“Let me share with you the terrible wonders I have come to know..”
January 29, 2017 11:11 PM   Subscribe

A Burnt Torch: Darkest Dungeon, Mental Health and Lovecraftian Horror [Paste Magazine] “Darkest Dungeon [wiki] is a tactical, party-based roguelike with a Lovecraftian flair. You play as the last heir of a fallen noble house. It’s your job to recruit and command a set of heroes, sending them into the decrepit bowels of a ruined estate—and the corrupt environs surrounding it. There’s a lot to like here. Darkest Dungeon’s aesthetic (including its use of a Bastion-style narrator) is stunning, and it contributes to the spring-like, tense-and-release feeling of the game’s turn based, positional combat. The adventuring slots nicely into a simple, yet fulfilling town-upgrade system, which itself fits together with a unique take on character advancement. And it all hinges on managing the stress of your heroes.”

• Playing Darkest Dungeon Makes You a Middle Manager, Not a Hero [Wired]
“It’s appropriate, then, that Darkest Dungeon casts the player as a particularly modern figure: the middle manager. Or, to put it in more grandiose terms, the tyrannical industrialist. Success in Darkest Dungeon requires throwing human lives at your problems, forcing your employees into the tunnels again and again, without mercy, like a Dickensian villain. Your best gunman gets a bit too wacky? Fire him and get another. That guy doesn’t look too stressed; send him back in. He’ll be fine. Things go south, cut your losses and start over. In a world this harsh, heroism emerges in unlikely places. Every once in a while, instead of developing an affliction, a warrior will grow stronger in the face of unbearable stress. They’ll grow stalwart, or brave, encouraging their allies on, determined. I’m going to get us through this, they insist.”
• How Darkest Dungeon Got Inspiration from Band of Brothers and Aliens [PC Gamer]
“A good chunk of Sigman’s hour-long talk focused on the Affliction and stress systems, which Sigman says, surprisingly to him, didn’t change much during Darkest Dungeon’s year in Early Access. These systems were an important expression of one of the game’s core principles: “Heroes are human,” and Sigman talked about a moment from Band of Brothers that led to their creation. “There’s this character, Buck Compton, played by Neal McDonough. He’s tall, he’s handsome, he’s tough, he’s been on a bunch of missions, he’s kind of just this gregarious, energetic guy that’s holding the squad together, in a way,” says Sigman. At least, that’s true until the seventh episode of the series, when Easy Company faces their biggest challenge. “They’re in the battle of Ardennes, getting shelled, in winter, and he watches a shell land in a foxhole on a couple of his buddies and they’re just gone. And there’s this great scene where he comes up, and he has a thousand-yard stare, shellshocked, and he takes off his helmet, and that’s it: his war is over,” says Sigman. “I think that was really a moment that we wanted to capture, ‘Game over, man!’””
• Trigger Warning! Darkest Dungeon - Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back [The Game Bolt]
“As previously noted, afflicted heroes can be problematic to themselves and their party as a whole. First off, an afflicted party member suffers from debuffs which places them at a disadvantage. They can’t do as much damage, hit as often, or even take as much stress damage. So they become a strategic disadvantage. Furthermore, they can randomly pass on their turn or use a random ability without you choosing it. This can be problematic seeing as you might be relying on a crucial heal from an afflicted healer to keep another party member alive. Or, you might be hoping to get the last hit in on a particular enemy when your damage dealer decides to move and hide in the backline. They take on a selfish nature rather than a team based one. Lastly, afflicted party members can become outright abusive towards their fellow party members. They may berate others who don’t land attacks or in their madness shout horrific things to terrify the other party members. In turn, these actions will stress out the other party members as well. So all it takes to bring everyone down is a single person to spread doubt and dissent. These notions of self-destruction and aggressiveness in an afflicted party member in Darkest Dungeon have striking similarities to those who suffer from psychological illness and trauma. It’s a model of self-destruction that is all too familiar to those with psychological disorders like depression, PTSD, or anxiety, which bears going into both the negative and positive aspects of such interpretations.”
• Game Design Deep Dive: Darkest Dungeon's Affliction System [Gamsutra]
“Each affliction has different effects in combat, camping, and exploration. While there can be some positive effects (e.g. an Abusive hero gains a damage bonus), Afflictions are generally bad! Afflictions reduce your heroes’ capabilities and also make them challenging to manage because the hero will frequently act on their own. This might not be so bad if a hero decides to attack on their own and you wanted them to do that anyway, but it can cause serious problems if a greedy hero opens a trapped chest, or a masochistic hero refuses to be healed. We want to put you in uncomfortable situations where you do not have complete control of your party. This is a central pillar of the game, and all mechanics are designed to reinforce it. We toy with player agency, constantly reminding you that these little digital heroes have minds of their own and sometimes their desire for survival (or a heroic death) will trump whatever you had planned. We want you in the role of a squad leader, trying to make the most of your soldiers and tackling hard decisions about who to sacrifice and who to save.”
