So, buying early access to the Darkest Dungeon was due to a fun review by Aywren over at Clean Casuals. Many that I respect, such as Leo over at Leo’s Life make a very fair argument that there is danger in buying in early and while I am wary the honest truth is a lot of the fun I am having in gaming right now is split between AAA titles (DA:I, The Last of Us) and yet-finished games (Project Zomboid, The Darkest Dungeon). I spent a TON of time in Landmark in the past as well, although my interest has largely waned there (for now) I have received a lot of value for my dollars on early access and pay for alpha – so far. I haven’t dabbled in H1Z1 but I suppose it’s just a few stability patches away for me, as I am a big fan of the genre.
I have played 11 weeks in DaDu (must acronym, we must, and DD is taken for all sorts of other things) and it is a quirky bunch of fun. At some point during the first campaign play through I thought it would be fun to record a new campaign – with a twist. All of the Dungeoneers are going to be from my blogroll. The twist is that in my 11 week campaign I already have 8 dead party members with all sort of mental and physical afflictions, and some still living. Chances are our favorite blog writers will also meet unwelcome fates. Perhaps I need to define “fun” a bit broader, but I feel it is time for an adventure together. Against their will.
I set some basic rules. The first is that after the first two characters (which will show up in the story section here) I will add new characters from top of my blogroll down – at that exact moment that I am needing new characters. They will be added assuming that they haven’t been added yet and they aren’t dead yet. Thankfully the game has a handy graveyard to visit the fallen. Since my blogroll updates automatically when people publish it will make for a good bit of randomization.
The second rule is that I won’t run away unless it is really dire (which is the way I played the campaign). If one is low, but three are very healthy, then we trudge on and hope for the best. I also don’t stop for any stress related issues to the character’s psyche.
Third is that I don’t knowingly push the group further than completion unless they are in good shape. I’m not purposefully going to hurt our blog community named characters for the sake of interesting story telling!
Lastly, anyone over three stress points or more after an adventure will get paid relief in the tavern or the church. I’ll explain that mechanic in more detail. This isn’t going to be a tutorial as much as a story event but I’ll fill in some explanations along the way in the first few adventures. I will take a lot of screenshots and do my best to archive the adventures of the group here.
Name of the campaign? That is simple!
Eventually BlogNation will stick. It has too. Heck, even Red Sox fans are smart enough to figure it out.. back to the Campaign!
From the first playthrough I know you start off with two characters, and I gave the honor of the first Crusader to Aywren from Clean Casuals because she inspired me to buy the game in the first place. I took the second character, the Highwayman, as myself. The interface is clean and simple, and your party only faces to the right. Kind of like a reverse medieval Nascar. The emotional impact on your characters is often as brutal as one of their 20 car pileups.
Hopefully you get a proper taste on this play through over the next several weeks.
And we are off. The picture above shows the art style – it is something I have really enjoyed about the game. It is simple but fits the setting. Hint: the setting gets pretty grim.
At one point during our trip to the Hamlet Aywren became really low on health and she hid behind me. A lot of confidence in her as my main tank already. She also made the fun comment about “There will be no blood left for the leeches” after getting hit and I am sharing that because a portion of the fun is the reaction of the characters. While this one is very tame compared to others you will see it still shows a bit of the flavor.
Thankfully we are victorious! One of the fun parts of the game is that when you level you have a chance to get positive or negative traits. After our brief encounter Aywren got a positive one – Clutch Hitter – and I had both a positive (Steady) and a negative (Dipsomania). I had no clue what Dipsomania meant, and thankfully the tooltip showed me I have intense cravings for alcohol. [caught a spelling error there, my version is correct. Extra points?] They may have me pegged. Clearly I am a closet alcoholic because I have the ‘Steady’ trait as well. It will be interesting to see what those traits mean in combat scenarios – and they do play out often and with sometimes disastrous effects. Fortunately, this was just the tutorial portion so it went smoothly and easily.
