Let me share with you the terrible wonders I have come to know…
Most RPG games are built as a power fantasy for the player to experience. Does a terrible creature haunt an entire village? Easy peasy! You can hunt the beast alone and bring it down with your bare hands. Is the whole world in danger? Don’t worry! Your group of adventurers are more than capable to handle this kind of situation. In these ordinary RPGs, the world is there for you to conquer. I must say, however: Darkest Dungeon isn’t your ordinary RPG!
From the shadowy 2D art style to the turn-based battle mechanics, every aspect of Darkest Dungeon is designed with the intent of displaying just how harsh and traumatic a campaign against gruesome creatures can truly be. Built upon a Lovecraft-inspired narrative, you follow up your ancestor’s steps once you inherit his old abandoned property. With it, comes both the promise of treasures to be gathered and the task of rebuilding a once-prosperous hamlet. It is going to be a long and treacherous job, though. Due to unspeakable deeds, the opulent manor and its outskirts are filled with crawling horrors, ready to wipe your team and drive your heroes into madness.
In order to embark on expeditions to fight these threats, you’ll have to recruit and set up a roster of intrepid adventurers. More than 10 different hero classes are available, and each one comes with a different skill set to fill a unique role within your party. The importance to have a varied group comes from the fact that Darkest Dungeon’s combat takes form as a turn-based RPG in which positioning is a very important concern. Classes with heavy-hitter or tank characteristics must take the front row, as their skill set is mostly composed of melee attacks. Heroes with healing or buffing/debuffing skills, on the other hand, act from afar.
The very same rules apply to your enemies. This way, Darkest Dungeon adds much depth to what you’d expect from turn-based combat. In addition to skills that apply ailment statuses (like bleed and blight), some skills can stun, or even move the positioning of characters. On top of that, what makes the game even more challenging and unique, is the addition of its affliction system.
Facing maddening horrors comes with a toll. Heroes get progressively stressed depending on the outcomes of the adventure. Once they hit 100 stress points, they’ll have to face their resolve, which results in random negative (or, more rarely, positive) behaviors, like becoming irrational or hopeless. These will last until the hero spends some time in town, relaxing by partaking in activities at the tavern or abbey, at the cost of money. With this affliction system, Darkest Dungeon creates a very compelling and challenging set of overlapping systems that make every run tense and unique.
Fitting perfectly with the hybrid nature of the Switch, Darkest Dungeon comes with only one more noticeable drawback. During both the hamlet management and dungeon exploration, the game has many accessible menus at your disposal (inventory, hero info, etc.). Even though the Switch version comes with all the improvements from both the console and mobile versions (you can play it entirely using the touchscreen, if you wish), it takes a while for you to master the entirety of its somewhat convoluted interface.
Putting that aside, Darkest Dungeon still delivers a turn-based RPG adventure like no other.