Thursday, October 1, 2015

Video Game Review: Darkest Dungeon

Games like this are the reason why I really wish Steam's "do you recommend" question had more than just two options. Here's why: because I would very, very highly recommend this game... to a certain breed of gamer. Let me explain.

First, the good.

Darkest Dungeon is a masterfully crafted game. The artwork is beautifully grotesque and animation is smooth. The game is balanced fairly well, even if it is balanced towards the "hard" end of the spectrum. Even in early access there is nothing about this game that feels sloppy or poorly considered.

The stress mechanic, in which your characters accumulate stress which can affect them in various negative (and sometimes even positive) ways, is a really interesting idea and something that you don't really see a whole lot in video games. The only place I've seen anything like this before would be the Cthulhu games, and I honestly feel like it's handled a lot better here.

Oh, and the fact that it's constantly auto-saving, while intended to prevent save-scumming, also has the effect of allowing you to quit and pick back up whenever you want without losing progress, great for people who don't have a lot of time to sit down and play a game.

The game wasn't my cup of tea (I'll get to why in a minute) but I can't honestly call it bad just because of that. It's not bad. In fact...

KR Rating: [5] GREAT

But wait, don't stop reading yet, because now it's time for the bad. As I said before, Darkest Dungeon is a hard game.

Well, no, that's not really accurate. Etrian Odyssey is hard. That's why I like that series, and it's why I thought I would like this game too. Darkest Dungeon is not hard, it's unfair.

See, you can be riding high one minute, dominating every encounter and getting a ton of good items from the various chests and cupboards (called "curios" in the game) that litter the dungeons. Then you get into that one battle. You know the one I mean. It's the one that doesn't even seem like it should be all that hard. It's the same enemies you've been wasting with ease this whole time. Except this time you do nothing but miss your attacks over and over, while they stack critical hit upon critical hit. Before you can even click the "retreat" button half your force is at Death's Door... or through it. It's a little like Dark Souls in a way.

And the thing is, that's not an accident. I said this game was masterfully crafted and it honestly is. This isn't poor game balance, it's the entire point. It's the underlying design philosophy of the game.

The developers never intended this to be a game where you train up max level badasses and retake the estate. There are no badasses in the Darkest Dungeon. There are no heroes.

No, this is a game where you recruit expendable idiots by the wagon-load (literally) and send them to die for the greater good. (This is also why there are so few levels of upgrades for your characters: so that restarting when your top character dies is easier.)

That's why I say, I really wish that Steam allowed more options than just "recommend" or "not recommend." Because, on the one hand, the game is very well made. It has become exactly what I feel the developers wanted it to be. It is a GREAT GAME.

But "great" and "universally enjoyable" are not the same thing. A lot of people don't like hard games. I do like hard games and even I was turned off by the unfairness and the inability to properly take care of my people.

If I really had to choose (and for the purposes of the Steam version of this review I kind of do) I would say that I don't recommend the game, if only because I think the number of people who would enjoy it are in the minority.

That said, if you're the type who thinks you might enjoy that then by all means buy the game right now. It's only $19.99 USD on Steam right now, and for that you get one Hell of a solid classic-style RPG with an interesting twist.

If you're more like me and you get attached to your characters and don't want to see them die (or if you just don't like hard games) then skip this one.

3 comments:

PC gamer 0001 said...

Best review i've read!

Sikke said...

Really helpfull

Samhël said...

Man, I like your review but I think it's unfair with the game being negative.

OK, I also think that we should have more modes of recommending and all, but it's Steam's problem we shouldn't punish indie games.

I think that I would negative it only if I don't recommend at all. In this case I would positive it and first thing in one CAPS line explain that I don't think it's game for everybody.