Years after closing the book on the Darkest Dungeon, I was thrilled to discover that the latest Steam Next Fest offered a demo of the soon to be released Darkest Dungeon 2; I finished my–predictably bloody–first sojourn into what is promising to be as massive a game as the first one. This is once m0re a roguelite game, but rather than one that sees you camping out in a town and venturing into zones corrupted and maligned, the way that you did in the first one, Darkest Dungeon 2 invites you to choose four of twelve characters and build relationships among them as you travel in your caravan, bearers of the world’s last hope.
The Lovecraftian tone that made of the first one an instant classic in the genres of dark fantasy and cosmic horror is back in much the same way it was before, rendered by the voiceover of Wayne June. I can’t describe just how revitalizing it is to have this talented voice actor bringing to life untold horrors through the vivid writing of developer Red Hook Studios. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Wayne June talk about ruin.
The gameplay loop is much changed through this — you’re always on the road, and the death of your characters is no longer a minor inconvenience or even massive frustration that you can nonetheless remedy through several trips to the closest infernal horror. There are dozens of locations, which you reach through a very typical roguelike map, one that offers you a selection of choices. Picking one path locks others; I came to regret picking one location over another at least once in my time with the demo.
Yet, the gameplay loop has kept the arguably greatest part of the original, the combat, while enhancing it visually and adding many new options. No longer confined to 2D, the artstyle has embraced the third dimension and looks beyond stunning. As for the new combat options, you’ll have to work for those once the game comes out–to unlock each and every combat skill demands that you go to specific locations in your travels. They make up the bulk of the progression you keep after each run. These unlock not only skills but also the lore behind each character. I loved finding a little about the Plague Doctor, a lovecraftian scientist if there has ever been one:
I also loved my encounter with one of the early zones’ boss locations, the library. Rather than a single-battle location like many others, this is a three-tiered fight which tests the party’s endurance with two waves of mobs before forcing you to face the Librarian, a foe whose initial slow burn can turn frenzied if you don’t stop him from burning the three piles of books that spawn with him. I got the logic of it easily enough but I also got greedy and I ended up overextending, destroyed only one stack of books rather than all three. So of course he burned my poor party of novices to dust. I could’ve gotten to the end of the demo easily enough if I’d picked a different route, but what would be the fun of missing out on one of the game’s main attractions? Indeed, I speak of death by fire.
Information on Darkest Dungeon 2 is by no means scarce. The game has been in Early Access on the Epic Game Store for a few years now, much like the first game. I’ve played Darkest Dungeon for hundreds of hours without ever feeling like I’d seen everything there was to see. I’ve been waiting for its sequel to come out for a long time now and the only reason I didn’t play it straight out of Early Access is because it’s on the EGS, and I think that store is still not great – to put it mildly. That said, I am going to struggle not to buy it and play the cosmic horror out of it – I’m riding high on this demo. If you’d like to experience it for yourselves, Steam Next Fest is running through all the way to February 13…you should give it a try.
Since Steam Next Fest is an event that allows gamers to experience hundreds of demos of video games that are close to release, I will do my best to try out another few of them and report my discoveries about each and every one a few days from now. Sound good? Good!
Leave a Reply