• Darkest Dungeon Might Not Be Fun, But It Is Fascinating [Eurogamer]
“Every experience leaves scars though, until what's left are less heroes than questing husks just waiting to lose themselves in a brothel. You can pay to remove flaws, though this feels like a mistake that detracts heavily from the point of the game, but mostly you just have to deal with them. If your best guy is an open sexual deviant banned from anywhere who can help him recover, well, sucks to be him. There's always more fresh meat rolling into town. Even while alive though, the heroes can often be their own worst enemies. Each one has not just a health bar, but a stress one, built by trauma and terror as you'd expect. Cue skills like "Defy The Gods" in which one character will cheer themselves up by spitting in their face, at the expense of everyone else, or the Jester's Mockery, where three members of the party have a good laugh at the fourth's expense, making them feel as worse as the rest suddenly feel better. Without all this, I doubt Darkest Dungeon would be half as appealing. The actual action is somewhat simple and very repetitive, and hopefully will sprinkle in a little more on the exploration side before launch. At the very least, it needs a lot more scripted comments, since right now you can often be sitting around just seeing the same quips again and again and again. That's both boring, because they get old, and annoying, because it often means sitting around for pointless seconds between the already slow turn-based combat rounds. The same goes for the needless pauses after enemies announce their attacks and the needless counting of rounds, as if anyone cares or it couldn't be put above the torch meter if they do.”
• Stress As a Path to Death: Take Care of Your Archer, Take Care of Yourself [Polygon]
“Creating Darkest Dungeon has helped us deal with classical heroes as real people with weaknesses both physical and mental. Dungeons are fairly unpleasant spots in general, and adventuring is a tough vocation. It's a good excuse to put pressure on someone's fear of death, closed spaces or the dark. There are few phobias you can't attack in some way in a fantasy dungeon setting. Our goal with Darkest Dungeon has always been to put some of the human element into the long established and well-loved genre, and this means reducing agency somewhat. How tough are heroes when the chips are down and the stakes are high? Will they stand up to the challenge and be present when all is counted? Or will they collapse under the pressure? Everyone has a breaking point. The player manages a roster of heroes and groups them up into parties of four for expeditions into the various dungeons around the corrupted Estate of her fallen ancestor. The game features turn-based combat and roguelike exploration, but the "hook" of the game is that the heroes are flawed and you have to attend to their mental status as much as you do their hit points.”
• Darkest Dungeon Explores the Psychological Horror of the Dungeon Crawl [Kill Screen]
“The Affliction System is meant to help portray that the characters in Darkest Dungeon are humans, and not just pawns in a quest for loot. There is, in fact, a striking resemblance between the Affliction System and psychological stress models commonly used to study actual human behavior. Take, for instance, the General Adaptation Syndrome model developed by Hans Selye [wiki]. The model posits that humans respond to stress in three distinct stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Alarm is when we first recognize a stressor, activating our hormones to prepare for a response. Resistance is when these hormones attempt to subdue the stressor, and exhaustion occurs when the stressor cannot be beaten—potentially leading to long-term physical and psychological damage. In Darkest Dungeon, characters experience stress in much the same way: they start in a state of homeostasis (in game terms, their stress level is at 0), enter a state of alarm upon experiencing a stressor, attempt to resist (namely from experiencing positive outcomes such as a critical hit), and will finally succumb to a kind of exhaustion once the stress reaches an unbearable level.”
• Video Games Are Tackling Mental Health With Mixed Results [Endgadget]
“Having these meters is a simplistic, but effective way of showing that stress is something normal that affects us all. You can "treat" characters between missions to lower stress and cure afflictions and quirks, but do nothing, and the scars left behind seriously affect characters' psyches. The other side of these quirks, though, is that some are actual conditions like alcoholism, bulimia and claustrophobia, while others hint at illnesses like "egomania" (i.e., narcissistic personality disorder) and "compulsion" (obsessive–compulsive personality disorder). There's nothing wrong with that, but because the game places these disorders alongside "curio" manias and phobias like automatonophobia (fear of false sentient beings), hagiomania (obsession with sainthood) and satanophobia (fear of demons), it's a little troubling.”
posted by Fizz (24 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I am a veteran roguelike player. I've won Angband a couple times, even Zangband once, and a couple of Nethack ascensions. But Darkest Dungeons almost beat me. I put it down for a few months after a wipe in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Came back later and eventually beat it. What a relief.

