Our second look at Darkest Dungeon this year comes from PAX Prime. In the last 5 months the team has been building in a lot of character options and new dungeons. Bringing in the town elements of the world to rest your party as well, Darkest Dungeon continues to be the thinking player’s RPG with loads of options for an independent game.
Before we get into the hands-on, here's a list of new stuff since PAX East, straight from the website:
Now, going into the demo I assembled my party with some of the newer classes. The Occulist is an extremely risky healer which can also damage enemies. I also selected the Grave Robber and the Hellion as my tank. The Bounty Hunter was my fourth class which helps with character positioning and some solid attacks. The Grave Robber is also a damage dealer that can do some great bait and switch moves for your party. The Hellion is more of a damage dealing front line fighter, but has great reach to hit back ranked enemies with her pole arm. Normally I would take the solid healing of the Vestal class, but decided the wild Occulist was worth the risk to try him out.
Once assembled, we entered into a new dungeon area called the Weald. It is a mossy undergrowth area with different rooms and some fungus infested undead. The new artwork for the area also offers new monsters, a boss necromancer, and some pretty scary elements to check out. For those who have not heard of or tried Darkest Dungeon as you crawl through the maps you are managing two things, your parties health and their paranoia. As the torch interface at the top of the screen gets darker the party can become more stressed and monsters can get stronger. However, as the fear rises, the party will fight harder and do more damage.
With the turn based combat each party member has a set of skills to use as you meet groups of monsters. The Hellion has a series of attacks which can all do single or multiple target damage. She was not as heavy a tank as the Crusader, but she made up for with a more DPS style of front line fighting. The Grave Robber plays as a critical role in shifting the ranks of your party. Marching order is critical in the game. The Bounty Hunter carries a hook and can pull enemies to the front rank of their order. This was really helpful in the boss fight when the necromancer continued to summon undead and then jump to the back of the line. Of all the classes I had most fun adding the Occultist to the group. He had a decent healing spell that kept my Hellion alive, but could also do some good attacks from the back rank by summoning horrors through portals. The guys are all huge Cthulu fans and it shows with the Occultist. I would say that though his heals were decent, he was much more of a utility class than a straight healer.
The mossy zone had similar game play going through the rooms and clearing them out. Managing stress on the party was tough and I had to camp a few times. Make sure when you venture out from town, you always have a good supply of firewood, bandages, and poison antidotes. These will keep you going for a while.
The one new feature we saw in the dungeon crawl was called Death’s Door. If a character gets knocked down to their lowest level, they can still fight and help out. However they do it at great risk. At one point my Occultist got to Death’s Door and was able to stay alive just barely. The Red Hook guys explained that it was all luck and you could die just as easily.
The other area they showed us was the town interface. They had mentioned it at PAX East and now we got to see what our party does when they return from an adventure. Again it all comes down to managing stress. So with the tavern, brothel, church, and even a sanitorium, these are all places that characters can go after they suffer the ailments of a harsh dungeon crawl. Each character has their chosen place and the Crusader would never be caught dead in the brothel. However, the Highwayman is perfectly at home there. The town offers a chance to boost up and purchase skills for when you are camping out in a dungeon later on. This helps to recharge your party in the middle of a crawl.
Darkest Dungeon remains in development, but many people are signing up for early access. There are so many great features to the game and even after playing the demo I wanted more. The great thing is with the turn based combat you can breath, strategize, and get coffee as you play. It's a refreshingly paced experience in a world of action-combat RPGs. We cannot say enough about this indie game that plays and looks like a AAA title. Launch early access soon please... we're dying to get our mitts on the game for real.