilities which move her forward or backwards in the battle line turning her into a cool poisoned spear wielding dancer. Plus she has moves to shield herself and she can hit stealthed characters. Oh yeah, there are stealth characters now. I don’t know when they were added but I hate them.
And honestly, I have to say that being able to prop myself into a blanket nest with my switch in hand and something else on the TV has made the many, many hours I have played on this new Switch save a total blast. Truth be told, I always burnt out on Darkest Dungeon because you really do need to grind your heroes until they are unstoppable monsters. Well, maybe people that are better than me don’t, but I certainly do. Even after fifteen hours and a party of extremely strong heroes I still lost units or had to retreat for fear of losing my entire team. Playing a little more cautious while I watch a Dungeons and dragons stream makes the grind feel not so bad and you get set the pace yourself. Sure, the controls take a bit to get used to, but with the added touchscreen support while playing un-docked I had very few issues.
I’m not going to say that the Switch version of Darkest Dungeon is THE version to get but I think I will say it is second to laptop that doesn’t get too hot and is not too loud . Playing while I am on the train or with something on in the background removes many of the negatives I felt when I played Darkest Dungeon in the past. It has entered my pantheon of games that I play just so that I can watch something else. Now they just need to put World of Warcraft out on the switch and I’ll never need to leave my couch fort again.
Review copy provided by Red Hook Studios.
Video editing by Kieran Bennett, find him on twitter, @mrk_bennett