Your group of misfits went out into a nightmare region to save everything. By eliminating corrupted fragments of reality beneath an old mountain as the entire world descended into an apocalyptic, primeval abyss. They’ll undoubtedly fall victim to ambushes, internal strife. And poor luck, but maybe, just maybe, chance is on their side and they manage to stop some horrific tragedy. And then get ready for the following run. Every time I started Darkest Dungeon 2, I had no idea whether I would experience a trip from hopeless misery to delicious ecstasy. Or from frolicking fun to fruitless aggravation. It needs the attitude of a gambler to enjoy it for the countless hours it takes to finish. Someone who is always willing to hold out hope that the dice will fall in their favor. And that the next run will be more successful than the last one.
Red Hook Studios has bravely decided that Darkest Dungeon 2 is not the same kind of game as its predecessor. Which built on turn-based combat. Here, you make shorter stagecoach gauntlet runs toward the approaching mountain. Getting a little bit stronger each time, as opposed to an epic-length, ongoing game. Where your team leaves from a central base and returns with riches to upgrade it if they survive. It’s a difficult trade-off, but this sequel has less possibility for catastrophic failures from party wipes that feel like just cruel punishment. Even though I miss the sense of place that the town in Darkest Dungeon fosters. Win or lose, every run is effectively productive since you gain candles, currency. That unlocks upgrades to your traveling coach and permanent bonuses, new hero kinds, stat boosts, and things for random drops.
What remains from the Darkest Dungeon?
Everything presented extremely elegantly. One of the best early-modern fantasy settings in gaming created by the game’s design, creepy characters, eerie soundtrack, and terribly depressing narrative. (And it’s wonderful because everything appears to be going well even while you keep failing, which is frustrating. By design, there will be a lot of that.) The only voice you’ll hear besides grunts and wails is the same eminently gritty narrator, rumbling out some crazily melodramatic phrases that are so overblown and exaggerated that I can’t help but admire them. This game’s self-aware take on the dark fantasy subgenre is delightful, with characters from the first basketball stars game moving forward in unexpected ways as you learn about their backstories and appearing in unexpected or strange places.
The melodramatic narrator reappears
The graphics still employ Darkest Dungeon’s distinctive heavy-lined graphic style. Despite the fact that they are now 3D rather than the 2D paper doll appearance. Working in 3D space gives everything a much stronger screen presence. Giving the characters and monsters a greater sense of weight. It may be debatable to some, but in my opinion the enhanced, smoother animations (such as when a mace is dragged back across the floor after a powerful hit) and spatial feeling outweigh any loss in quality caused by the conversion from sprite to model.
The combat concept has also improved, with several powers and abilities condensed into a system of useful status tokens to acquire and utilize, like avoiding, guarding, and weakened, among others. The returning system of four ranks for hero and enemy locations governs how a character fights. Making these impacts important for both your side and the opposition. Only adversaries or allies in certain rank slots are affected by certain skills. And those skills can only be utilized from a particular position. A fun and interesting strategic task is managing a versatile team that can take on any enemy lineup. Maintain the battlefield free of congested enemy corpses, especially when dealing with powers that move players around.
It’s a fun and interesting strategic challenge to lead a versatile team capable of taking on any opposition composition.
In reality, most mid to late-game runs doomed by losing even one hero because each one fills such a specific role in a successful team build. And being under strength in a fight is a huge disadvantage. Heroes that die lost for the remainder of the run. But if your survivors make it to the next inn checkpoint they are replaced with a random new class.
Darkest Dungeon 2 is wonderful after you get past the hump, but based on the first twelve hours of play. I believe many people will give up on it or have a bad opinion of it. To be fair, its startup screen informs you that it’s about making the best of a bad situation. And that failure is inevitable, but those initial runs serve to dramatically highlight its flaws while hiding the better. More nuanced things that become possible once options have opened up and you’ve unlocked new tools to use – part of that roguelite grind trap.
Darkest Dungeon 2 becomes fantastic upon overcoming the initial challenge
For a variety of reasons, newcomers may fail to stick around. Because you haven’t unlocked the tools you need to overcome what is ahead, you can feel frustrated. After battling similar squads of lumbering zombies and bandits for a while, you could grow weary of the lack of variation in your foes. Because many monsters and areas are locked until you’ve spent a few hours slamming up against the walls of the initial ones. Or it might be one of the journey’s supporting systems, such as the minigame for driving a coach.
Which is unquestionably one of the least thematically appropriate examples of a time-wasting minigame I’ve seen in the last ten years. Or else the stagecoach’s layers of durability and its dimming torchlight, which grants enemies more and more random bonuses. You manually navigate the cart between spots on the map, attempting to strike obstacles in the road to increase the likelihood of loot dropping. However, sustaining damage to armor or wheels (which can put you in a disadvantageous battle as you repair them) is set by your selected path.