I still haven't had the courage to fire it up for a New Game Plus, which cranks the frustration factor up to 12 (because it was already at 11).
posted by notoriety public at 2:23 AM on January 30, 2017

I love Darkest Dungeon, but I love its concept more than its actual execution. It has a tremendeously boring midgame and that basically kills it for me. I can deal with loss, but what I can't deal with is having to do more ~boring stuff~ because of it.

Tyler Sigman delivered a post mortem of sorts on the game at last year's GDC and it was super interesting to hear that the narrator narrating everything the way he does in the final product was not added in until very late. Its weird to think how a thing that basically defines the gameplay experience can come in so late in the process.
posted by Soi-hah at 2:54 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am a veteran roguelike player. I've won Angband a couple times, even Zangband once, and a couple of Nethack ascensions. But Darkest Dungeons almost beat me. I put it down for a few months after a wipe in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Came back later and eventually beat it. What a relief.
I’m a veteran of the old *band roguelikes too, and, though the comparison between DD and that set is tempting (brutally difficult, strongly random, terrible punishments for inattentiveness), I ultimately think they’re too dissimilar.

Classic roguelikes are games in the true sense of the word: a blend of skill and luck to the extent that great skill can eventually beat out the over / under of luck. And you CAN become more skilled at the game. The first time you run a Mage character into Wormtongue in Angband, for instance, and he blinds or confuses you and you suddenly learn that your character is HELPLESS under those circumstances and he frost bolts you a couple of times and you blindly blunder into a group of cave orcs that turn you into whatever the cave orc version of corned beef hash is, you throw up your hands and say that the game is stupid and unfair and impossible.

But then you return to the game (if you return; Wormy is the make-or-break point for a lot of potential players) after having read somewhere online that Potions of Cure Serious Wounds can also cure blindness and confusion, and maybe also having figured out that you can use a Staff of Teleportation while blind or confused, and you get to Wormtongue again and BURN HIM DOWN, and then you figure out what free action is after losing a character to a Basilisk, and there’s another learning curve, and so on and so forth. The WRONG thing to do in that trial-and-error process is to keep making the same mistakes and dying in the same way. If you roll another Mage and toss yourself against mid-range casters again without a contingency plan, you’re going to fail just as horribly, again and again and again. If you can adapt and learn, you can eventually (eeeeeeeeeventually) get to a point where you have buffs and detection spells mapped to macros and a full monster memory and you’ve won, you can deal with anything the game throws at you, you’ve actually and finally become good at it.

DD is very different, though. The insidious thing about it is that it tricks you into BELIEVING that you can become good at it when actually you can’t. That is to say, you can learn which enemies to prioritize and which attacks are dangerous and which of your heroes’ abilities are good and where to place heroes in your party and even which heroes synergize well with others, and you have the illusion that you’ve passed the game’s challenge--you’re good at it now. And then you start a round of combat and your level 6 rogue gets critically hit twice and dies instantly and you try to retreat and fail and another character gets critically hit twice and somehow gains 50 stress and an affliction and, even if you succeed at retreating and abandon the mission you’ve just lost a few hours at least to this. Even if you do EVERYTHING right in DD, if you learn all the lessons and prepare as best you can, you *will* suffer crippling setbacks. If the roguelike is an ongoing game of chess where your opponent randomly gets reinforcements in the form of additional pieces, DD is an endless game of Monopoly where, if you’re a really experienced player and know all of the tricks and tactics, you can roll one of the dice again.

