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The RPG Files: Darkest Dungeon On Switch is Where It Truly Shines

By William Gallon on January 23, 2018 | Columns | Comments

Darkest Dungeon On Switch is Where It Truly Shines

Almost four years after the initial Kickstarter and two years after initial release, Red Hook Studios has brought their ever-popular Darkest Dungeon to the Nintendo Switch.  Two years and a couple million copies sold later, there is a good chance that you already own this game if you were interested in it before.  However, the release on the Nintendo Switch feels like where the game belongs, allowing both portability and touch-screen controls when undocked, but also a controller scheme (though a bit confusing at first) as well as being able to easily play on the big screen.  This is our Darkest Dungeon review for the Nintendo Switch.


Darkest Dungeon is a rogue-like RPG that has the player adventuring through their cursed inheritance of a manor, finding family heirlooms and fighting monsters along the way.  Adventurers will travel to your hamlet in search of gold and riches, joining your adventures into the dungeons to be explored.  Players can build up their hamlet between dungeon runs, which allows heroes to be trained with stronger skills and equipped with stronger gear.  Going into a dungeon, 4 heroes can be selected from the player’s roster, then supplies must be purchased for the run before starting.  Supplies are resold after each run at a loss, but having too few supplies can result in loss of a dungeon run and potentially heroes.

Clearing through each dungeon involves managing your objectives, your party’s status, health, and stress levels.  Everything is out to kill you in every dungeon run, from monsters and traps, to obstacles and heart attacks.  The most unique part of Darkest Dungeon’s party system is their stress levels.  Heroes will become stressed everything, and not managing it will lead to stat losses and inevitably death.  Hitting half of your max stress will most likely cause an affliction, causing them to randomly refuse actions, move on their own, or attack their own party.  Getting lucky will see the hero become virtuous, gaining buffs and reducing their stress.  Hitting max stress causes the character to have a heart attack, reducing the HP to 0 and putting them at risk of perma-death.  Most stress continually builds, and is not healed after a run is over.  This means that you will need to put your heroes into a stress-reliving activity for a turn, or even the sanitarium to remove debuffs, leading to running multiple parties to both allow for rest and deal with deaths in one group.

While the game presents itself as an RPG, planning and strategy goes much farther than just raising character statistics.  Each character that the player invests in can die at any time, meaning that the levels, gear and training put toward them is lost for good.  The game constantly auto-saves so that you cannot just reload to avoid a mistake.  Planning out party compositions, replacements, stress levels, and investments mean that the player having experience running through levels and knowing what to expect is the absolute most important aspect of the game.  Gear and level upgrades provide do not huge bonuses, but unlocking new abilities allows the player to change the play style of each class.  This will allow you to abuse the monster’s attack patterns in each dungeon and adjust not only the party composition, but the abilities they are using as well.

The only shortfalls of the game’s port to the Switch are both the font size, and occasionally the controls.  The font is small and hard to read at times, which lead to a bad case of eye strain after a long play session.  There is no adjustment to the font size as of this writing, which means you’ll do a lot of quick memorization of what things do.  The controls, on the other hand, come off as very confusing at first, but only really in the hamlet part of the game.  There are lists and details left and right on each menu, and the game is still optimized for touch screen or mouse controls.  Both the triggers and shoulder buttons are used to trigger information or extra menus within menus, and not all of it is explained off the bat.  It took awhile before I found out that buildings were upgradable by holding down the left trigger.  During dungeon crawls, the only part that was consistently easier using touch controls was scrolling around the map and zooming in and out.

Despite the small issues with a smaller screen, Darkest Dungeon is a game that you should at the very least try out, as the steep difficulty curve may cause some more frustration than enjoyment.  Though if you are looking for a challenging RPG to spend your time on, Darkest Dungeon will deliver and then some.

Note: Our Nintendo Switch base game copy of Darkest Dungeon was provided by PR

SCORE: 9/10


  • Steep, but rewarding learning curve
  • Incredible atmosphere
  • Engrossing gameplay


  • Text on the small side while handheld
  • Controls are overly complicated due to the number of options
  • Not much of a tutorial