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"In time, you will know the tragic extent of my failings..."
- – Your Ancestor
Darkest Dungeon is a Grimdark sidescrolling Dark Fantasy turn-based videogame with Mythosian overtones that has become very popular on /tg/, thanks to the unique and moody artstyle, the constant and quality narration, and its surprising similarity to Old School Roleplaying.
You are the last scion of a fallen noble family, one brought to ruin by a hedonistic ancestor who squandered the family fortune pursuing decadence and ultimately turned to dark pursuits in search of forbidden pleasures. This resulted in your family estate becoming the site of a sprawling excavation project filled with horrible monsters, while the surrounding lands are similarly corrupted, populated by nightmares of the Ancestor's own creation. The only (mostly) safe place is the Hamlet, which acts as the hub area of the game. Using the last of your family's money, you have returned to the estate to begin hiring adventurers to try to and clear out the dark things lurking in the dungeon, gathering the riches that lie beneath to finance further and further expeditions beneath.
After all, not all of your explorers will return alive, or even sane...
The quote at the top of the page is something of an understatement in regards to the background of the game. His failings are as follows (so far):
- In his youth, he enjoyed the debauchery and general 120 Days Of Sodom (don't look it up if you don't know it already) behavior of the nobility in the courtyard of the estate. One day an attractive woman appeared and fluidly navigated the assembled nobles...so the Ancestor tried to kill her. She revealed herself as a vampire but he succeeded at killing her. He then promptly did what any sane, rational being would do and hung her upside-down to drain out all her cursed blood, mixed it with a prized vintage of wine, and threw a party. After enjoying his new "Really Bloody Mary" invention, the attending nobles and servants all became vampires and tore their own bodies to pieces while the Ancestor, who had only drunk a single drop of blood, gained a vision of the Eldritch horrors that lay beneath his mansion and began his obsession with them. As the mosquitos were lured by the blood, the wine, and the bloody wine, the Ancestor sealed the Courtyard away where it has since sunk back into the swamp and contained the now mosquito/vampire hybrid court (oh and speaking of which, the vampires of this setting turn into mosquitos rather than bats in a fashion that would be fit for Nurgle. Just so you know). They now break loose periodically requiring you to send heroes to eliminate one of the original members of the court to send the creatures back to the swamps for awhile. Ignoring them results in the vampirism spreading, called the Crimson Curse, which has very little effect on heroes other than making them constantly need blood to avoid stacking debuffs and irrational behavior plus eventually death if unsated. Well, that and a zealot called the Fanatic who your Ancestor was aware of and is obsessed with purging the Curse by attacking any party with at least one cursed individual.
- As a child a small homeless girl had a crush on the Ancestor while he played in the town, which was nice when he was a kid but as a young man he found her irritating. So when he needed money to fund his newfound Eldritch fascination he cut a deal with the fishmen (not fishermen, Kuo-Toa style humanoid fish) who lived on the coast. He lured the girl to the pier and shackled her to an idol, both of which were the Ancestor's end of the deal in exchange for gems to fund his ambition. The girl was transformed into the likeness of the fishmen while destroying the human portion of her mind, and is their queen/mother/slave. She occupies the Cove.
- Starting his journey into madness began with the purchase of rare books, which drew the attention of a young woman skilled in the arts of herbalism and magic (read: a witch). While he enjoyed her company early on, she was just as obsessed with the creatures beneath the manor as he was and her path of study was in experimentation with edibles. Her body was twisted by the concoctions and he no longer found her physically attractive, banishing her to the Weald to dwell with the beasts. She's now a cannibal by the way (although there's some implication she'd always been one), and has been preying on your villagers.
- As he became more skilled in magic he obsessed over prolonging his life. After making a dead mouse's leg twitch, he invited experts in life and death from foreign nations to share knowledge with him, using his newly-acquired expertise of alchemy to make them trust him. After learning everything he could he killed each one in their beds and raised their corpses from the dead with their knowledge intact. Said undead Necromancers proceeded to raise more corpses, and so on creating a growing empire of the undead with no end, which now occupy the Ruins of the estate itself. The Ancestor considered this a massive success, then disregarded the fact that there's a growing army of the undead literally right outside his door.