There are a wealth of articles out there (OP) about how the stress system effectively replicate actual trauma, but I think that DD’s real MO is to induce stress in the player by mimicking the methodology of a “real” roguelike game. The wrong way to play Angband, for instance, is the right way to play DD: just keep tossing more and more time and grind at the problem until eventually the RNG works out in your favor. And it’s horrible and insidious because it keeps trying to convince you that you’re getting better at it and victory is just around the corner.
posted by lorddimwit at 4:46 AM on January 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

Playing Darkest Dungeon Makes You a Middle Manager, Not a Hero
At about 40 hours into playing DD, I realized that I had naturally settled into a three tier system of my adventuring guild.

At the bottom were the temps. No benefits, 5 mission trial period. You make it to Level 3 then we consider if we hire you for full time, but if you die, go crazy, contract a case of fever, or steal from me -- you're cut. We don't want you here. The stage coach comes by every week with someone else who can take your place in the marching order. I have also torn up the contracts of perfectly healthy temps because a better candidate showed up in the stagecoach. Sorry, no room in the barracks and this new grave digger has some nifty tricks that you don't. They were almost half the guild.

At the mid level were the full timers with benefits. Training to get their skills up. Better equipment. Medical leave. Paid time off at the brothel or a donation to the church for a week of flagellation. Whatever you need. We don't judge. Generally, I would not cut a mid-level just for the hell of it, but sometimes a temp would make it to their 5 mission and everyone realizes that it doesn't make sense to have 3 Crusaders on payroll. Sometimes one of the Crusaders just happens to die in the field and the problem solves itself. Sometimes you've got to put one of them on the stagecoach to make room for fresh talent. It's a hard world. You all knew this coming here.

At the top level were the 10x unicorns with tenure. They were never going to get cut. They were in it until they died; because they've done enough runs in the Manor to know what we have to do and they know that death isn't that far away anyway.

Then I realized that I sort of did this as part of my day job and I felt like a horrible human being.
It has a tremendeously boring midgame and that basically kills it for me. I can deal with loss, but what I can't deal with is having to do more ~boring stuff~ because of it.
It definitely helps in the midgame grind to just be writing fanfic in the back of your head like this is The Office but with eldritch horror and existential doom. The traits and histories give a nice sort of procedural depth to each character and is enough of a blank canvas for some of us to project all kinds of back stories on to them before we inevitably send them into a situation that destroys their mind.

It's hard to let go of a little fictional character that you've been adventuring with for a few hours and a couple of mission, who had so much promise, but there is always new blood arriving on the stagecoach.
posted by bl1nk at 5:26 AM on January 30, 2017 [16 favorites]

> At about 40 hours into playing DD, I realized that I had naturally settled into a three tier system of my adventuring guild.

I abandonned my first playthrough when I got to level 5 but everyone was totally broken by mental illness. When antiquarians came out, I started a new game and this time I've been resolved to play it with foresight.

Instead of rushing to higher levels, I tried to keep my heroes from advancing so I could milk as much money and heirlooms as I could out of the easy missions. Only when I had a full roster of 28 heroes at level 3 did I start the veteran dungeons. At that point, I had upgraded my Sanitarium to 3 treatment slots, so I treated quirks as they appeared, and because of my pacing, I could even afford to harden the best traits. I used carefully composed teams with both healing and stress relief (Vestal/Crusader so good!) so that I never needed to spend money on stress relief at the end of missions.

I did the same thing with veteran dungeons, and this time kept everyone from turning level 5 as long as possible, and it worked just as well, and even turns out the game rewards you for doing it this way, because it delays the Vvulf At The Door town event from popping up as long as possible. Again, no quirks on anyone at the end of the day, enough money to reinforce good traits and upgrade skills and equipment.

When I got to champion dungeons, the money became a lot tighter, but not having any negative quirks on anyone has made it a lot easier, and once I got one party upgraded, they were strong enough to farm the level 5 dungeons for money.

I think the game is meant to teach you that if you rush headlong for your goal you accumulate the scars of failure which will drag you down. By holding back and investing in human resources until they were ready, I've had much better returns.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 5:59 AM on January 30, 2017 [11 favorites]

I feel bad for my adventurers and want to set up some pleasent pension scheme. But they do choose to come adventuring.


