Darkest Dungeon – Review (Switch)
Tough and unforgiving, yet keeps you coming back.
After a highly successful Kickstarter campaign and numerous console releases, Red Hook Studios has brought Darkest Dungeon to the Nintendo Switch. Combining RPG dungeon crawling with XCOM like permadeath, along with a dark and dreary ascetic, Darkest Dungeon is tough, unforgiving and will continue to punish you when you’re down. Despite its high difficulty, you’ll find yourself wanting to come back and give it another go.
Darkest Dungeon begins with a letter from your ancestor pleading you to return to your family estate. After years of living in luxury, the ancestor grew bored and began to dig below the mansion in search of a gateway to what rumors called a “fabulous and unnameable power.” Squandering the family fortune on laborers and expeditions below, he did indeed find a portal. Instead of power, he found an unspeakable evil. Oops! He begs you to return to reclaim the lost manor from the clutches of the Darkest Dungeon.
Once settled outside the estate, you’ll be recruiting new characters on your expeditions, as well as upgrading your base camp. Fifteen unique classes can join your camp, allowing for countless strategies and combinations. You’ll be taking four heroes with you on expeditions, and understanding team composition is a must in order to survive. Once you’ve selected a team and stocked up on torches, food and other important items, the meat of the game begins.
Each of Darkest Dungeons levels are randomly generated with different objectives such as exploring all rooms or defeating all of the enemy encounters. As you explore the dungeons, torches dictate many factors and only experienced players will dare to let them go out. Light from torches will give you an equal footing with enemies and even let you sneak up on them for the first attack. Going dark will make enemy attacks devastating, but will also yield more loot to upgrade your camp. For newer players, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re stocked up.
The most unique aspect of the combat is the stress levels of your heroes. There are a myriad of ways your character’s stress can increase, and even simply walking in the dungeons can make it go up. Luckily, there are ways for stress levels to go down, such as landing critical hits. Regardless, stress is a ticking time bomb in the dungeon, and your heroes will reach a breaking point. When 100 Stress Points are reached, heroes will break and either gain a strong negative or positive quirk (Darkest Dungeon’s name for character trait buffs/debuffs) for the remainder of the dungeon, though we’ve found it to be more likely to be negative. When you return from the dungeons, you will bring back loot and items to upgrade characters and buildings, but stressed heroes that should remain at the base to relax at the bar or pray at the church to heal before going out on another expedition. Thus the cycle begins anew of gathering heroes and supplies, scouring the depths of the dungeon and returning for upgrades.
The main draw of playing Darkest Dungeon on the Switch is the portability. The game looks great docked and in handheld, though the text can be a bit small at times. When playing with the console in handheld mode, the game can be played via the touchscreen, much like the iPad version. The button controls can be confusing at times, but after spending some time with them you’ll have no problem getting around the menus. The most intuitive thing is using both buttons and the touchscreen in conjunction, getting the best of both worlds.
Our recommendation: Darkest Dungeon is tough. Real tough. It’s hard to put into words, but sometimes the luck of the battle feels interesting and unpredictable while other times it can feel unfair and unrewarding. If you are dedicated to learning the systems and meta, there is a lot to unpack. The Switch version feels great, especially when using both the button and touch controls. As is the case with many Switch ports, the flexibility to take it on the go with you is a huge bonus, and the games art looks crisp on the Switch’s screen If you’re willing to get pushed around and enjoy the stress of unpredictability, Darkest Dungeon is right down your ally.
Author: Dustin Furman
Dustin first started making videos by making Kingdom Hearts music videos set to Linkin Park songs when he was 10. Now, he works full time producing videos and is obsessed with Persona. Started the #BringBackTomba movement.
You can follow Dustin on Twitter @DustinCanFly