Some of the things that the yearlong mandatory service in my home country’s army has taught me was to be patient and remain calm under stressful circumstances. Whether those circumstances involved me cleaning the floor underneath my bunk with my toothbrush, or having a 4’7’’ officer jumping and screaming at my face with his morning tuna breath, I always pushed myself to show as little emotion as possible.
So, when a game known as Darkest Dungeon made me rage quit and slam my laptop shut, I knew then and there that this game is special and will be etched in my memory for a long time.
The Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based dungeon crawler with RPG elements developed and published by Red Hook Studios. In in, the player controls up to four characters of various classes and personality traits with the goal being the rebuilding and cleansing of a hamlet which has succumbed to evil forces. The gameplay consists of clearing dungeons of creatures and insects, fighting disturbingly disfigured bosses who are products of necromancy and magic, and collecting treasures and trinkets which are used to improve the characters’ stats and rebuild the hamlet.
The Swine King, The Blind Prophet and the Formless Flesh are just some of the bosses encountered under and around the ill- fated Hamlet.
On top of the classic turn-based combat and procedurally generated dungeon crawling, the Darkest Dungeon also includes some rouge elements. Permadeath is one of them and is present from the very start of the game, meaning that once your character dies, he is gone for good along with the money invested in his leveling. Even the trinkets worn by the deceased character will be lost in the dungeon if there is no other character available to pick them up and take them out of the dungeon in the same run.
Sanity, quirks and diseases also play crucial roles. Every venture into the dungeons depletes the character’s sanity meter which, if it reaches zero, tests your character’s resolve and causes him to either gain a positive virtue or a negative affliction. For example, they can either become courageous and gain multiple stats buffs or can become cowardly and start missing their targets, waste their turn on a random action or skip their turn all together.
Unlike virtues and afflictions which last until the round’s end, quirks are gained after every dungeon and are permanent unless cured or replaced by another. Examples of these include kleptomania which will cause your character to steal from another or necromania which causes your character to search every encountered corpse there by risking setting a trap or contracting a disease.
Speaking of diseases, they also play an important part as they can significantly alter your character’s stats. They are usually contracted through exploration and combat and include examples such as Syphilis (lowers your accuracy, damage and health), Tetanus (lowers accuracy and critical hit chance) and many others. Diseases just like quirks can only be cured for gold or replaced by new ones.
Maximum stress tests the characters' resolve with one becoming Courageous and the other Hopeless.
Now everything described above makes this game sound awesome, right? So what caused me to rage quit?
The answer is simple, it’s the game’s dependence on the use of RNG (Random Number Generator). Almost everything, from loot drops to dodge and attack efficiency, is at the mercy of RNG. Although this might not be big of an issue later in the game when your characters are leveled and have high critical chances, for new players this can be a deal breaker.
In my personal example, I’ve put about 25 hours into the game and had 4 Level 6 characters when I fought against a Shambler, an optional monster encountered once the player lights a curio and gets transported into another dimension.
During the fight, the monster and his tentacle friends slew 3 of my characters while I killed the main monster and one of the two tentacles. In the last attack, I had a Man at Arms who usually dealt 10+ damage in close range while the remaining tentacle had 8 HP left. I had the first turn and the victory was in my sight but guess what happened?
My Men at Arms missed the tentacle, which then scored a critical and killed my character.
Just like that, in one second, all the effort and time spend into building characters, finding, fighting and killing the Shambler were ruined by a simple tentacle which scored a better RNG then me. This event triggered such a rage in me, that I immediately uninstalled the game with no intentions of going back to it ever again.
Combat (and pretty much everything else) depends on the RNG which can be problematic for low leveled characters.
Now don’t get me wrong, despite all this I still think that Darkest Dungeon is a wonderfully imagined game. The hand-drawn artwork is beautiful, the background music is intense, the narrator who both mocks and compliments your actions is absolutely brilliant, the sanity, quirks and diseases mechanics are very immersive and fun to experiment with, however the dependence on RNG is in my opinion too great and it really ruined the entire game for me.
As such I will never go back to this game again, but I would suggest people to try it out as they might discover something new about themselves or past experiences, as I did when I realized that serving a year in an Eastern European, ex-Communist army is less stressful then playing Darkest Dungeon.