PLOT You never know what you’ll find crawling around a dungeon.
DETAILS Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita; $19.99
BOTTOM LINE Challenging and chilling.
Tremendous highs and tumultuous lows combine in the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired, turn-based dungeon-crawler Darkest Dungeon. You’re always one hit point or one mind sliver away from complete collapse as you explore winding halls of ruins, warrens, coves, and the titular dungeon.
Featuring permadeath, procedurally generated levels, and some aspects of permanent progression as the player builds up a decrepit hamlet into a bustling economy, the game is ultimately about finding combinations of curious glory seekers and treasure hunters and putting them to work against swarms of deadly and debilitating monsters. This dread ensemble is a pleasure to manage down to the finest details. With 14 different classes to choose from, each with many unique abilities, weapons to customize, skills to upgrade, quirks to manage, and diseases and afflictions to cure, you’re always managing something.
The game strikes a brilliant balance most of the time, constantly testing the player to weigh resources and risks, but training a fresh team after a massive loss can be time consuming and punishing. Your hamlet will continue to improve even if your characters continue to head toward the grave, as most standard dungeon runs offer resources to help you upgrade your facilities.
If you’re averse to crushing difficulty, Darkest Dungeon may prove to be too frustrating to be palatable. The uncompromising difficulty and challenge will be attractive to some, but could put off players looking for a simple crawler where you can outlevel or outgear content, and the sometimes grindy nature of recouping losses can take its toll.
Darkest Dungeon brings Lovecraftian lore to new heights with cool classes, powerful narration, stylish art and addictive gameplay that will keep you crawling back to battle slithering monstrosities even as your favorite heroes become corpses.