Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Darkest Dungeon? Darkest Dungeon.
I laughed out loud and clasped my hands in joy, yesterday, about ten minutes after I arrived home from work, because Darkest Dungeon does, in fact, run on my computer. Runs perfectly, perhaps I should note. No slowdown, no problems whatsoever - which is a bit weird, actually, because my computer will start glitching out on iTunes playback when I'm opening too many tabs in Chrome.
Having failed to support the Kickstarter when it Kickstarted, and kicking myself for that ever since, I naturally sprung for the most expensive early access version of the game they had, for the paltry sum of twenty-seven dollars. This granted me the (unfinished) game and its (unfinished) soundtrack, which I can't help but listen to as I'm cooking.
I commented to Kayla, yesterday, that I can't recall ever having been this hyped for a game - and she agreed, she's never seen me like this. Obsessed is the perfect word for it, I think, but Kayla disagrees. "What's above obsessed? Darkest Dungeon for you is all-consuming."
Which is accurate.
All last weekend, I was glued to streamers playing the game - having never, ever watched a game being streamed before in my entire life - watching Darkest Dungeon became not only my favorite show, but my single favorite thing to do at any given moment of the day. Home from work? Darkest Dungeon streams. In bed, about to fall asleep? A Darkest Dungeon stream is on the tube.
I absorbed everything I could. I was planning team builds in my head. I was frustrated beyond measure that no one had put together a Wiki or something in which I could examine, in detail, every (available) classes combat skills and what, precisely, the upgraded versions granted you. I wanted a skill calculator and detailed strats.
I cannot remember ever being so singularly hyped for a game in my life - and now I have it. I've played it. I'm up to like, week eight.
How is it?
It's fucking awesome.
It's also... indescribable, in condensed terms. "Hardcore tactical turn-based 2D dungeon-crawler" is accurate, yet not. Not accurate enough. That's like calling Uncharted 2 a third-person shooter or XCOM a tactics game. That's accurate, and yet wholly inappropriate.
The game is resolute. Its systems dovetail and overlap and compete with each other for your attention, time and hard-earned resources. Wanna' upgrade your guild so you can access tier-two skills for your level-one heroes? Well, that means you won't be upgrading your blacksmith, so forget having better weapons for them. Your main healer has absolutely lost her shit, and refuses any sort of anti-stress treatment - want to spend thirteen hundred gold to send her to the asylum? Well, that means you won't have any money to finance your next expedition, but that's your call, man. Your call.
I am living week-to-week, expedition-to-expedition, and I have sacrificed so much, to make it this far.
Red Hook weren't kidding when they described their game as one of tough choices and sacrifices, and much like the insubstantial phrase "tactics game," that's something that's easier to read and grasp than it is to really understand. The game is absolutely unforgiving. It punishes the slightest indiscretion if you make a foolish choice in the face of danger, and its random number generator will punish you yet further through no fault of your own. Meet a crew of brigands? If you can't shut down their Fusiliers, at least, your team is kinda' fucked. Like, you're just fucked.
And Darkest Dungeon is totally cool with killing all your favorite heroes and sending you home with absolutely nothing to show for their efforts. ...but like the best ultra-challenging games to come before it - like Dark Souls and XCOM - it's not a game about how bad you got your ass kicked. It's about how luminous a single, tiny flame can be, when it blooms forth from the blackest shadows.
Last night - my very first day with the game - I hit my lowest low. My previous expedition had utterly failed, with all hands lost - a complete waste of the money invested in supplies for their journey, and the money invested in the heroes themselves.
I had no cash, and a stable of stressed-out adventurers who could not be sent into another quest without losing their collective shit. So I did what any (obsessed) heir to a (cursed) homeland would do - I recruited four totally-green heroes from the stage coach and threw them in to a medium-sized (see: too long) dungeon to hunt the Apprentice Necromancer (see: impossible).
I spent what remained of my meagre fortune on food for them - a mere seven pieces - and without a single torch, without a single shovel or vial of holy water, I bade them go forth, unto their doom.
"Come back with riches. Come back with gold and glory, or do not come back at all!"
And they went. Beyond all hope or reason, they descended into that mad labyrinth.
Their torchlight faded, and before long they forged ahead in a darkness that was all-consuming. Threats leapt up from all sides, but with the careful application of combat stuns and vicious blows from the Grave Robber and Hellion - and a path well-chosen by yours truly - they made it all the way to the boss's room intact.
Just before, they struck camp. They healed their wounds, they took comfort in their companionship, and then I threw them against that accursed fiend.
They shattered against it - going mad, one by one. Falling into despair and thence into the grave.
The human mind. Fragile. Like a robin's egg.
In the end, only the Crusader escaped. His consciousness frayed, his body broken, he fled the Necromancer and the dungeon and staggered back in to town with a nervous tic and sack, heavy with the treasure his comrades had died collecting.
I dismissed him. Sent him on his way. He was no more use to me than a broken pencil.
For me, there is only the terrible obsession. All-consuming, as Kayla would say.
The gold that Crusader brought back, I invested in more worthy heroes. The treasures I invested in my burgeoning town, and I felt no remorse. Not for his shattered mind. Not for his fallen friends.
I shall claim my birthright. These villains will not keep me from it!
You there, what's your name? Come, lad, come. Get out of that stagecoach. Why yes, I can promise you adventure.
Why yes, I can promise you riches. And so much more. Let me show you the way to the Warrens. Have you heard of the Swine Prince?
Of course I'll finance your journey. Here, a feast's worth of food!
Now, my Son, listen close. I have some advice for you.
When you descend into that place... mind your head.