Shining a Light on “Darkest Dungeon”

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Photo courtesy of Red Hook Studios.

The cover of “Darkest Dungeon.”

Lucy Samuels, Staff Writer

“This game does not respect you,” says Red Hook game developer Chris Bourassa, co-creator of the gothic turn-based cosmic horror RPG (Role Playing Game), Darkest Dungeon. Darkest Dungeon (DD) is a relatively new game I have come across, and like most, it has taken up the majority of my Steam hours on my PC. The game is known for being tricky and punishing, and most of all, stressful, with its permadeath mechanic securing a character’s indefinite death and its high-intensity battles throughout the many dungeons. This game has come to be one of my favorites, despite the stress it causes me. The stress is made up for in its charming and fun gameplay that keeps me coming back for more. 

Red Hook Studios was founded in 2013 by game developers Chris Bourassa and Tyler Sigman who are now an independent studio known for DD. The game’s most pivotal mechanic is the knowledge of the game itself, making players dive ever deeper into their dungeon-crawling sessions. DD offers hundreds of characters of varying strengths, weaknesses, and even personality traits, allowing for countless play styles that accompany the many dungeons. 

The variety of character types were created specifically to keep DD fresh with heroes playing off the classic RPG archetypes such as “The Crusader,” as the main sword-wielding class, or “The Vestal” as the well-rounded healer. Other, more specific classes include “The Houndmaster,” who roams dungeons with his damage-dealing dog, or “The Jester,” who helps in “stress” healing a character, which is unique to DD. Red Hook was determined to capture what it means to be a hero, and that includes the hardships of battle, such as witnessing a party member die or getting dealt a hefty amount of damage. If not managed, characters can buckle under the stress or, less likely, become virtuous to help their teammates. When playing DD I’ve found it’s like managing a team instead of actually playing a character. You place certain characters in certain places and they may or may not do what you want to your liking, or they simply might not do it at all. DD is a game that always has me on the edge of my seat.

Each type of dungeon is different. For example, the Cove offers a nightmarish aquatic atmosphere with bruised and battered sea creatures and pirates, whereas the Weald is home to fungi-ridden creatures like sentient mushrooms and half-dead wolves being kept alive by the fungal infection on their fur. The art in this game is anything but normal; in fact, it’s quite unsettling. It’s dark, it’s scary, and it’s dramatic. Shadows cover all of the characters’ eyes and envelop most of the scenery in the game. The uniqueness of the use of shadows is not only visually compelling; it is also symbolic of the game’s nature of the horrors of the hero’s journey and all of the terrifying things your heroes will face. 

DD is available on most up-to-date gaming platforms. I play it on PC, but I’ve always wanted to have it on my Nintendo Switch because of how much easier it is to boot up the game. The easier the access, the better. It has been my introduction to the world of dungeon crawlers, and I guarantee it will have me playing more!