Saturday, October 1, 2016

Game Diary - Darkest Dungeon and colossal .GIFs.

Humble .GIFs, but it's about 10MB worth so I'm puttin' in behind a page break.

Darkest Dungeon may well be the last great indie for the Vita.  There are more on the horizon, of course - Cosmic Star Heroine, Shantae: 1/2 Genie Hero and others remain on the way - but I can't say those will be among The Great Indies On Vita.

And we know there are some Great Indies On Vita.  This is the platform where luminaries of the space - Don't Starve, Guacamelee, Severed, Limbo, The Binding of Isaac, Hotline Miami, Olli Olli, Shovel Knight, Velocity 2X, Spelunky, Bastion, Crypt of the Necrodancer and Rogue Legacy all just chill out together - and Darkest Dungeon, to me, is one of the all-time greats.

I don't know that it can replace Don't Starve as the pinnacle of the indie form, but it's sitting in the same room, way, way in the back of the club - behind four other increasingly-exclusive rooms, four increasingly-luxurious velvet ropes and four increasingly-intimidating sets of bouncers -  chilling on a chaise-lounge across from Klei's masterwork, sipping deliriously expensive champagne and getting in to super-deep conversations about game design.

It's definitely one of my favorite games of all time - or at least, it sure was on PC.

Long-time readers of this blog are aware - I have a thing for Darkest Dungeon.

  • As soon as it appeared, I consumed and blogged every smidgen of media that appeared for the game, 
  • I spent years harassing the studio and Sony execs to bring it to Vita, 
  • I binge-watched streams of the game in the (aptly-named!) Weekend of Torment that saw dozens upon dozens of stramers playing the game before its Early Access release, 
  • I became a (gasp!) PC gamer for the better part of 2015, and put... let me check Steam... 181 hours into the game's Early Access. 
It's spectacular.  

Now, in the week since the game's launch on PlayStation - if you've been following them on Twitter - developer Red Hook has been fielding complaints of crashes and bugs in the PlayStation versions. 

They quickly assembled a first patch, and it went live last night.  Kayla reports that it wiped her save file :(  I'd had a few crashes on Vita, but it was never something last lost me progress, and I was more than prepared to accept a small inconvenience in order to play one of my favorite games of all time.  Red Hook was, classically, phenomenally responsive to issues on PC - often releasing a patch a few hours after an early access update to address problems.  It was gorgeous.  

The PlayStation bugs aren't the only sand in its console release, though.  Darkest Dungeon's user interface, on PlayStation, is... weird.  It sees you going through multiple menus, and requires you to often open two at one time, but how to access one menu (your hero roster) changes depending on whether or not you already have another open.  

It's phenomenally counter-intuitive.  I don't think I have the answer for how its UI should work, but it was not easy to acclimate myself to after the incredibly simple, intuitive mouse-and-sometimes-shift-and-CTRL scheme on PC.  It took some getting used to in a big way, and it's definitely a hurdle to the gamer's enjoyment of what is, already, an incredibly unforgiving game.  

That said, after a few hours, I'm used to it, and I'm zipping through dungeons as quickly as I ever did on PC.  Yes, it's a bit complicated, but it also permits the user to have access to the dizzying amount of information Darkest Dungeon presents without omission - I can see that this Cultist has 3 HP and is currently suffering from a 4HP/turn DoT from my Plague Doctor, so I'll use this turn to blast this eldrich horror with the Jester's finale. 

So last night, I had one fantastic comp game on Overwatch, switched over to Quick Play for some low-pressure fun, and as the evening wore on I found myself wanting to check out Darkest Dungeon on PS4.  I had a smoke, grabbed my Vita, uploaded the save, downloaded it to my PS4 and looked at where my peeps were at.  Then, I remembered what I told Kayla the other day, and what I tell the world anytime someone requests starting-up advice for Darkest Dungeon:

So I took a peek at my highest-rank heroes, and determined I needed some cash money to get their skills and gear where I wanted them to be - maybe send them to the Survivalist to get some dope-ass camping skills.  Then, I assembled a team of level zeroes, gave them enough food to maybe survive 'till the end of a dungeon, handed them one shovel and tossed them into the Weald.

It was the group in the GIF above - two Occultists, a Plague Doctor and a Grave Robber - not great DPS and no tanks, and they made it to the end, bringing home about eight or ten thousand.  The Grave Robber and Plague Doctor had both lost their minds, but they'd done a great job.  Naturally, I then kicked them out of my hamlet and went to the stagecoach.  I put together an even stupider group and threw them into a medium-length run.

No level zero should even be attempting a medium-length run.

The Grave Robber's Gallows Humor skill lightens the mood at camp. The Antiquarian is on the right.

It was ridiculous.  An Occultist in the back, a Grave Robber, an Abomination in the second tank slot (he's useless in the first position), and because I needed something at the front of the line, an Antiquarian tanking.  Which is insane.  The Antiquarian doesn't have... any good skills.  She can buff the party with +Dodge from the back line, but that's kind of a wasted attack or heal, her single attack is pretty meh, but...

The Antiquarian's passive ability allows her to find valuable antiques that your party will not discover if she's not there, opening that chest or bag of luggage.  The Antiquarian will find valuable shit, constantly, and she was just there to make this just-in-it-for-the-money dungeon run a bit more profitable, if possible.  I was just hoping she wouldn't immediately die, in the tanking position.

She did not.

I made camp far too early - after just two rooms - and it did not look like they were getting our of there alive.  But it worked.  Somehow it just worked.  Two, three rounds would go by without the Occultist landing a single heal that wasn't a big green zero, but they pulled through.  Nearly all of the team's DPS was served up by the Grave Robber, executing backrow stress-bombers with her Thrown Dagger, obliterating tanks with her Poison Dart - while the Abomination just stunned what he could (only in ranks 2 and 3, making him literally-useless when the enemy teams were down to a single foe), and the Antiquarian had nothing to do but swing her little dagger.

But they pulled through.  And I went home twenty grand richer.

Darkest Dungeon on PlayStation may have its problems, but those kind of disappear when you can turn the other cheek to the occasional crashes and come to grips with its counter-intuitive menu controls.  Once you slip past those, it's Darkest Dungeon on your Vita.

So I know what I'm doing for the rest of the day.  It involves this couch, maybe a werewolf movie and an under-appreciated handheld.

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