Darkest Dungeon is a role-playing video game developed by Red Hook Studios and published by Merge Games.
The game was first released for Microsoft Windows and OS X in January 2016, which followed a year-long early access development period. Later that year, it was released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Linux, with ports for iOS being released in 2017, and Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One being released by 2018.
Darkest Dungeon has the player manage a roster of heroes to explore dungeons below a gothic mansion the player has inherited. Played out in a mix of real-time movement and turn-based combat, a core feature of Darkest Dungeon is the stress level of each hero that increases with further exploration and combat; a character sustaining a high-stress level may gain afflictions that will hamper, or possibly enhance, their performance as an explorer.
The game received positive reviews from critics, garnering several award nominations, and went on to sell over two million copies. A sequel was announced in February 2019. A Board game adaptation is currently in development..
At the outset of Darkest Dungeon, the player learns that they have inherited an estate from an Ancestor who, while seeking to fulfill his ambiguous ambitions by excavating the dungeons and catacombs beneath his manor, has unearthed some terrible monstrosity and released a number of horrific and evil creatures and corruptions onto the world. Now the owner of the estate and the surrounding lands, the player must recruit a roster of adventurers and mount expeditions to cleanse the estate of its vile inhabitants.
As the player ventures into the manor, the dungeons below it and the surrounding lands, they find their Ancestor’s memoirs telling of the terrible deeds he had done in pursuit of knowledge and power, as well as personal desire. Eventually, the player is able to enter the Darkest Dungeon itself, the source of the land's corruption, taking steps to reveal its ultimate form.
Darkest Dungeon is a role-playing game in which the player manages a roster of heroes and adventurers to explore these dungeons and fight the creatures within. Prior to entering a dungeon, the player can use facilities in a town near the mansion to dismiss or recruit more heroes, send heroes to perform various activities that will heal them, gain new combat or camping skills, reduce their stress, or remove any afflictions that they incurred while in a dungeon, and buy and sell equipment and supplies to outfit their heroes, using money and loot gained during dungeon runs. Many of these facilities can also be improved to add more benefits or options to the player. The player can recruit up to 28 (or 30 on easiest difficulty) heroes on their roster once the stagecoach has been fully upgraded; each hero belongs to one of fifteen character classes, and has their own statistics and skills that can be upgraded over time. If a hero dies while exploring a dungeon, that hero is lost for good.
Once the player has completed preparations, they select four of their heroes to go explore a dungeon. Access to most dungeons requires completing several previous dungeons and collecting specific types of loot, with such later dungeons being more difficult than the earlier ones. Dungeons are procedurally-generated in a roguelike manner and presented as a series of interconnected rooms with hallways between each. The parties move between rooms in a real-time, side-scrolling view, with the potential to discover interesting objects to search or random combat encounters during this time. When the party reaches a room, they may be forced into combat, but once clear the room remains a safe zone allowing the player to apply healing and other remedies to the party. When combat occurs, it plays out in a turn-based manner, with each character having their own order based on an initiative that changes each turn. Heroes can use attacks, magic, special skills, or items during their turn to defeat the other party. The order which the party moves through the passages and rooms is critical as it affects who may interact with various items, and the available actions that a character can do while in combat; for example, a swordsman in the back of the party cannot easily attack, while range-attack characters like archers and mages can. The positions of heroes can be changed around, but this can consume time or a combat turn. While each dungeon has a target goal, the player can opt to leave the dungeon at any time, retaining all loot collected but forgoing the larger reward for clearing out the dungeon and massively increasing the stress of every hero within the party.
A core element of Darkest Dungeon is its Affliction system, a concept of a hero's stress level or resolve. Though a hero will have little stress when they are hired, it will worsen from a number of factors encountered while in a dungeon, such as adventuring without food or light sources, seeing the death or wounding of a fellow party member in battle, or from blights cast on them by enemies. If the hero's high stress remains unchecked, they may develop afflictions that will interfere with the behavior of the character, such as being frightened and unable to fight directly. Less frequently, a stressed character may develop virtues that enhance their attributes, such as becoming more invigorated within battle. Some afflictions, left unchecked, may become permanent quirks that remain on the character. Other afflictions can be removed back in the village and by performing special activities, such as drinking at a bar or repenting at a church, that occupy the character's time, preventing them from being part of a dungeon party. Allowing a hero to reach an extremely high stress level can cause them to have a heart attack, bringing them to the brink of death if not immediately tended to. Stress can be lowered while in a dungeon through camping offered at specific locations, or other restorative items, as well as when back in the nearby town. While camping, the characters will have another set of available skills that can be used to help relieve stress and help with other party members.
There are two other game modes aside from Darkest mode, which is the "Normal" mode for Darkest Dungeon. The first is Radiant mode, designed to reduce the length of time to complete the campaign without compromising the core difficulty with the game. In Radiant mode, level limitations are less strict, the player gets to recruit stronger heroes and hero XP gain is accelerated. The second mode is the Stygian mode, which is a much more difficult and challenging mode. Stygian mode not only has enemies with increased health and damage and an increase in light depletion but a failure condition. Should the player fail to complete the game within 86 in-game weeks or have 12 or more heroes killed, the 'Thing' will be awoken causing a game over and the save file to be deleted. Also note that Radiant and Darkest mode give the player the option to toggle off gameplay features that increase the game difficulty, whereas the player cannot toggle these in Stygian mode.
- Developer: Red Hook Studios
- Publisher: Red Hook Studios
- Release Date: Tuesday, 19 January 2016
- Genre: Role-playing, Dungeon crawl
- Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, OS X, Linux, iOS, Nintendo Switch
- Director: Chris Bourassa
- Producer: Tyler Sigman
- Mode: Single-player