If you’re a fan of Darkest Dungeon, you’ll want to check out its sequel, Darkest Dungeon II. This CRPG offers a unique experience with its turn-based tactics and roguelike gameplay. However, even if you’ve already played the early access version, the 1.0 version offers an expanded and enhanced experience worth purchasing. The game takes everything that worked well in the original and improves upon the flaws, resulting in an addictive and engaging game you’ll enjoy playing, even if your heroes die and your expedition fails multiple times.
The Ephemeral Equation is Unbalanced
The sequel to Darkest Dungeon, Darkest Dungeon II, takes you on a new adventure where an even greater evil lies waiting below the corruption you once conquered at the Estate. Madness has taken hold of everything, and your task is to guide your brave group of heroes to the mountain to prevent a catastrophic event. But before reaching the mountain, you must complete a set number of regions based on the Confession you’ve selected. These regions offer opportunities to battle lair bosses, gain new hero skills, or meet a tragic end.
I was impressed with how well the story was continued. It showed how the evil had spread to the surrounding regions, painting a vivid picture of the apocalyptic world. The game didn’t hold back, which made my successes and failures more impactful. However, moments of hope also contrasted with the overall dark tone and made me remember that not all is lost, even in the darkest moments.
Another new feature of Darkest Dungeon II is the Confession system, which significantly impacts the upcoming expedition by determining its length, the buffs enemies can receive through Ordainments, and the flame of hope effects that will occur. Additionally, it contributes to the main story’s progression, with brief segments shared at the beginning of each expedition. Hearing new pieces of the five-act story upon completion or failure of an expedition makes restarting less frustrating and daunting for me. In addition, it served as motivation to beat the Confession I was stuck on because I loved unlocking another piece of the puzzle that led up to both games’ events in the franchise.
In Darkest Dungeon II, players have the option to select from a diverse range of 11 Heroes, each with their own unique role in the game. To begin your journey up the mountain, you must strategically assemble a team of 4 Heroes that complements your style of play. As you uncover their individual backstories and special abilities, you’ll develop a strong connection with these Heroes, making them crucial assets to your quest.
With a vast array of Hero combinations available, players have the flexibility to curate a team that aligns with their preferred playstyle or Confession. The Hero system is well-crafted, and experimenting with different Heroes to optimize a team composition can be an exciting experience. If an expedition ends in failure, players can easily switch up their team composition and try again.
Unlocking New Skills
I enjoyed discovering new abilities for my characters in Darkest Dungeon II by visiting the Shrine of Reflection. At first, each character only comes equipped with five basic skills, but by completing five chapters of their personal story, you can unlock an additional six skills. These chapters offer a deep dive into the history of each hero, and completing them allows you to unlock a new skill connected to the chapter’s events.
For instance, in Chapter 2 of The Jest, you engage in a musical duel with another musician. To win, you must use abilities that correspond to the correct structure of the song, such as the bridge, chorus, solo, melody, etc. Playing the right part will damage the NPC, but playing the wrong part will hurt you instead. If you fail, you won’t unlock the new skill and must try again at a different Shrine of Reflection.
This method of unlocking skills may sound uninteresting initially, but it turned out to be an engaging way to learn more about each character’s story. I even grew attached to my characters through this process.
In Darkest Dungeon II, the affinity system determines the bond between your heroes. Your choices, the inn items you use, and your actions during battles all affect the status of these relationships. Despite the possibility of unusual situations, the affinity system is well-designed. If two heroes develop a positive relationship, they will gain Blessed Attacks, which support each other when used. For instance, a Blessed Attack from one hero will lower the stress of the other hero with whom they share a positive relationship.
Understanding what factors positively or negatively impact the relationship between two heroes adds a layer of complexity that I thoroughly enjoyed discovering. The quirks of your heroes make them feel like living and breathing entities. Additionally, buying your heroes a flask of whiskey to share at the inn to improve their relationship seems realistic. Who wouldn’t want to bond over a drink after an arduous expedition or the loss of a fellow hero?
