As part of the festival of demos that we are living on Steam, I have downloaded the demo of Darkest Dungeons II. I loved the first one. I devoured it on PS Vita, hit it hard on PC, and even downloaded it on Switch. Its setting was amazing. I loved its cast of characters, the ways of approaching the dungeons, its combat, the depth of its sanity system and its setting. So imagine the desire to get your hands on this sequel.
Well, I have to confess that I have been disappointed. Without really understanding why, this Darkest Dungeon has decided to throw away everything that made the original game special. There is no sinister dungeon, there is no base and the combats are easier than before. Continuing with the plot of the original, what the story now asks us to do is travel the world to solve the consequences of what happened at the end of the first.
To make this trip, our team of four fighters get on a wagon and advance through one road or another. We choose one path or the other and that leads us to one or the other encounter. It may be that we find ourselves with a group of enemies, with a decision, with a merchant… We solved the matter and continued with our march.
Now the game is more rogue lite than ever
So that you understand what this structure is like, it is the same as that of Inscription, Monster Train or Slay the Spire. We advance through different locations and they all have this ramification of paths. The problem with using this format for this game is that it takes away a lot of tension and personality from the adventure. In Darkest Dungeon you were advancing through very dark dungeons between fights, and you scared the shit out of yourself. You worried about the state of your torch, about the stress of your characters… And then there was another fight! Not here, in the sequel you get on your float, rest easy and wait calmly for the next meeting.
The problem is that these take time to arrive, they are not always fights and the milestones we reach are repeated. The idea of doing this, in addition to I imagine to make the game more palatable for the mainstream, it’s for your characters to talk to each other. It is entertaining to see how they get angry, happy or stressed depending on their natures. For example, you come across a group of refugees who ask you for help. You choose what the alchemist wants to tell them: “lose you bags of bones.” The rogue supports him and replies: “You did well, I’m sure they had lice”, so you gain affinity with him, but the soldier gets angry with you for being so cruel. During this scene, the torch loses power, and you know that it is urgent to reach your destination.
The problem with using this format for this game is that it takes away a lot of tension and personality from the adventure.
That creates some interesting relationships between them and helps you role-play your characters. After a short time you will feel that you know them, but it is an idea that has not satisfied me as much as what the original game proposed. It seems to me that all this branching travel, conversations and decisions take the focus away from the coolness of the first: the management of your base, permanent death, fear and combat.
In the wagon we heal and choose our next route
Although of course, to truly evaluate this you have to play the entire game. It will be interesting to see how the story branches out based on the opinions of our colleagues. The Darkest Dungeon lore is interesting and this can give a lot of play. In addition, there is a external narrator that very gracefully points out what is happening, and is appreciated.
Regarding the battles, there are also changes. Of course, one thing must be made clear. I’ve played an early access demo. Darkest Dungeon II still has a way to go and time to improve, but it seemed to me that it is somewhat simplified and that it is easier than the previous one. We still have to play with sanity variables, but they are not as critical.
Playing several fights I have had the same feeling with the exploration: Darkest Dungeon II has wanted to adapt for today’s rogue lite players. If you’ve enjoyed the usual suspects, you’ll feel right at home here, but I think it does a disservice to those of us who adore the former. Of course, things like the positioning of your troops, the correct choice of your attacks when your turn comes and preparing a good group is essential. When an enemy dies, it leaves a grave. We have to break it so that the monsters move towards you and it is easier to take them down, for example.
You have to solve each fight in specific turns, and sometimes another one starts at the end of this one, so there is still having to use your head. But he has given me feeling that everything is more permissive, that errors are not punished as much and that there is more room for rehearsals. As I say, to appreciate this in its proper measure you have to enjoy the final game. But what is clear to me is that I have lacked more attractive ideas.
The combat is still hard, but more digestible
As we win battles we will obtain Mastery Points that we can exchange at inns to improve the skills of our warriors. We will also get items to make them stronger. In the inns It is where the Darkest Dungeon spirit is most felt. Our float has a torch, and it’s best if it doesn’t go out until we reach our next destination. We have to use objects to prevent stress or tension until we get to the next break, or they will go crazy. Once they rest, that’s when we can improve and heal them. It is also at the inns where we choose our next route. This point of strategy is greatly appreciated, but it seems too common to other titles.
It seemed to me that it is somewhat simplified and that it is easier than the previous one
Technically, the game is more colorful than the previous one. The three-dimensional engine makes the most of a very cool comic book cell shading, and the music accompanies our progress. However, the scenarios become very repetitive. Our float does not advance through a board that pretends to be a city, but through cities and they are not well resolved. All the roads look the same, the locations don’t shine because of their design nor who we meet.
In short, for now, I have taken a jug of cold water with this sequel. Honestly, I hope that a lot of these things will improve with the release of the final version. I also want to think that maybe the problem was my expectations. I wanted to find a sequel that was the first but strengthened, with new and own ideas, more gore, harder and more Darkest Dungeon. However, what I have played is an adaptation of the aesthetics and mechanics of the first to the more conventional rogue lite. I imagine this will please some but sadden others. To me, the first.
That is to say, I am not saying that it is a bad game, but I am not saying that the direction that this game has taken has not convinced me too much. By the way, the game is not ready for Steam Deck yet. The controls are not mapped although you can play with the touch screen in a very uncomfortable way. The best thing is that you enjoy it on PC.