REVIEW – After more than a year and a half of early access, Darkest Dungeon 2 has hit the ground running, offering a roguelike experience similar to the first part and following the slower-paced, more deliberate line, slightly deviating from the “return to the center” style seen in the first game, with rounds to run like in, say, Returnal, although the Red Hook Studios-developed title running on the Unity engine is not in that league.
Darkest Dungeon 2 is a roguelike road trip of the damned. Form a party, equip your stagecoach, and set off across the decaying landscape on a last-gasp quest to avert the apocalypse. The greatest dangers you face, however, may come from within…
Playing through the first Darkest Dungeon is not something you can do in one sitting. However, it can be done for the second part, as it takes 2-3 hours to complete a cycle or, instead, a gameplay loop, but the later chapters will be more substantial. This approach makes the experience more flexible and allows experimentation with the characters and items. It also makes moddability more manageable. For example, Slay The Spire (also a roguelike, but with cards), which recently appeared on PlayStation Plus Essential, can be similarly quick to complete. Still, it plays itself and has an obscene amount of mods. That playability is present here, too. The game starts by using the candles for development, choosing the four characters and their play style (they call it Path). A trial battle ensues, and the chosen chapter starts. It all depends on our choices, so the outcome might be different if cars go this way or that, and the relationship between characters will be affected (and it may even change in the middle of combat).
Stress should also be emphasized, as it can spoil the good round at the end when the character breaks down or forcefully uses abilities, which can be detrimental to the others. You need to balance everything. Otherwise, you drop a domino piece, and it will tip everything over, ruining the whole thing. Yes, you have to pay attention to the relationships. It defines one of the drawbacks of Darkest Dungeon 2: it’s a problematic title, especially for someone who has never played anything like it. You can get hit with a lot of information at the beginning, and good luck getting out of that rut. However, once you get past that, the gameplay can become varied, which can also be positive because you can’t just have adverse chain reactions in the game. However, the story requires a lot of play because the plot is told in shorter scenes, bosses expand it at the end of chapters, and we can learn about our characters’ past at the shrines. So the narrative slowly builds up, building on the collector’s instinct in this way.
Darkest Dungeon 2 is surprisingly dark, which is somewhat to be expected from Red Hook Studios, given the name of the game. Although the team has made some changes, they have done so in a way that doesn’t disappoint because the style is still there (not the gameplay style, though – this thought doesn’t necessarily apply there), so if you liked the first part, you will undoubtedly appreciate the second. That said, planning may not always be on our minds. How much damage can we do? How much attack can we absorb? Add to that, and we will often quit and start the round again because sometimes, not everything will go as expected, and deaths will be frequent even when we may have learned everything.
In the visuals, you may notice that the sequel seems to fill more of the space available, but it doesn’t overdo it either, and it doesn’t put everything everywhere. The character designs are well executed, which also applies to the opponents. Still, there is nothing memorable about the audio, so that might be one of the weaknesses of the experience, which nevertheless comes across as primarily positive. You still have to learn who, what, and how they have resistance against specific attacks, but that’s part of why it takes a lot of information to learn at once to have a good experience.
Darkest Dungeon 2 gets a respectable eight out of ten, as it brings form while being formless when compared strictly to the first installment. The game is stylish and can pull the player back in front of the screen because it can get the player’s attention through the story. And nobody gets that all at once. The excellent environment and visual style are good, but it’s not an easy task, and it has to be said: it essentially throws you into the deep end the first time you play it. You have to be patient and persistent. Otherwise, you miss out on an outstanding experience. Perhaps the sequel will be a much bigger success in time, as its structure opens the possibility of a generous expansion. It’s a clever idea, and the game achieves a pleasing result.
+ Different structure
– Different structure
– Not easy
– Maybe the audio is forgettable
Publisher: Red Hook Studios
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Release: May 8, 2023.
Darkest Dungeon 2
Gameplay - 8.6
Graphics - 7.9
Story - 8.4
Music/Audio - 6.6
Ambience - 8.5
Just one more.
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