All of my Darkest Dungeon 2 characters hate each other and I’m having a good time
By far the biggest change in Darkest Dungeon 2 is the fact that all of my adventurers absolutely despise each other. This is, of course, in addition to their normal descent into panic madness, bad habits, illness and associated trauma both physical and mental. With Darkest Dungeon 2, Red Hook shifted the window from a rotating cast of committed adventurers to a single persistent group. And my party is toxic AF.
What used to be a campaign-wide roguelike where individual failures weren’t necessarily fatal has grown into a race-oriented game where the goal is to go further in each race than the last time. Taking some of its new structure from other roguelikes, as you unlock new heroes, items, afflictions, and quirks they are added to the game pool, expanding the overall range of a race’s possibilities. .
It’s a true reinvention of the Darkest Dungeon structure, which borrows from FTL and The Oregon Trail (I’ll note here that Dysentery has been added to the game) to forge something new, but familiar. Forcing characters to have long-term relationships with a specific party means managing their sanity is more important than ever. Take Grave Robber Audrey, for example: She resents the man-at-arms Barristan, jealous of the plague doctor Paracelsus, and is four out of six points about forging a hateful relationship with Highwayman Dismas. Your average family road trip, in other words.
In combat, these “distressed” relationships wreak havoc. Sometimes when Paracelsus succeeds to damage an enemy Audrey takes a point of stress. Why? She is mad at Barristan for not protecting her, so when he uses his guard ability on other characters, his stress almost always increases. 10 stress points and a character crashes, dropping to low health in an instant and often picking up a new quirk as they do.
VIDEO: A 60-second summary of how quickly things can go wrong.
It’s a whole new spiral of failure and misery for Darkest Dungeon. When things go wrong, it’s not just one character that suffers, it’s the whole dynamic of your group. Audrey eventually racked up so many hateful relationships that most of the turns were bad for her, leading to a spiral of further negative quirks, including a curious move into both spaces. and time.
Darkest Dungeon 2‘s repeat structure isn’t just a gimmick. The world is taking off, the types of Eldritch and Cosmic enemies mentioned in the first game win, and their cult has grown powerful. Something deeper is happening, a profound alteration of space and time, although with only a dozen hours under my belt, I have yet to dig very deep.
Despite how much the world is broken, the unique style of Darkest Dungeon 2 is once again impeccable. Red Hook made the transition to 3D with aplomb, the chunky-line art style that defined the first game is stunning, and the modern beginnings of its setting are still a delight. That’s not to say that there isn’t a lot of beautiful 2D art, but the vibrancy of 3D models in combat removes all the rigidity from the animation. Movements that seemed jerky in the first game look more like cinematic, with dynamic lighting rejecting models as pistol barrels flicker or daggers clash.
However, none of that outburst helps Grave Robber Audrey and her party in the first round. They hate each other too much, and while I love how they look in action, they end up losing their front line: in a city on fire, man-at-arms Barristan falls under an onslaught of red-skinned waxy monstrosities.
There are a lot of new lessons to be learned in order to be successful in Darkest Dungeon 2. The battles along the road to the dams have time limits: you will inevitably cross, but if you take more than five rounds to kill the enemies, you will not. ‘Get no loot or rewards, including valuable new mastery points. Finished the levels, instead you spend Mastery to upgrade the individual skills of the characters in the inns between the new regions of the world. The ability to quickly win fights without taking too much damage is now essential, eliminating many of the older, more defensive strategies that thrived in Darkest Dungeon. It helps that the precision system has been removed: attacks now hit automatically unless a debuff gives them a penalty.
At the same time, stress management is more important than ever. You can no longer give a character a little time to recover: each of your four will be in every fight, every encounter and every fight. They’ll also be locked in the car and have opinions on where to go and which way to go when you meet other people along the way. Encounters with groups of refugees, supply caches, or enemy outposts have different choices – let the smart tactician lead an attack and you might get a stealth bonus on the first turn. Let the kind doctor solve the refugees’ problems and it will stress her out, but your flame of hope will ignite.
If anything, the only mechanic I’m not convinced about is this flame which is fun because I loved the torch in the first game. Let me choose when and how the game got harder and risky was fun, and I miss it this time around: keeping hope high is universally good, letting it down is universally bad. Switching to an execution-based game makes Darkest Dungeon 2 a bit more random, meaning sometimes you’re just screwed up and have to start over from scratch, maybe a few new richer character abilities, while in the Darkest Original Dungeon you at least kept your various hamlet upgrades if your whole party was destroyed by a boss.
My last run is going much better than the last. Audrey and Barristan are lovers, while Paracelsus and Hellion Boudica are inseparable companions, and Boudica finds Audrey a friend in their hope for a better future. Equally powerful are the bonuses from positive relationships: free heal turn-to-turn, jumping for support for attacks, and cheering each other on for extra damage. They aren’t entirely positive – Audrey is a jealous lover and can sometimes prevent Barristan from protecting others. We’ll see how it goes.
We have just entered The Sluice, a sort of unexplored sewer area that locals have called a shortcut. Pray for us. It is the land of pigs.