I-Write-Essays, I like your strategy - invest heavily in training and recruitment, growth wil come and exploit naturally occurring synergies.

Maybe the new version will introduce competitive adventuring bands. Or they unionise.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 6:13 AM on January 30, 2017

If you can adapt and learn, you can eventually (eeeeeeeeeventually) get to a point where you have buffs and detection spells mapped to macros and a full monster memory and you’ve won, you can deal with anything the game throws at you, you’ve actually and finally become good at it.

This is why I never got very far in Angband - it rewards cautious, methodical play, and because a full game is so long and has so many ways of punishing risky play with instant death, cautious and methodical is really the only way to go if you want to win. I don't like playing that way so I've never beat it, although I did finish Zangband once (when it was passing through a hilariously unbalanced phase involving golems and the terror mask).

DD is a lot messier. There's no way to guarantee success, but you can make plans to reduce the chance of absolute disaster and hopefully deal with it when it happens. The fun part is patching together a useful party out of your imperfect heroes, watching it fall apart, then snatching survival from the jaws of madness. But for that to mean anything, there has to be a real risk of failure. I guess it's a matter of taste.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:14 AM on January 30, 2017

The "you're a middle manager" aspect of DD is apt. I'm an a middle manager IRL and after sinking about 40 hours into DD two thoughts occurred to me:

1. This is like my job, why am I doing this for fun
2. Actually I wish my job was this fun tho

And ever since I've idly wished for a team management tool that works like DD. I'd love to be able to keep track of all my team members' skills AND dresses so I can tell them "hey, maybe you should take a week off and recharge" before they developed bad quirks etc
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:07 AM on January 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Love this game as well. Though there are some really great criticisms out there about how it's perhaps not actually much fun. Ha. The game is worth playing for the narration, anyway.
posted by chunking express at 7:17 AM on January 30, 2017

I think the people who say the game isn't fun are projecting. What they mean to say is "I am not having fun playing this game," to which I respond, "Maybe you should play a different game." The game is most certainly fun, but you've gotta like that really difficult tactical combat.

The combat is well tuned and there are many different solutions to the puzzle that each group of enemies presents. It is an extremely creative game, but when I hear people talk about it, they often praise low level dungeons for being able to take any random collection of heroes, so I'm guessing they're not very strategic personalities.

Soccer players shouldn't complain that Chess isn't fun.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:27 AM on January 30, 2017

Paging scenario writer ursurs comiter! Ursus comiter, please come to the blue courtesy phone.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:37 AM on January 30, 2017

Darkest Dungeons is one of my favourite games of all time. It also serves as a great starting point for discussions on roguelikes, randomness, and strategy.

I'm also something of a veteran roguelike player. Some of the comments above got me thinking that there's really two kinds of roguelikes. The first, the "classic roguelike", as demonstrated by Moria, Angband, Dungeon Crawl, etc., involves building up your character, and knowing monsters and dungeon features well enough so that every encounter can be overcome. A key feature of these games though, which is not often highlighted, is that you can rest after every fight.

Some great modern roguelikes are different in this regard. In FTL, Darkest Dungeons, and Escape the Gungeon, for example, you can't reset after a bad encouter, and bad encounters leave scars on your game that you may never recover from. Although there are a lot of similarities across these two groups (and a lot of differences within them), I find myself strategizing about them differently.

On one hand, in a classic roguelike game, your character can rest and reset the state of the character after every encounter, so that a given encouter only really goes badly if you die. Accordingly, in these games strategy breaks down into overcoming every encounter through a combination of monster knowledge and covering every contingency. On the other hand, in the alternative roguelikes, encounters are often easy to survive individually, but extract a long-term cost. And so the strategy in these games becomes ensuring that every encounter is profitable. In FTL, if you're not accumulating resources with each jump then you're going to lose in the long run. Darkest Dungeon doesn't have a fail state, but I think the frustration that a lot of people experience is the inability to reliably make profitable dungeon runs.

