Sunday, March 22, 2015

6 days of...Darkest Dungeon!

Gothic, Eldrich, Insane and Intriguing

This is your town, and there
 aren't many like it...
I've recently been giving Darkest Dungeon by developer Red Hook a shot. I've said it multiple times, I love a good procedurally generated dungeon crawler. My wife looks at me oddly every time I rave about them but I can't help it. There's something about semi-random elements that betray a deeper mechanical master at work. The adventure is a machine that is slave to a surreptitious master and I have a deep desire to defeat the challenge set before me no matter how many times it may change. 

Enter Darkest Dungeon. I keep thinking to myself even now, hours after beating the first few bosses, why aren't more games as entertaining and involved as this. The mechanics themselves aren't new but there's something inherently enthralling about the way all of the pieces fit together. Whether it's the voice acting that narrates your slow decent into madness and the unavoidable mortality rates or the city building and random events. Everything is impeccably well suited to the setting. The entire game comes together like a Picasso painting. Edgy and unique with an odd look but somehow it entertains the senses. 

Combat jumps off the screen with
satisfying sound effects. 
The music in the dungeon seamlessly gives you a sense of foreboding as the trumpets announce sudden combat. Characters leap out of the screen to deliver blows that shower crimson blood over each other. Odd sounds indicate a loss of sanity as time wears on and the adventurers grow weary. The screen darkens to show that the deeper you go, the more dangerous and hopeless things are. These all add to the atmosphere that is so pervasive in Darkest Dungeon.

The game itself is in early access which means that there can be balance changes and UI changes on a regular basis. I noticed myself in the days I played at least a couple changes that were improvements to the mechanics or adding features to the game. I can't wait for the final version of the game because there are so many potential possibilities with the last few dungeons they have yet to add.

During combat you will learn
what the face of fear truly is.
The style though is really what I want to point out here. The bold lines, and the rich colors all give the game a dark sense of foreboding. That and the style of the character and enemy art is simple but aesthetically pleasing. No doubt someone went through many hours and a lot of trouble to get those designs right. Many other developers could study Darkest Dungeon and learn a thing or two about aesthetics. Its a difficult concept to get correct and something that is consistently faulty in independent games these days. It's good to see that kind of talent in the indie scene these days.

I particularly like the latent difficulty that they've included in the torch system. There is no chosen difficulty during the game, but rather you choose your own difficulty by controlling the light levels in the dungeon. It boils down to lower light equals better loot but harder enemies. This risk/reward system is my favorite target for a game to aim for when it comes to difficulty. The enemies have the same amount of health, but they hit harder and the "fear factor" is multiplied on your characters.

I've been assaulted by games in the past that can't get difficulty to save their lives. I don't see how having to shoot twice as many bullets or stab twice as many times into an enemy is anything more than tedious. Difficulty has evolved beyond just adding health. This risk/reward system that is inherent in a mechanic of the game should be on every developers mind as they begin down that path of deciding on difficulty settings.

I loved Darkest Dungeon and it held my interest for quite some time. After a while it becomes easier, but it is nice to see the heroes that you've raised from novices become strong enough to take on hordes of enemies. Knowing their fears and quirks keeps you attached to them and in the end keeps your interest enough to make this a worth while investment of time.

You'll like Darkest Dungeon if: You enjoy Eldrich-style setting and atmosphere, dungeon crawlers, and high quality and well balanced RPG and party mechanics in randomized environments.

(If you have a different opinion or want to suggest a game to play and review, let me know @SimonGolden on twitter!)

No comments:

Post a Comment