Developed by Red Hook Studios, Darkest Dungeon 2 is the much-anticipated sequel to Darkest Dungeon. This renowned challenging roguelike, turn-based tactical RPG set in a dark fantasy world tests players, once again, to brave the unknown and press forward.
The world is bleak. At every turn, oblivion, and chaos seep deeper into humanity. Shrouded in consuming darkness, your stagecoach travels across broken lands. A bright light, however, fastens itself high at the rear signifying hope. A glimmer of optimism for whatever horrors await. It burns brilliantly, bolstering courage and strength for our heroes.
In Darkest Dungeon 2, this is how your chosen party of four moves about in the world. Your carriage wheels through 4 major regions present in each of the 5 campaign runs referred to as Confessions. Each campaign presents a story narrated by returning voice actor Wayne June, now The Academic. June’s notable gravelly voice remains the player’s singular sense of human warmth in the desolate hellscape. With only sensory sounds like wooden wheels rattling between the cracks of battered roads, cries of the undead, and the sything of blades against the flesh, you’ll take any sort of commentary you can get to hold onto some sense of humanity. Perhaps even sanity.
Still retaining some of its former 2D art styles, this sequel adds a 3D flair. Animated movements complement the classic heavy line-weight silhouette players grew to know from Darkest Dungeon. In combat, heroes and combatants still sway while idle. Before executing an action, however, is where an easily missable 3D visual experience can be underappreciated. Stances shift, and there’s something oddly gratifying seeing your Man-At-Arms’ slowly draw back his mace to position while hearing it scrap across the tattered Earth after an (if you’re lucky) critical blow.
Meanwhile, a subtle crescent dust trail from a mighty two-handed overhead swing feels effortlessly heroic from the Leper. For a moment, you might even sense the weighted burden of his broken blade. Added touches like these make our heroes feel more dimensional, adding character to our inaudible heroes. (A timely gesturing “tee-hee” from the Jester got me every time.)
Darkest Dungeon 2 houses 12 playable heroes. Each is unique in combat and has rerolled stats every time, which consist of a positive or negative quirk. These randomized positive and negative quirks can help and simultaneously hinder heroes through battle. While this can feel frustrating and baffling, that’s part of the point. Working with what you have and making the most of unfavorable circumstances. Just like in Darkest Dungeon, negative quirks can be removed, but you’ll have to find a Field Hospital.
In this sequel, players must journey to destination points like the Field Hospital instead of reconvening at The City, where all your needs to prepare for the next expedition reside. A minimap can be toggled anytime to see the varying routes. If you decide to head for a Watchtower, it will reveal any unscouted locations in that region. The minimap is a useful tool to try and plan for what lies ahead. One of the few new locations are Shrines. Shrines of Reflection is a new feature where players can learn more about our heroes. It is where they confront their past and how players unlock more abilities. Thankfully, once players unlock an ability for a hero, it isn’t gone forever and carries over in future runs should they inevitably get killed. But there’s a counter to this oddly placed blessing, right? Of course.
When a hero falls in combat, they cannot be used again until the next one. Additionally, if your hero leveled up from successful runs, that experience will be lost, and that hero will start back at a base level. Should your team somehow survives after losing a hero (or heroes), the corpse of the fallen can be taken back to an Inn, and Candles can be redeemed. Candles of Hope are used to unlock and upgrade heroes, purchase items, and much more.
Darkest Dungeon 2 is challenging. It lets players know right from the beginning that they will fail. Over and over and over again. And you do. It feels more aggressive in how it wants players to play this time. It’s subtle, but the difference was there for me as I ran my courses. Healers, like the Vestal class, don’t heal as often. Instead, certain conditions need to be met (i.e., target HP less than 25%) to heal and have cooldowns. This means, on some level, players will need to be more on the offensive and embrace more of the tactical side. New combat mechanics shake up the idea of needing a “designated healer” since your party can heal in other ways.
Admittedly, Darkest Dungeon 2 had me feeling mixed at first. A lot of what I knew and grew to love about Darkest Dungeon got reworked in some way, and I was bound to a memory of something familiarly “easier.” Ultimately, this sequel feels more fleshed out, and I grew to appreciate the direction it took, giving our heroes more life by giving them backstories and how they interacted with each other in the world. The core of what made Darkest Dungeon so enjoyable for me was still there: that weird, punishing feeling of being so overly confident in a battle for it to turn sideways real quick—the audible victorious cry when all surely seemed dire. Veterans of the title will still revel in what an expedition might bring in the darkest dungeon.
Darkest Dungeon 2 is now available on Epic Game Store and Steam.
Darkest Dungeon 2
Darkest Dungeon 2 had me feeling mixed at first. Ultimately, this sequel feels more fleshed out, and I grew to appreciate the direction it took, giving our heroes more life by giving them backstories and how they interacted with each other in the world.
Katherine is a writer and occasional Twitch streamer often found sharing her fondness for most things indie and diverse. Covering video games and tv/film she hopes to inspire thoughtful conversation for titles in these mediums.