I don't mean to brag, but somehow I grokked Darkest Dungeons. I never had a party wipe, and I pretty steadily worked through the game until I beat it. I was even on my way to beating New Game+ (I think) until real life intruded (hello, first child!). Yes darkest dungeons has a a lot of brutal randomness, but the game quite explicitly tells you all the relevant probabilities, and so all of this randomness can be controlled. And yes, sometimes it will all go south anyway, in which case you run. Immediately. And bail on the dungeon. If you're relying on the random number generator to save you, then you've already lost.

Within this framework, all you have to do is make sure that the expected amount of resources that you're leaving a dungeon with is greater than what you had before (curios!). I've read many complaints that the randomness of Darkest Dungeon makes it less strategic. I think this is totally false, as managing randomness requires a tremendous amount of strategy. Many of these same complaints take issue with how trinkets in the game provide no clear benefit. Which is insane. A trinket can turn an invaluable skill from one which works 80% of the time into one which works 100% of the time, thereby pushing the black swan of a party wipe much further into the tail.

It's really interesting comparing Darkest Dungeons and Invisibles Inc on the subject of randomness. Invisibles Inc. has no randomness in combat, and it plays much more like a chess game. Some people would say that Invisibles Inc. is more strategic as a consequence. I think it just means that the strategy is different, and even though I also loved Invisibles Inc., I would still say that the strategy in Darkest Dungeons is deeper.

And all this being said, I have never had moments while gaming as intense as I have with Darkest Dungeons. Because for all I talked about controlling randomness, the game still go me, everyonce in a while, to pray to the random number generator and hang my fate on something I can't control. And then one of those bastard wizards in the back stresses your character on the brink, who loses it, and stresses out your other character, who loses it, and all seems lost, and then as your third character starts to break down from the stress... they have an epiphany, and save the day. And just as the game held you right over the abyss, it lends you a hand allowing you to pull yourself out again.

And my heart is pounding, and my knuckes are white, and my surviving heroes require weeks of intensive care, but they all made it. And we turned a profit (or at least avoided a major setback), and are moving forward. I don't think a game without randomness as brilliantly tuned as in Darkest Dungeons could provoke these kinds of experiences. Invisibles inc. came close, but it's not the same.

Man I loved Darkest Dungeons.
posted by Alex404 at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

Darkest Dungeon is Poker as far as randomness is concerned. Poker is not a game of chance; because the probabilities are known, it is iterated, and you can flee from combat. There are people who think it's a game of chance, however, and they are the fish.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 8:50 AM on January 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Shared this post with @BourassaArt, Co-Founder of Red Hook, Creative Director, Artist, Narrative on @DarkestDungeon. He agrees that this game has a lot in common with poker:
@sonicbooming @DarkestDungeon @metafilter very cool! The poker analogy is bang on. Something @tylersigman and I talked about from th start— January 30, 2017
posted by Fizz at 9:24 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

All this interesting talk and no one has lauded the awesome art?!
posted by dreamling at 9:33 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love this game to death, aesthetically. The narration, artwork, combat mechanics, and overall tone of dread are nigh-perfect.

Dat grind tho. I am a bad roguelike player (although I kind of take issue with DD being slapped with the RL label), and I can hardly get anywhere without losing patience.

I think my mistake was starting to play it in Early Access, before they'd added the "corpse" mechanic and the game was substantially easier.
posted by neckro23 at 9:40 AM on January 30, 2017

dreamling, I was honestly surprised at how gorgeous this game is. It's not an art-style that I expected, but it works so well. A part of me both wants and doesn't want an animated series to be made with the same style of art. It would probably ruin how much I enjoy this game, but still, to have a back story for some of these characters, I'd watch a few seasons of this.
posted by Fizz at 9:40 AM on January 30, 2017

All the interesting concepts and the visual designs in darkest dungeon are phenomenal, but honestly it doesn't make up for the lack of balancing and gameplay clarity. Because of the randomness of many of it's mechanics, it forces you to play in this tedious overly cautious way, which while thematically interesting, in execution it's not rewarding or fun at all(and really, a game has to be somewhat enjoyable to play,even if punishing). Don't even get me started on how garbage the trinket system is or how stats are calculated in such a weird way.

Darkest dungeon is a beautiful game with rich philosophical concepts, but it feels like playing a DnD campaign with a dungeon master who's set out to make the least fun, most confusing campaign you'll ever play through. I love the hell out of DD, and have beat it, but honestly it just felt so boringly tedious during the last 15 hours or so of play because of the grind. You have no control over how many fights will go, and that's just the fact of the game, but it doesn't balance any of the other aspects around that fact.