A party of two isn’t nearly as much fun as a party of four (the default size, at least in the lower levels) and my blogroll was updated – the next two are WelshTroll and Murf! (congratulations?) In between adventures you can visit the stagecoach where a new batch of potential future party members await – you can scroll their their traits and skills and select based on need. Or just choose top to bottom like I have. WelshTroll is the Vestal, a cleric style archetype and Murf is a Plague Doctor, who tosses all sorts of poisons and concoctions. I am not going to editorialize here with any real world crossover similarities.
You can also improve these (and other buildings) with the loot and rewards you find. It is a fun little part of the game.
Our new party put together goes on our first adventure together. So far there are two mission types you can start with – Skirmish (clear all room battles in the dungeon ) and that is often a random amount (I have had 3-5) and the second is explore 90% of the dungeon tiles. Early on, Skirmish mode is much easier. I have seen ‘short’ and ‘medium’ missions.
Before starting off on the mission you get to pick your party members, pick your order, and provision. Provisions are things you buy that you take with you, but they are all expended after the dungeon (completed or not) – so don’t overbuy. On short missions typically 8 torches and 8 rations plus a shovel to move debris will suffice.
In the above graphic the torch burns down and needs to be replenished from your inventory The bottom right is the tile map of the areas of the dungeon you can explore. Positioning is important because different classes can only attack different slots of the order for the other side. Melee only need to be in the first two (typically) and ranged can reach much further. Different skills can move you forward and back and different attacks can also rearrange your enemies – it is all part of the strategy. As well, you can use the ‘move’ action and put yourself in a different place in the line. It does count as your attack though.
This was interesting – when you find random items (books, bodies, backpacks, etc.) you can typically click on them and collect items – or spring traps and get hurt. So far, I have tried to open/use 100% of them and they seem to err on the side of bad. That makes sense in this setting. Still, you have to click them all. I dare you to try not to. Back to the above – as I approached one of these items Aywren said the above and looted it without me controlling her – and the items didn’t go into our shared inventory, they went *poof*. I hadn’t seen that yet so I opened her character screen and lo and behold:
Aywren is a Kleptomaniac. I’m sure she will be proud to hear that. The tooltip explains they she is prone to stealing items. Aywren is really starting to grow on me. I hope she doesn’t die too soon in these adventures.
We trudge through our first adventure without a single death or psychosis – which is amazing and a shame at the same time. The picture above shows how close to snapping Murf actually was – the white bar is the “stress” bar. When characters max out on the white bar they have a chance to gain a negative trait which includes things such as Masocism and Hopelessness. There is also a much smaller chance they will rise above the stress and gain a positive traid such as Courage. This affects (in often serious ways) the outcome of your adventures. Anyway, I was really hoping to see Murf snap here but he persevered, often by the clutch healing of WelshTroll who not only stayed the highest health but had the least amount of stress.
The stress mechanic really separates this game from others and makes it super quirky and fun. I guarantee it will happen during subsequent adventures and I’ll definitely be hovering over the screen grab when it does.
The result of our adventures is some stress and some new traits. I have become a Hemophiliac, Aywren has received the positive Hard Noggin trait, and so on. These all stack with existing traits. You can remove some (for a hefty cost) in the Sanitarium in the Hamlet, but that doesn’t sound like a lot of fun now, does it?While you immediately get all of your health back you need to “de-stress” your characters to try and avoid the inevitable stress calamities. The two places are the Abbey and the Tavern – with different activities at each. These can also be upgraded for various benefits. Depending on the level of stress there is a cost and a time they are unavailable to you (which is why you end up with a large roster in this game – due to deaths and downtime, it is needed). Still – there is risk here as well. Gamble too much and you can get addicted, and yes, I had a character get Syphilis in my other campaign from the Brothel. This game doesn’t give you a break anywhere. Murf and Isey go to the Abbey to shake off the horrors they were exposed to in the dungeon.
Hopefully this play though set a nice stage – it definitely didn’t capture the brutalness and hilarity of the game when things start to go worng (and they always seem to in this game…) I think it is because I have a lot more practice from the first campaign, and the first dungeon isn’t that incredibly hard – plus I had luck and randomness on my side.
Who will die first? Who will get some crazy affliction? Stay tuned, I’ll update during the week!