In a sea of early access schlock and Kickstarter failures, Darkest Dungeon stand as a beacon of promise. Despite being promising, however, the game guarantees nothing. Kickstarter games always bring a fear of an incomplete game. Sometimes the game may not be completed with the content that was promised, while other times the team may have underestimated the funding that the game would require. Early access games on Steam bring even more worry. The creators may abandon the game, taking the money and leaving the game broken, in early access. Anyway you look at it, you could be walking into a disappointment. Darkest Dungeon uses both Kickstarter and Early Access.
Now, this is not a review of Darkest Dungeon, however, I am of a mindset that if you are willing to sell the game, then it has every right to be reviewed. That being said, this is just my general thoughts on Darkest Dungeon as it right now.
As I said before, Darkest Dungeon is both a Kickstarter game and an early access game, meaning this game is being invested in heavily by players. Now, some early access developers frame their game being on early access as a way of gathering some much-needed funding for the game. Darkest Dungeon is not framed this way at all. The game reached well over its 75,000 dollar goal, hitting 313,337 dollars on Kickstarter alone, not including payments made after the final Kickstarter end date. Clearly the developers aren’t grasping for money here.
The game itself is incredibly enjoyable. Darkest Dungeon, if you weren’t familiar, is dungeon-crawling RPG, with the added twist of a sanity meter. As your party of four interesting characters goes through the dungeon, you must guard not only their health, but their stress meter, lest they go insane. The game offers 10 different characters classes, 3 dungeons, and five different quest types spanning across 5 difficulty levels. Unfortunately, due to early access, the games 5 other classes, 2 other dungeons, and other quest types, among other features, such as an ending, are not available yet. Despite that, the game is a lot fun. The art is amazing, very Lovecraftian. The soundtrack is beautiful and fits the game perfectly. One of the best aspects of the game is the narrator, who speaks as the once great lord of the house he lost. He speaks in a dramatic fashion, narrating the battles as they go on.
My favorite part of the game is the, in my opinion, unique character classes. Several of the classes are rather different for a video game RPG. Classes like the Leper, a hit-or-miss character who suffers from leprosy and wears armor to cover it, and the Plague Doctor, which is a clever name for an alchemist character, who causes status ailments and shuffles the opponents party, are incredibly interesting designs. There is also the Grave-Robber class, a class that moves throughout the party with ease, the Jester, who gives buffs to the other characters, and the Bounty-Hunter class that specializes in taking down large opponents.
All of those characters can gather quirks, permanent positive or negative effects on the characters that buff or debuff them in combat or outside of combat. The quirks can be gained through most anything, reading books, completing a dungeon, nearly dying, and more. Removing these quirks must be done through an in-game building that costs the money you earned beating a dungeon. The same is true for your stress levels, which can only be brought down with the Tavern or the Temple buildings. If the stress level goes unchecked, the character’s resolve will be tested, which will most likely drive them insane in the middle of a dungeon, hindering progress and the other characters stress levels.
Overall, it’s difficult for a cynic like me to say the game will fail to deliver. As of now, the game seems on track to be released sometime in the second half of 2015. I look forward to the game full release, but I still would advise caution, as I would for any early access game.