When I first saw Darkest Dungeon, I instantly fell in love with everything about the H.P Lovecraft inspired RPG, so much so, that I wrote an article about it earlier this year that you can find on my profile. I have been practically fading to dust waiting for the second game to be released ever since I was told about it.
If you are a fan of Darkest Dungeon you may have heard of the game’s sequel, the game has already been released and many youtubers and streamers have sprung on the opportunity to try it out in front of their viewers.
The game has had a makeover, taking place in a stagecoach travelling through various towns and roads, where you can find pit stops along the path to help you on your journey. I was frothing at the mouth for a little over a year to see how the old characters would translate to the new art style and, the direction they would go for new character designs; with all new enemies, heroes, bosses and most importantly, more juicy lines from Wayne June, it’s looking to be a pretty fresh look at the franchise- but is it just as good as the previous game?
The new road?
As opposed to doing one long campaign, collecting and choosing heroes to go out on different missions as you go, the new game sees you picking a permanent team of four to brave the roads together until they find the final dungeon or die trying. This is obviously a massive change and means that campaigns will typically be shorter than they were in DDI, with a light being shone on your choices and magnifying the significance of dealing with hero’s afflictions.
Some of the changes in DDII offer further insight into the personality and backstories of the heroes we have come to know. Through game mechanics like encounters, the relationships tab and playing through a character’s story, we will learn how life has treated these war-torn survivors.
In encounters, you will be given a prompt, such as with ‘The Desperate Few’, each of the team will then be able to voice their opinion on what you should do, each yielding different results, such as +food or +flame.
As you are journeying in the stagecoach, your team will start to grow relationships with each other, positive and negative. These relationships, or affinity, are affected in various ways throughout a campaign, stress (low stress= positive relationship changes and vice versa), in battle, during encounters if you choose an opposing decision and Inn items. As the affinity changes characters’ behaviours will too, which can affect outcomes, for example, an amorous pair may heal each other in battle, similar to a virtuous hero in the first game, and further their positive relationship.
The game play has been significantly changed and to go over it all would be boring and unnecessary, just know, if you are planning on playing it, don’t expect anything too similar to the mechanics of the first game outside of battle, though upgrades are still possible.
Personally, I really enjoy the relationship mechanic in this game and think it adds a lot to the way you go through with the challenges you’re faced with. It seems like the natural progression from the first game’s dialogue that was character specific, but never gave insight into their past or relationships with others on the team. One of the intriguing factors of Darkest Dungeon, to me, is the characters and their purposefully vague backstories, so seeing this development of their personalities is exactly what I wanted from the second game.
Another factor is, of course, the animation style; with a more developed and detailed graphic style that gives off the same grim-noir, Lovecraftian feel as the first game. As an artist I felt like screaming when I first saw the gameplay, the roads and towns look amazing and I cannot tell you how happy I was to see the design of a shiny new Jester (along with attack animations that are simply beautiful). If you want a game that is a visually and audibly pleasing experience, Darkest Dungeon II will definitely give it to you in spades.
Things to improve
Many people have taken issue with the new turn-limit in battle, especially since it was added alongside a ‘death’s door’ for certain enemies, they say it makes it hard to finish a battle in time to garner any rewards. However, I feel this mechanic is fair as it levels the playing field for enemies; people who are playing DDII have most likely played the first game, they already know the characters abilities, strategies for the game, etc. – giving enemies the same durability as our team makes it harder, but not impossible. The franchise has always been known for being unforgiving, and to not up the difficulty in the second game would be uncharacteristic in my opinion.
Despite this, there are things I would change about the game. I would love to see various animation cycles for both enemies and heroes when getting hit, blighted, shot, buffed, etc., or cutscenes for enemies, bosses and new areas. I feel this would make the game more interesting to watch and give it more character; this does take time and money however so I understand that it hasn’t made its way into the game.
Something else I feel could be introduced to further the story element of the game is enemy dialogue that gives insight into these grotesque creatures’ minds, maybe not for every enemy as it wouldn’t make sense for the ‘Towering Feast’ creatures, but for bosses it could be interesting.
Overall, I think Darkest Dungeon II was well worth the wait, it is exactly what I wanted RedHook to come out with and they did not hold any punches, it is clear the team behind this project has passion and cares a lot for their end product. With the game being as cheap as it is to buy, I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to sink into a new experience and sit with a game for a while; though you will have to have patience because, as typical of the game, you will probably die, a lot.
Thank you for reading and remember; ‘overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer’.