The term turn-based RPG may make you think of many things, maybe ‘Earthbound’ or ‘Pokemon’- but for me, I think of the Red Hook game, Darkest Dungeon.
In the game, you find yourself in a village previously owned by your shady ancestor; garnering heroes, levelling them up and gathering resources to help your hamlet. There are (in the base game) 4 locations for these missions, excluding the darkest dungeon, being the ruins, weald, cove and warrens- all presenting different challenges. Alongside the regular missions, there are many bosses to destroy, all coming with some dialogue explaining their connection to the ancestor, their own set of abilities and normally a hefty bar of HP. Events leading to exclusive missions can also be triggered, rewarding you with unique trinkets and quirks.
Trinkets are items that you can equip on your hero to buff them, some of these trinkets are only for a specific character class and work to their strengths and weaknesses. Quirks are attributes you can get just automatically with the character or gain from missions and can be positive or negative. They vary in severity, some being ‘-5 SPD’ and others just affecting the personality of a hero, for example, a hero with kleptomania will occasionally steal loot you find on missions.
For most, this game is renowned for being unforgiving- between the enemies’ high resistances and them outweighing you in terms of power, that sentiment is easy to agree with (rest in peace milkman, my man-at-arms who died after two subsequent spider fights, no joke). On top of that, the unique stat in this game; stress can greatly affect the results of a mission. As you go through dungeons, on top of automatically accumulating stress, certain enemies can pile it on with their attacks. When a hero reaches 100 stress they get a resolve check where things can go one of two ways; it’s positive and the hero’s stress is reduced significantly alongside the rest of your team or it’s negative and your hero becomes afflicted. This can mean many things depending on the affliction you get but generally, afflicted heroes will stress out the rest of your team, pass turns, hit themselves or other heroes, make choices automatically and move in the lineup, all of these things drastically affecting how well you can play, especially in a tough spot. There are things you can do to remedy this however, such as having a crusader or Jester, getting a crit heal or carrying Laudanum. Additionally, other factors such as light level, equipping the right trinkets, provisioning correctly and just pure luck could mean the difference between life and death for that team you just sent on a short mission.
After the games initial release, there were a few add-ons and DLCs included in the game, the most substantial of which being crimson court, introducing a whole new threat, the crimson curse (essentially vampirism) forcing you to take blood for your affected heros, another imperative resource to keep track of. In this DLC a new area opened up on the map, there were three new bosses (two of which voiced by Baertaffy the YouTuber), more enemies and even a new event (where the boss was also voiced by Baertaffy. The update added a lot to the game and made it a whole new experience, the addition of the crimson curse makes your plight that much more difficult. They later introduced an endless mode with an all-new location and enemies in the farmstead extension.
Alongside simply being fun to play, ‘Darkest Dungeon’ has a unique style, drawing inspiration from H.P Lovecraft’s stories, and other classic gothic literature. The enemies in the game are surprisingly twisted in design, like the snorting, disease-ridden pig folk you face off against in the warrens. Everything about the game works towards unsettling the player with different imposing soundtracks for each location, the enemies design, sound effects and the game’s daunting reputation.
I definitely recommend this game, if you want an experience that presents stakes and difficulties throughout, has certain story elements (but ones that don’t cloud the gameplay) as well as being stunning visually and in the soundtrack, which you can buy with the game on steam.