- As his skill in magic improved, the Ancestor moved on from animating bones with a human mind to summoning creatures from beyond into flesh using blood rituals. He found that pigs were useful for rituals "since their flesh is most similar to that of humans", and managed to summon a gigantic "Great Thing" into the form of a gigantic pig. The thing required a massive amount of food to survive and both the Great Thing and the lesser things, all in the form of pigs, now occupy the Warrens and prey on the Hamlet. They have joined sides with the fungus monsters that already occupied the area, which have now overcome the former human residents.
- Eventually an old man arrived in the town telling prophesies to the locals about what would happen and riling them up against your family. The Ancestor threw him in the stockades, attempted to drown him, and literally covered the prophet's back in daggers but each time the old man returned and warned the peasants about the end of the world. Having given up, the Ancestor simply showed the prophet the Great Thing and explained what he planned to do. As a result, the poor bastard tore out his own eyes and fled to the Ruins, where a cult has gathered under his leadership and now works against your attempts to reverse your Ancestor's doings.
- The byproducts of his experiments (which weren't stable enough to remain pigmen and/or pig demi-gods) began to stack up, and when the excavation of the place beneath the estate broke through into the ancient tunnels and aquaducts he shoved all the various twitching semi-dead fleshy things down into them until the abominations all fused together in the Warrens. Now the giant chunk of random organs and flesh threatens not only lives of the Hamlet, but the very sanity of anyone who sees it.
- In order to enforce order on the town once the folk and local guards turned against him, the Ancestor employed bandits using a massive cannon. Calling them his militia they slaughtered many of the townsfolk and became the secret police through which he ruled. By the time you arrive, they've returned to being mere bandits, living by raiding the town from their base in the Weald. They are the very first threat you encounter, trying to stop you from even reaching the Hamlet in the first place. Their attacks on the Hamlet will continue even after your arrival, making even the Hamlet a potentially deadly battlefield from time to time.
- When bandit raids and the delicate nature of his shipments became too unsafe for the main roads, the Ancestor employed pirates to bring him his evil goods via a small section of the coast inaccessible save by a stairway leading to the estate. Eventually they increased their prices knowing they obviously had the market cornered, and the Ancestor had again bankrupted himself so he used his magic to curse their anchor with his ambition and resentment, dragging them to the bottom of the sea...sort of, they came back to be a pain in your ass as ghosts still bound to the anchor.
- Some time ago, the Ancestor "helped" a local Miller whose farm provided food for the Hamlet's commoners. The farm was struck with blight, but rather than fixing the problem, the Ancestor set up the "Slabs edge with certain celestial designs" around the farm as bait for the things from beyond the stars. An answer came in the form of an alien comet, striking the farm's windmill, warping the land into a wasteland of crystals that distort space-time. Devastation to the poor miller caught in the disaster, while a harvest for the Ancestor. Oh, and it turns out the alien comet is but an infant form of the same creature behind the Darkest Dungeon.
- In the end your Ancestor broke through to an ancient underground site of Eldritch horror. He sent you a letter which would draw you to the Hamlet, and seemingly committed suicide, not out of shame but because the peasants had formed a mob of angry torch-wielders at the gates of the mansion and his only other option was a public execution. The manor has since fallen apart and the creatures from below have overtaken it, which makes it the hardest area in the game, literally the titular Darkest Dungeon which your Ancestor liked to end his sentences referencing. First you must clear out the ruins (which lay within the Ruins making the last level technically just outside the first) before cleansing the ever-shifting architecture in the tunnels below.