This video sums up a lot of the problems with this game very well.
posted by InkDrinker at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

My big annoyance was when I hit the "your higher level characters won't go to low level dungeons" wall and felt like it was just another kind of thrown in rule to make the game "hard." I checked out because I didn't feel like it was an enjoyable experience anymore.
posted by Ferreous at 2:43 PM on January 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

You have no control over how many fights will go, and that's just the fact of the game, but it doesn't balance any of the other aspects around that fact.

This isn't even the least bit true, though. You are significantly in control of how fights go, and "it doesn't balance any of the other aspects around that fact" is so vague as to be meaningless. I've played the game through twice (once on the initial difficulty and once on the harder one that unlocks after the first completion) and frankly your complaints sound like you played a completely different game. You certainly don't play Darkest Dungeon in a "tedious overly cautious" way if you're trying to be successful; the game is all about finding the fine line between getting home safe and getting all of the loot. This is true in the way you manage your pathing through the dungeon, whether you stick around after the objective, how you manage your light level, how you manage your inventory, and even in your party composition.

Darkest Dungeon for some reason, more than any other strategy game I've ever played, attracts people who just do not think they should have to learn how to play it. At one point on the Steam forums I was responding to someone asking for tips, and somebody else responded that they shouldn't listen to me and should instead just hire a bunch of level 1s, run them through a dungeon, and then fire them all instead of paying off their stress. When I pointed out (with a bit of math) that this is actually a far worse way to make money than just clearing dungeons with the troops you're actually leveling, the guy who suggested it responded "shut up idiot everybodys known this is the best way for a long time". This is a guy who had a topic on the same page claiming that the game is too grindy (and personally insulting the developers for it!), but he was just completely unwilling to hear the idea that he was grinding unnecessarily in a way that wasn't even helpful to him. And that's nothing compared to the weird Reddit rebellion bullshit that happened when the Corpse and Hound update came out. There so many people who feel that if they're not winning the game it's the developer's fault, no matter how little effort or thought they've put into playing it (and even if they've spent extra effort on being bad at it, as in the example above). I've been a part of the community for a lot of strategy games, and I don't think I've ever seen this behavior practiced by such a large portion of the community or to such a large degree.
posted by IAmUnaware at 4:55 AM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

If there is a problem with this game, I think it's the fact that while it doesn't have a Game Over condition (new game plus excluded), it DOES have a soft failure condition. If you play the game unskillfully and don't manage your resources correctly, you will reach a point where it is very difficult to continue. Not impossible, like in the case of a game over, but if you reach high levels and all your high level characters have triple hardenned quirks giving you extra RNG, and the game feels like a grind, you have failed.

I think people don't realize they've failed, and keep trying to push forward when they should restart and implement a better early-game strategy, and this is what causes them to get frustrated. The game could have done a better job of teaching players that they've lost.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 5:49 AM on January 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

(But for the rest of us, figuring that out on our own is the entire point)
posted by I-Write-Essays at 5:54 AM on January 31, 2017

Iamunaware, it was unnecessary to be so rude in your reply and put your gripes about the game's community onto me.

The point you highlighted has been true in my over 100 hours playing the game. Even if you stack speed and have a good comp, in the later darkest-dungeon areas, some fights will kill off a character in the first round just because turn order was not on your side, even if you're stacking speed(then there's the not unpleasant but not fun grind of regaining a character of that class up to champ level). I'd say boss battles and low level mobs are the only fights where you can be 100% sure of your strategies, bosses are especially good because they follow very distinct patterns and it's unlikely you'll fail if you take the time to learn their patterns. But in the Darkest Dungeon, there are enemies that can crit your entire health bar, and you can then get unlucky by getting a death blow before you get to your round. I had 2 save files running at once, doing very different things(one was suicide squads/low level farming and the other was keeping several groups of each level teir and trying not to lose anyone) and have had the problem with this end game grind from unlucky rolls in regular mob fights.

I also am kind of offended that you're implying my criticism/wanting the game to have improvements is a sign that I don't know how to play or have not learned enough about the game.
posted by InkDrinker at 5:02 PM on January 31, 2017

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