Standing amongst the apex, Darkest Dungeon is an eerie, incredibly difficult, Rogue-a-like Dungeon Crawler developed by Red Hook studios, an indie developer. Any gamer that loved the Souls franchise and awakened their inner Masochist should definitely play this gem. Honestly, this is a game worth paying for, and whats more, with the post launch content, this game became that much better and expansive.
As stated earlier, the game is a Rogue a like Dungeon crawler. You take on the role on an unseen player who has inherited a creepy mansion atop an even creepier hill. The game literally starts of with the words "Ruin has come to our family", so that should give you an inkling as to what awaits you in game. The gameplay is turn based combat combined with artistic side scrolling. Technically speaking, the gameplay is pretty generic and simple, it is the game mechanics that take this game to a completely new level.
As per story, it is not your character that goes dungeon crawling, you instead hire adventurers of various types to go as parties of upto 4 in the dungeons for you. So essentially, each character controlled in the dungeons is just a hireling and not the player character. And since this is a side scroller game, so the party of adventurers move and position themselves in a queue. So right of the bat, a lot of strategic positioning is necessary. Some adventurers are better at long range and should be kept at last of the queue, or better at front, and some are good at any position, a sorts of jack of all trades. Whats more in addition to the positioning, the abilities of each adventurer also targets different position in the enemy queues, so it is possible to get stuck with adventurers that can only attack enemies at the back and not those in front.
But the greatest addition to the gameplay is RISK. How much are you, the player, willing to risk in your quests. We all are familiar with the traumatizing quests and adventures characters go through in pretty much every single game. Well, with Darkest Dungeon, this concept is a major component. Logically speaking, if a fish like grotesque monster attacks you with a trident, or an ugly shriveled mouse like demon spits venom on you, you will freak out. The game applies this as "stress". Each adventurer has a max limit of 200 stress. Stress builds up with time while exploring the dungeons. It increases faster when in combat, or in darkness. Keep in mind, this is a DUNGEON crawler, meaning the characters are going underground, so rationally speaking they will need some source of light. So before embarking on any quests, you can load up on torches and keep the way lit up or risk darkness. With the increases or decrease in light, rarity of loot, ambushes, stress gain and damage inflicted and received are also affected.
For the longer dungeons, you also have the option of camping in any non-combat room you find. During camping, each adventurer has different abilities to relive stress and heal health, but be sure to keep some light, it is possible to be attacked in camp if the light level is too low. Once a characters stress level increases to 50% or 100/200, it will gain an additional personality trait on top of the ones that existed at the time of recruiting. These are normally bad personality traits and on rare occasions a good personality trait can be obtained. While the good ones are very helpful, the bad ones, well, they are kind of the equivalent of raising the difficulty twofold. For example, on one playthrough, one adventurer got the abusive trait. So for each action taken by any other player controlled character, and randomly on any enemy's turn, this character would hurl abuses at any ally, which would raise the stress for that character. Upon reaching 200/200 stress or 100% stress, that character suffers a heart attack, bringing their health to 1 and if left unhealed, will die. If a character was already not at full health, he/she may die instantly. And seeing any ally die raises stress for all the remaining characters.
This is the core game mechanics, how much stress are you willing to put your characters through for the sake of rewards? What will you risk for it? When not in a dungeon, the characters are at the Hamlet, a small town where you can use various facilities to upgrade the equipment, relieve stress, cure personality traits and/or diseases, recruit new adventurers. As you upgrade the facilities, these in turn yield more efficient results and better base adventurers. Oh and did I mention the Hamlet also has a graveyard, where all the adventurers killed lie. Yeah death is permanent in the game, so if any adventurer dies, they are dead for good.
Graphically, it is not that demanding really, much like modern indie titles, Darkest Dungeon can even run smoothly on Intel HD 520. Furthermore, being a side scroller, the game relies on the artistic design of the characters, environment and its excellent music. This is really one of those games that should be played at max volume. So like Cuphead, despite being artistic and beautiful, this is an unforgiving, merciless game that hides its cruelty behind beauty.
The game thus haunts you and teases you to try searching in its dungeons and try to survive them. Stress and funds management are crucial in addition to the strategy of combat and risk management in-dungeons. Hence why this game is often compared to Souls series, for its ridiculous difficulty and that despite its difficulty, you will still come back for more, again and again. As the game progresses, you will find better loot and adventurers, but simultaneously, the enemies will be getting stronger and smarter, so you can never ever be OP
Overall, this is a must have game. I haven't actually completed this game, but I simply loved it, despite leading so many people to their deaths. Its arguably one of the best indie titles of the decade, and easily among the best these last few years