- Finally (as far as we know, which extends in every DLC) the Ancestor left one last “fuck you” to the player character yourself. Should you conquer the Darkest Dungeon and kill the final boss you get his final message, which (spoiler, but not really if you’ve read anything Lovecraft or Lovectraft-inspired) is that everything he worked for was to awaken the ancient unknowable terror that birthed humanity itself, with the entire world as its (either metaphorical or literal) egg. He lets you know that it’s now your job and eventually the job of your descendants to forever keep the thing he helped create at bay. So his last message to you actually taunts you with the fact he made this mess, and its your job to manage it since it can never be cleaned up. With a suggestion you should just follow in his footsteps. There is also an interpretation his messages are not for you, but all of humanity given his references to the “human family”, which is even darker (but shifts some responsibility off you at least).
- By the end of the game, the player character himself is traumatized by the knowledge he has gained. The final boss, unless you one-shot him with a crazy hobo clown riffing a magical guitar across the cosmos, high on space crystal meth, given steroid enemas by two Plague Doctors and being shouted at by a Man-At-Arms, manage to defeat him using only two (kudos for keeping Dismas and Reynauld alive until this point) or one (Highwayman can do it), requires you to kill off two of your characters, so at the very least you have probably sacrificed two people for your goals, but you’re almost certainly responsible for more. You’ve left a trail of broken individuals scrambling away from the Hamlet, and the horrors your Ancestor unleashed continue to spread, or are at best contained temporarily, despite you having dealt with the origin of each problem. You begin to hallucinate, seeing the landscape twist into tentacles from darkness below into red light from above (or, as Ancestor implies and in classical Lovecraftian fashion, you're starting to see the world as it really is). Your Ancestor himself may not have been dead, as your mercenaries encountered an abomination in his form (although it could also have been a madness-wrought delusion or a creature in his form), and according to the Ancestor-thing’s words the result of his actions are an ongoing curse on your lineage. The player is left wondering if their future is to repeat the Ancestor’s mistakes (as you’re now essentially in the same state he was after sealing the Courtyard, albeit far less sadistic) or to spend your days keeping the evil at bay using an unending supply of the poor unfortunates who come to the town (in other words, keep playing and buy future DLC).
- The Ancestor does, however, sound utterly amazing. The voice actor, Wayne June, had a copious amount of fitting experience for the role via narrating the likes of audiobook adaptations of Lovecraft and most would agree that the game would not be the same at all if his dramatic, flowery narration had not existed for it.
The coach will deliver a fresh batch of would-be heroes to the hamlet every week (which is the length of time that a trip into one of the dungeons takes), allowing you to assemble many different possible teams to send into the dungeon. Each has a canon comic giving a view of their backstory, and beyond that many give clues with their dialogue about their backstories and goals.
The Abomination is a man possessed by an inhuman fiend (basically a demon/werewolf...we think?), which grants him unholy strength and the ability to vomit caustic slime at his foes causing Blight. If he needs greater offensive power, he can let the Beast out, transforming into a monstrous form - but this can be as crippling for sanity - his and the rest of the party's - as the other monsters he's battling. He can stun by using a chain as a whip, and his ability to prostrate himself before the enemy heals his health AND sanity. His backstory is as a tortured victim kept in a dungeon until the pain of his head being branded allowed his beast self to take over and for him to escape. He learned compassion and healing from his time in captivity.
The Antiquarian is a female archaeologist well-versed in the arts of exploring ancient tombs. This allows her to assist the other members of the party by healing their wounds, hurling flash-bombs and curing them of whatever noxious blights they may encounter. She can also use poisonous mixtures to bedevil her enemies, but she's awful at protecting herself and in general is very weak (hint, she's best paired with party members than can cause Riposte while she uses Protect Me! to give them more chances to counterattack), so the real reason to have her is earning 15,000,000 Gold a Day - gold stacks higher in the inventory for each Antiquarian in the party and looting with her can find unique items which are essentially a different type of additional gold, akin to gems (except for how Minor Artifacts stack up to 10,000 in value). That said, aside from the aforementioned money-boosting powers and one specific ability where she boosts the whole party's dodge, she's the single shittiest option for every role she can be used for, so she's pretty much useless once you reach the point where you've bought all the districts and have more gold than you'll be able to get rid of (aside from party comps that exploit the aforementioned dodge-boosting ability, which is actually very good). In her backstory she brought a magical censer to her master who was going to sacrifice a girl to empower it. Instead she saved the girl.. by sacrificing him to empower it.
The Arbalest is an immensely strong and brawny woman who carries a huge crossbow and wears plate armor. A back-row fighter, she can cut down foes with barrages of massive bolts, but she has some support skills as well. Utterly rapes marked things with Sniper Shot. She was given her crossbow by her father, who forced her to flee as an angry mob killed him for unknown reasons.
The Bounty Hunter wields an axe and a hook on a chain, specializing in singling out specific targets and dealing massive punishment to them. Can fucking uppercut eldritch monsters, including God and STUN them. The strong silent type (or in more revealing terms, Batman with more lethality), he hunts for money and vengeance, though there are hints that he only hunts things or people that really need killing (more on that below in the Houndmaster's backstory) and cares quite a lot for his team-mates. Less "Fantasy" than his other counterparts, and focuses on more mundane techniques and simple tools to drag down the biggest beasts.
The Crusader is a hardened, well-armored veteran of many holy wars, who combines brutal melee offense with defensive and bolstering magic, courtesy of his prayers. Utterly wrecks the Necromancer and the Ruins' shit. He left his family to go on the Crusade, and when he returned he was too traumatized and haunted by what he had seen and done to live their life and instead came to the Hamlet. His panicked raving dialogue suggests he may have been abused and/or molested by his father and/or a priest as a child. The guaranteed starting Crusader Reynauld is infamous for being a kleptomaniac son-of-a-bitch that will take your valuable loot while he's in the party until you cure him of the quirk.
The Grave Robber is the last daughter of a noble family fallen into poverty, who was forced to turn to graverobbing to pay her debts. Quick and agile, she is the classic rogue of the party, specializing in dodging or moving between the various ranks as well as attacking pretty much all of them almost regardless of where she stands, and bypassing protection with her darts and pickaxe...or just tossing daggers at them (yes, the woman who robs graves for a living is somehow also an expert at throwing knives). She actually enjoys her new profession and is quite greedy.
The Hellion is a glaive-wielding, howling, barbarian woman who lives for the thrill of combat, specializing in brutal, bloody attacks with far reach. Has one of the few double-rank-hitting stuns in the game, which is easily worth using in spite of the debuff to herself it also inflicts. When her people attacked a caravan of crusaders, she hid in fear. Everyone else in her raiding party died, leaving her to wander in self-hatred as a coward.
The Highwayman wields dirk and pistol to become a highly tactical fighter, capable of attacking from any position in the party, unlike some. In his backstory he robbed a carriage, but found out that he accidentally killed the woman and child inside during the fight which haunts him with guilt. Some have noticed that the woman and child resemble the Crusader's family, and the fact you begin the game with a Highwayman and Crusader further suggests the connection. His Crimson Court item set reveals he carries a locket with their images, as well as his blood-soaked mask, still.
The Houndmaster is a tough, uncompromising lawman with a faithful hound, whose diverse skillset and his very good girl makes him a truly welcome addition to the party, especially in the Warrens. May say "I am the law!" when getting the Courageous virtue. He was once a hero who set out in search of a missing girl only to find that the authorities of the town had in fact sacrificed her. He posted a bounty on their asses, and the Bounty Hunter fucked them up and cut them to pieces. Adorably, his healing abilities are displayed as him hugging the dog, and upon taking damage he shields the dog with his own body to take the blow.
The Jester is a manic, morbid figure who can unsettle the enemy as much as he buffs his own party, leaping back and forth with dagger and sickle to hew a bloody path through his enemies and singing inspiring/calming songs. One of his moves is doing a power slide while shredding with his lute. He escaped from a tyrannical king and his court's abuse by snapping and killing every single one. A comic panel implies that he isn't sane at all, and honestly a lot of his dialogue would make you wonder already. Can cut enemies for bloodloss or string some tunes to heal morale damage/boost combat abilities. His inhuman ability, "Finale", makes him dance, play metal and finally slam a big fucking spear with a reverence and retreat for enough damage to kill the biggest enemy if the game...if you time it right.
The Leper is a plague-riddled king whose body is slowly betraying him. Immensely tough and resigned to death, he carries a huge (broken) sword and excels at dishing out punishment (...when he hits) as well as taking it, waxing poetically all the while. Heavily inspired by Baldwin IV of Jerusalem as shown in Kingdom of Heaven. Big fucking damage sponge with a big sword.
The Man-At-Arms is a skilled, battle-hardened veteran whose toughness and tactical abilities allow him to brutally break up the enemy's ranks while protecting his allies. He is a broken soldier who fought valiantly to protect his unit, but emerged from a pile of their corpses after the battle as the only survivor. Makes up his lack of damage with incredible defense buffs.
The Occultist is a Middle-Eastern flavored student of dark magics, a terrifying figure whose rituals can demoralize, blight and destroy those who oppose him, and 0 bleed his teammates when you really don't want him to and a homage to Abdul Alhazred from Cthulhu Mythos. Particularly noteworthy for being the fastest character that can also mark in the game while usually not doing a ton of damage on his own, so he's usually the best for marking an enemy for the rest of the party to take advantage of. He investigated the forces of darkness, finding the bodies of those who had taken up a pact before making it himself; it is revealed the same forces beneath the estate are the ones he is sworn to in his dialogue during the final boss fight.
The Plague Doctor is a masked student of anatomy, whose alchemical interests allow her to whittle down her foes with barrages of noxious fumes and plague grenades as well as patching up her allies. Has a double-rear-ranks stun. Is basically your one-stop shop of solutions to the entire Cove region, seriously. She seeks to cure the diseases originating from the Hamlet, and is so focused that once her former teachers died of one of those diseases she dissected him without emotion.
The Vestal is a holy warrior-nun, who combines divine light and strength of arms to lay waste to her foes. Most will generally notice and focus on how she's the most reliable healer in the game, but only considering that is tunnel-visioning; she can fight when drawn to frontlines, illuminate, stun, and/or reveal stealthed enemies if properly prepared. She considers herself the un-favourite of her convent and its mother superior. She was forced to leave her convent after, while gazing with lust at a young couple making out, she let a holy brazier go out which implies she was a vestal virgin. She also has huge issues with her sexuality, constantly dreading that others wish to rape her due to being raised chaste.
The Flagellant is a masochistic warrior who yearns to accomplish something great through his sacrifice. The closer he comes to death, the harder he fights. This adventurer was added as part of the Curse of the Crimson Court DLC. He was once a beggar who found that the beatings from those better off than himself gave him purpose, as well as the ability to inspire and save those who'd harm him out of spite. He can function pretty well in either the tanking or the healing department.
The Shieldbreaker, added in the DLC of the same name, was a harem slave that killed her master and lost her hand in the ensuing carriage crash, swearing herself to snake spirits for a new one and the bonus magic that goes with it. She moves around a lot with her attacks like the Highwayman and Jester, dealing a fair amount of damage along with Blight effects. She has three major abilities, the first being the ability to break enemy Protect while advancing from back ranks, allowing you to quickly finish off high threat foes. The second mitigates her glass cannon nature, an ability she can use twice per fight that gives her two stacks each time of immunity to damage (but not debuffs, Stress, and importantly Bleed or Blight) and Impale, launching a poisoned spear that strikes ALL of the enemy positions and poisons them at the same time. Anytime you camp with her in the group there is a chance to be attacked by snake monsters, even if using an ability that prevents ambushes; these snakes can drop her trinkets or items any hero can use which grant her damage immunity for one attack, so snake ambush isn’t bad if you plan for it. Additionally, you get a new journal entry each time you win the nightmare, and they stop coming altogether after you beat the seventh, after which she'll instead get a buff whenever you bed for the night. She herself is designed to end fights quickly, and she is very bad to use against most bosses or enemies with AOEs or ample Blight/Bleed unless her DODGE is amped by others or trinkets. She becomes more effective with the Man-at-arms to guard her, and/or a Flagellant to remove her Bleed/Blight. Unless farming for immunity items, take her on short dungeons to speedthrough them faster. Avoid using if the Fanatic is a concern. Use two of them with backseat Vestal and 3rd position morale healing Jester in Farmstead, spamming double Impales one after another for hundreds of kills before you get tons of crystals.
The Ancestral Estate is a sprawling affair, with many different segments that must be cleansed.
The Ruins are the first place you will begin exploring, in the form of the dusty halls of the ancestral manor and its attendant buildings. This region crawls with both the undead, servitors of a necromancer-lich who has taken up residence there, and mad cultists serving an insane Prophet.
The Weald is the local forest, which has become overwhelmed by grotesque fungus and slime monsters ever since a deformed, cannibalistic hag took up residence there. It also plays host to the local bandit population, who terrorize the roads surrounding the Hamlet with stolen cannons.
The Warrens are your first delve into the underground proper, an ancient labyrinth of aqueducts and tunnels that your ancestor unearthed in his expeditions. He used them as a dumping ground for his experiments in summoning demons, filling them with a grotesque civilization of man-pigs and writhing abominations of animated flesh.
The Cove was where your ancestor consorted both with pirates, who have since returned as water-logged undead after he betrayed and murdered them, and malevolent fish-people from the depths.
The Courtyard was where your ancestor held his debauched revels, until it became the epicenter of a truly horrific outbreak. Now the twisted, bug-like vampires who were once some of society's elite still hold their gory revels in the gardens that have merged with the swamp, creating a damp, miasmic maze where blood and rot compete in the air. This region only becomes available in the Curse of the Crimson Court DLC. Also, the vampires in this setting turn into mosquitoes instead of bats. Neat, huh?
The Farmstead was a land bought by the ancestor from a poor old miller. The ancestors purposely set up the entire place as a bait for some crystal alien abomination being just so he could harvest them. "The Thing" crash down to the place like a comet and plague the entire area with "fuck your spacetime physics" plague, trapping everybody within range and distort space/time and even made the sky unrecognizable. The plague also affects living beings, for the victim gets "parasites" by the crystals like being from "The Thing", turning them into Husks, cold-blooded beings made of crystals and stone. This place is where the endless mode takes place. It is one of the place where you can get crystals to buy unique trinkets. Since the dungeon itself is endless, monsters will keep coming at the player until if the player decided to quit at any time, since the above mentioned spacetime kerfuckery means you're actually fighting the same enemies over and over again.
The Darkest Dungeon is your ultimate goal, the place where your ancestor's experiments in summoning gave rise to the ultimate evil that now threatens the world. Few will ever enter this locus of corruption. None will enter twice.
- Without going in full detail(as you will read below), Murphy Laws are in full effect. Any possibility that will disrupt your party plan can and *will* happen, from that tiny 2% failure possibility to the last moment of the last enemy inflicting the exact disease/debuff that will destroy your game plan. Always have multiple overlapping contingency plans in effect.
- The Colors Of Madness update, which is applied to the game regardless of whether you buy the DLC, changed the base game substantially. Among the biggest changes are: The Abomination can now group with religious heroes, the addition of the Musketeer (Arbalest reskin), various changes to Crits/Procs/buffs/class abilities/stats among MANY other things (processing the various changes has taken quite a bit of time and debate among the community, suffice it to say that it can all by summed up as "what everyone was doing is nerfed, what nobody did is buffed"), monster AI and hitpoints have been altered to make things less invincible but more damaging, District buildings cost more making them far more endgame, Crimson Court no longer replaces quests allowing you to ignore it for longer once activated.
- The biggest change in the game is heavy nerfing of Stuns and monsters being more lethal means that stalling tactics while you regenerate health/sanity via combat abilities are far less effective. The game now adds reinforcements to the enemy fight when there's only two opponents left alive as opposed to when there was only one, unless one of them is big enough to take up two spaces (since these are generally at least miniboss tier and not worth the stalling risk beyond a turn or two), and certain abilities of heroes being pegged as "stalling moves" in the game code meaning even if you keep three weak enemies alive, the game may still send something big and nasty your way in the 4th slot to punish you. This makes the game FAR more difficult than it was at launch since there are no longer cheap tricks to rely on for all your trash fights. On the plus side, running stronger heroes through weaker missions became MUCH easier.
- Keep your very first Highwayman (Dismas) and Crusader (Reynauld) alive. You get an achievement at the end if you can manage to make them reach the final level. If they do die, keep your graveyard as empty as possible so the resurrection event has a chance to bring one back. If you are an achievement hunter, you may need to simply accept your first playthrough will not result in that achievement; if you cannot keep them both alive, consider restarting once you feel confident you can get a better start by knowing the game better.
- The first big tactical lesson of the game is realizing characters shuffling back and forth in the ranks through abilities, and their ability to hit and/or be hit by certain enemies in certain ranks, is a large chunk of your strategy and how you basically rules-lawyer the mechanics of the game. Characters who swap ranks a lot like the Jester and Bounty Hunter can hinder rigid team comps so many newbies avoid them. Use the abilities of characters like the Crusader, Grave Robber, Highwayman, or Hellion who can launch themselves back to the front to keep your ranged specialists in position.
- You are NOT meant to continue to work on heroes other than the above. ALL of them are disposable, and should be dismissed via the bottom of the top left buttons once they become too insane or diseased to be of use. You are not a member of a noble brotherhood, you are a True Neutral nobleman recruiting insane and criminal mercenaries to become even more insane as throwaway pawns in your battle against unending evil.
- Don't neglect the provisions! At the least, bring all of the food you can get, plenty of torches, shovels to clear blockages, antivenom and bandages to cute bleed or blight (they usually may not seem like they do much damage, but they add up and can easily be cleared with one of these items without using the hero's own action. Cure them). You can mess around with skimping on provisions as you get more experience with your party's and expected enemies' capabilities.
- Invest all of your early energy into the Guild (to get better abilities), the Blacksmith (to get better base stats), and Wagon (to get more adventurers, higher levels reliant on the preceding two). That way you can recruit straight off the wagon and send them straight into battle.
- Once you max out the above buildings, feel free to invest into the remaining buildings so that you can eventually guide a team that is decent (as you cannot recruit max level heroes straight off the cart). Remember that if your hero levels up but you don't upgrade their abilities and gear, they are still basically the same level.
- You can only use abilities during their phase. As frustrating as it is, the Vestal can spam heals during combat but will let her party bleed to death while poisoned, including herself, as soon as a fight ends.
- Certain classes in certain positions cause a title of the type of party to appear, for example a party full of classes prone to causing Bleed will show the title Blood For The Blood God. These are all comedic or thematic commentary (from the Ancestor, your player character (the noble), or creators, whoever you prefer to imagine it being), and do not affect gameplay.
- To get additional gold, use a combo of the Antiquarian and the Highwayman, preferably without any light if you can take the risk. Highwaymen have an attack called Riposte that they can use to move forward one space and attack back at any enemy that attacks him, while Point Blank Shot sends him once space back and deals high damage. The Antiquarian allows you to stack gold higher per space in your inventory and also finds more money-making goods while having an ability called Cover Me which allows another character in your party to take attacks for her; as a result the Highwayman will essentially solo most fights while the Antiquarian makes you money. Technically speaking once you get the items which buff the Antiquarian's healing you can make a party entirely made of four Antiquarians, causing MASSIVE gold gains. As of the Color patch the Antiquarian even brings along her own Skeleton Key, saving you money on a treasure run! A 4-Antiquarian combo with no lights can yield as much as 100000+ gold pieces on the shortest run.
- Similar to the above Antiquarian/Highwayman combo is using the Man-at-arms riposte ability on top of his guard ability and the Protect Me of an Antiquarian. Each time he guards another member of the party he gains a Prot bonus, although it was nerfed in CoM. So 3/4 of the party being attacked will result in him dealing a moderate amount of damage back to an enemy, he will take all the damage for those 3/4 characters so long as it isn’t an AOE attack and will negate a large chunk of it, and can end up with decent damage output. Sadly his guard will cancel a Highwayman riposte and the Flagellant won’t likely take enough damage to use his heal, but this combo goes with anyone else in various capacities. His Stress may become an issue without some Stress relief plan. Thankfully CoM gave him improved Stress healing via his own Crits, so as long as he's bashing he's also chilling.
- Ensure that in any party which goes on a non-Short mission has at least one Camp Ability that prevents nighttime ambush. Plague Doctors can have an ability which will cure the disease of another hero, for free, making Sanitarium treatment unnecessary.
- Fucking KILL those enemy assholes in the rear ranks first, or otherwise stun/move them forward. They're there because they can still hit your probably-most-vulnerable guys in your rear ranks while over there, and the most stress-inflicting enemies in the game tend to make their home there - remember, stress carries over from the end of the dungeon, unlike health. MURDER THEIR SHIT ASAP!
- Put a stun skill in your party! They tend to have higher accuracy than most other attacks, and even if they don't cause much if any damage and won't work consistently one after another due to combatants gaining a resistance bonus after being stunned, they still prevent enemies from attacking or building stress, making them a safe bet to do at least once in a fight.
- Buffs, debuffs, and damage over time attacks stack. This means you or your opponents can cripple their enemies, boost their allies into superheroes, and kill even the strongest bosses entirely though indirect damage. That last point is very important; generally speaking every round each character will have a turn in order of their speed, but bosses will go multiple times per round, so as a result they will take damage from any DoT each time they get their turn but by the same token any debuffs will fade quickly and Stun effects are only a minor annoyance to them. Creating a party specifically through one of the two damage over times, Bleed or Blight, will deal massive damage although make sure to prepare for enemies unable to be affected by a certain effect. Generally speaking Blight affects more enemies in the game, but Bleed has more heroes who can apply it meaning you will be able to stack it higher on a target. Keep additional Herbal Remedy to use to instantly remove a debuff, and extra Holy Water to provide a buff that will reduce the chance of certain debuffs and DoTs affecting your heroes. These can be used during a fight and do not take up the hero's turn, although the hero can only use it on themselves.
- Prefer to use skills that your heroes have trinkets boosting their effectiveness at. It's not an issue for the Apprentice difficulty expeditions, but Veteran and Champion ones will be more difficult from the enemies being tougher and more resilient to effects - stuns, debuffs, bleeds, etc. can no longer be applied consistently without a trinket increasing the odds of it happening.
- Take note of a dungeon's general occurences - their best resistances will tend to be almost insurmountable at later difficulties. It's pointless to try to bleed most of the unholy enemies in the Ruins, the Weald's enemies are most diverse and usually hard to blight (and the giant enemy's going to make having a damage-reduction debuff invaluable against them) while blockages are highly likely, the Warrens is also very blight-resistant, causes a lot of diseases, has a decent amount of prot but also has plenty of potential food curios (if you can purity them with medicinal herbs or bandages), and the Cove's eldritch fishies are very bleed-resistant, has some enemies with a lot of prot, and has curios that can be safely obtained with shovels or medicinal herbs.
- Damage heals at the end of the dungeon, Stress does not. