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    Darkest Dungeon

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    Marie-Ange Demory
    @marie-angedemory

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    Published in 2016 by Red Hook Studios at the height of the spasmodic anticipation of millions of fans for the release of Dark Souls III (released two months later), Darkest Dungeon has managed to carve out its space on the market by going beyond the too hasty label of turn-based soulslike, a definition that many fans like to give to any game that does not roll out the red carpet to the player and that has some "dark" tucked into the title . (Do you remember the time when everything was Dark Souls?)



     Darkest dungeon is a game that puts the cards on the table right away.

    The prologue begins with our protagonist who is sent a letter from one of his ancestors in which he briefly explains what we have gotten into. The first words seem positive in reality, we are informed that we have become the new owners of the family estate, an imposing structure that stands on a cliff overlooking a small adjacent village.

    It seems like a bargain for our protagonist who, however, proceeding with the reading understands that there is a catch, and how. We become aware of the unhealthy habits of our ancestor, which reveals to us that he practiced black magic and performed disturbing experiments, causing death and destruction in the land, now inhabited by unattractive neighbors such as ghosts, witches, hugely large pigs and bandits of all sizes, which caused the real estate market to collapse and consequently the value of our villa.

    As if that were not enough, we also become responsible for the maintenance of the village, needless to say it is dilapidated. The ultimate goal of our hero is to free the area from these aberrations to restore the family name to its former glory, and to do so he will have to clean up the darkest dungeon, the darkest (would you ever have thought so?) Of the haunted places, located right under the estate and place where the experiments originated. Fortunately for us, the village becomes a pilgrimage site for heroes from all over the world, drawn by the promise of eternal glory. Or from the village brothels.



    So what is Darkest Dungeon? A strategic turn-based RPG, side-scrolling roguelike with a strong component Gothic-Lovecraftian. Exhausted the labels we move on to the actual game which is divided into two phases, the pure action that takes place in the dungeons and party management. The dungeons are of five types: The maze, the ruins, the bay, the moor and last but not least the darkest dungeon. Each of these areas is procedurally generated and has its own characteristics, differentiated by the presence of a certain type of monsters or a certain type of traps. Each dungeon can vary in size and difficulty: from 1 for apprentices to 6 for the darkest dungeon (maximum difficulty), the difficulty also designates which heroes can challenge it: the bands go up two by two, a level 3 hero will not be able to face a level 6 mission and vice versa. It is a stratagem used by developers to eliminate easy level advancement for newly hired characters and to insert an additional difficulty in choosing the classes, which must be matched according to the level to have an always functional and balanced party.

    The classes in fact. They are the heart of the experience given their large number that allows you to face the dungeons with an infinite number of builds and approaches. The initial classes are fifteen, and are distinguished by greater melee attack power (abomination, crusader, leper, man-at-arm, hellion), those that focus on critical attacks (jester, bounty hunter, grave robber), those at a distance ( hound master, highwayman, arbalest) and the classic curators / magicians (antiquarian, vestal, occultist, plague doctor). A couple of them were added later, the franciscudi and flagellating nei DLC “shieldbreaker” e “The crimson court”.


    Each class has seven attacking skills and seven to use ai bonfire. The former are skills to use in combat and can cause physical damage, heal wounds, increase critical, dodge attacks, buff teammates or debuff enemies, and deal attrition damage, such as exsanguination and poisoning (disease). Depending on the skills we choose for our character, the game will advise us a precise location within the four of the party. This is because all the skills require a certain place within the game plan to be used, this will cause some apparently harmless attacks from the opponents to disrupt the order of the party and prevent us from attacking exposing ours to easy reprisals. We will return to the bonfires shortly.


    In addition to the physical health bar we will also have to take into account the mental health of the team, which subjected to certain conditions will accumulate stress and, once reached half the bar, will give in escandescence, starting a sequence in which the character can develop a neurosis or overcome the trauma and develop a positive trait. Of course, there is a much better chance of the character going crazy, getting out of control and refusing to respond to our orders, or at worst attacking his teammates and wreaking further stress on the group. When the point of no return is reached, it is best to abandon the mission and return to the village to heal the afflicted characters more often than not before causing worse trouble. Yes, because stress not only leads the hero to often uncontrolled actions, but if the stress bar reaches 200 points it will heart attack, which will reduce the unfortunate dying by suddenly lowering the HP to 0.


    The stressors are many, and preparation for dungeons is essential to cope with them in the best possible way. When we choose which level to tackle, we will first have to buy enough supplies to tackle the journey. The inventory is sixteen slots and can only be increased by bringing the antiques into the party. Its management is difficult because it will often happen to leave numerous coins or relics on the ground in order to carry the torches and food supplies, which are the ABCs of the experienced dungeon explorer. The torches ensure that the visibility in the corridors is high, this leads to fewer ambushes and a lower level of stress, while food is used to increase (slightly, and up to satiety) the health of your companions. In addition to these essential supplies, you can bring spades to eliminate obstacles, oils to treat diseases, bandages for bleeding, keys to open any secret rooms and so on.


    Once the supplies have been selected, we are ready to face the dungeon. As soon as we enter we will find ourselves in front of a labyrinth of various sizes that consists in advancing from room to room through corridors paved with traps and enemies. Missions can range from simply tackling all the fights in the rooms, to recovering three relics (which will take up a large part of the inventory), or on certain occasions facing boss fights. These sections are particularly noteworthy, they constantly raise the level of the challenge and represent pleasant variations compared to the more frequent NPCs, as we will have to deal with opponents who regenerate, multiply, brainwash our heroes by convincing them to fight against us. These are by far the most difficult parts of the title, they will test not only the mental health of the heroes, but also yours.

    The management phase takes place through the village, which is the gaming hub (similar to Dark Souls I's Firelink shrine to stay on topic). It is the logistical point where we will organize the missions, manage the loot and improve the troop. Here there will appear various structures each equipped with a utility, dividing between those of strengthening and those of relief.

    The first group includes the blacksmith, which serves to upgrade weapons and armor, the palace of the gilda which serves to unlock new skills and spells and the survivalista, character who enhances the skills of the heroes when they are seated at bonfire, a mechanic that allows the party to regain energy and lower stress during longer dungeons. The structures dedicated to relief are the abbey, where through prayer and self-flagellation you can let off steam from the stress of the dungeons, the tavern where it will be possible to drink, gamble and have fun with nice young ladies, while there nursing home it will be used to cure travelers from diseases contracted in dungeons (they cause heavy penalties to statistics) and to eliminate or 'fix' the traits that characters can acquire at the end of a mission or when they reach the average threshold of stress.

    Beyond these two categories we find four other buildings: The diligence, that it is also the means that led us to the nightmare, which serves to recruit new heroes in the unfortunate (but not sporadic) case that the old ones abandon us; the nomadic car it is used to buy rare trinkets that we can use as amulets in the two extra slots to increase the statistics of the heroes who carry them with them; the memories of the ancestor which act as a codex, that is, it is an archive of the messages left by the ancestor and finally, for the more sentimental there is the cemetery, which, as easily understood, serves to pay homage to the fallen.

    USEFUL INFO

    Played in a dark and deadly cavern, bought in villainously on the Steam summer sales. It causes stress and blasphemies, to be played strictly without becoming attached to the characters. Tested version: the base one waiting for the "color of madness" and "harvest moon" DLCs.

    Duration
    • In the first game you could get lost in the wastelands of the estate for at least 40 hours if you make grinding your reason for living. (Base game)
    Structure
    • Each choice is permanent but above all the deaths of the characters. Once expired, there is no turning back.
    • Turn-based strategy with non-settable difficulty.
    • Combat system based not only on the classic physical damage, but also on the "stress" and the mental stability of the characters. If you hit your stress limit, you have a heart attack.
    • Five types of explorable dungeons with random enemies and mazes.
    • The estate of our ancestor will act as a hub for our party: tavern, temple, blacksmith and other buildings will be used to improve techniques and armor, or to recover the stress accumulated in battle by having fun at the brothel. The more we improve the structures, the more effective they will become.
    Collectibles and Extras
    • The only collectibles are the portraits, documents, busts and coats of arms that can be used to improve the structures of the village.
    Game Card
    • Game Name: Darkest Dungeon
    • Release date: January 19 2016
    • Platforms: iOS, Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
    • Dubbing language: English
    • Texts language: Italian

    Il technical side leaves no room for regret. The artistic style of the game is impeccable and appropriate to the genre, showing in addition to fantastic drawings also simple and effective animations, with a color palette always tending to a livid red that makes the atmosphere of madness and pain exceptionally. The music is no exception, superbly composed they give palpitations at every step in the labyrinths, with suggestive silences suddenly broken by the gurgling of creatures and keep good company even in the advanced stages of the adventure.

    Then, at the end of the fair who is Darkest Dungeon recommended to? To all those who are not afraid to deal with an adventure that is not immediate, which must be understood and enjoyed for the depth of the mechanics and the satisfaction that comes from confronting a game that seems hermetic, which challenges the player not to surrender to the first failure but to make that dynamic of his own trial and error to master a real pearl of the turn-based strategy genre.

    Don't stress yourself out too much, do yourself a favor and get it back.

    Darkest dungeon is an experience that will seem impossible at first, but that step by step it catches you in its web and before you know it you will find yourself bogged down in its dungeons trying to take down the "roaring prophet" who has already taken away three of your best heroes. At some point it becomes a personal challenge, of the man against the game and the same mental health of him. The management of the village is effective and rewarding, improving the structures and maxing out your characters after taking countless risks to recover the coins or various objects useful to improve a building is satisfying, as it is to see that the tactics you have developed are starting to give. some results. The dynamics of the stress, probably the real strong point of the title that gives the action that mechanism that shifts the balance making the approach to the game much more dynamic and not tying us to a party of only tanks and healers.

    Videogamingallday.com review
    Graphics

    This 'board game' stretch returns a really pleasant feeling to the work and above all it is right for game situations. The sprites of the various classes are good but the yield of the dark lands is unparalleled, although the game gives its best when facing the bosses, very scenic and never banal.

    85
    SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM

    The complete Italian dubbing is missing, but the lines of text are not so many as to miss them. Excellent music that brings a cold shiver down to the entrance of the dungeons and well makes the claustrophobic feeling experienced by the characters.

    85
    GAMEPLAY

    It may seem punishing and casual at first glance, but Darkest Dungeon's combat system is calibrated to always be dynamic and not make life too simple even for the most consumed of players.

    90
    Total Rating scale
    87
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