The use of shadows in Darkest Dungeon II’s art style is impressive, creating a striking contrast that draws inspiration from the motion and noir comic styles. The result is a dark and gritty atmosphere that is complemented by the characters’ Super Deform (SD) style, which amplifies their heroic, cute, or distorted qualities. The techniques used to achieve this art style are noteworthy and could be the subject of an entire semester’s discussion at art school. My exploration of the game’s visuals is a testament to the success of Darkest Dungeon II’s art style and exceptional execution.
The performance of Wayne June as The Narrator in the game is exceptional and perfectly complements its tone. He skillfully immerses the players in the story, making them laugh or cry with his witty one-liners based on their current situation and actions. For example, whenever a hero suffering from the blindness effect is used to attack, he says, “A simple miscalculation, I suppose,” which is a simple yet effective way to help players learn the game’s mechanics.
Darkest Dungeon II’s use of music is also noteworthy. Stuart Chatwood’s brand-new score adds excitement to the journey and makes players feel inside the stagecoach with their expedition party members. In addition, the Power Up Audio team’s sound effects enhance the game’s immersive experience, with each hero, enemy, attack, and more have unique sounds. For instance, The Jest’s musical abilities always provided much-needed sanity during my expeditions, so I always brought him to my party.
If you appreciate classic turn-based RPGs, you’ll enjoy the combat system in Darkest Dungeon II. However, several factors can either help you win or lead to your defeat, making it initially overwhelming. To make things easier, there is a glossary of icon definitions that you can refer to.
Once you understand how everything works together, combat becomes less frustrating, and executing incredible maneuvers can be a blast. For example, I landed a critical hit combo of 51 damage on a lair boss, which led me to exclaim joyfully, much to my partner’s amusement.
New Token System
The game’s combat now has a new token system that enhances the gameplay experience. It makes every action during combat more meaningful and adds complexity to the game. The tokens, such as buffs, debuffs, and specials, can be combined in different ways to produce distinct effects. For example, The Leper may begin with a Blind token that causes him to miss an attack, but this effect can be nullified if another hero applies a Combo token to an enemy. With numerous permutations, the new system offers limitless possibilities for players. Figuring out what combinations to use on specific types of enemies made me think. I also had to stop and think about how different heroes could be used together if I attempted a different composition.
In Darkest Dungeon II, death plays a significant role in the storyline and significantly impacts your expedition and the remaining heroes. Losing a hero affects your emotional attachment to them and can derail an otherwise perfect run. Even though a randomly chosen hero will join your expedition party, losing one or more heroes can still be very detrimental.
Furthermore, you have to wait until you reach the inn at the end of your current expedition before joining your party, which means you might be short on party members when dealing with whatever lies ahead. I vividly recall losing all my heroes but one while fighting a lair boss and surviving until the end. It was a feeling of accomplishment, and I realized that the solitary surviving hero would be remembered for centuries.
In addition, losing heroes means losing mastery points and the relationship points you invested valuable time and resources in creating positive relationships. Therefore, you must start over with the new ones joining your expedition party.
The Verdict – Expedition End
Honestly, Darkest Dungeon II can present many challenges, and you may face some setbacks. Despite this, I was immediately drawn in, and my excitement to learn outweighed any frustrations I encountered from failing. I found myself eagerly exploring new adventures, experimenting with different Hero combinations, delving into the game’s mechanics, and contemplating the story long after I had to take a break from a lengthy session.
Initially, I didn’t think the game was that great, but I soon realized I had misunderstood the mechanics, leading to my misjudgment. However, once you grasp the mechanics and unlock additional content, the game becomes more accessible and enjoyable. The art style, music, hero design, and combat all contribute to a satisfying experience that is tough to step away from and keeps you fully engaged.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
- This article was updated on May 11th, 2023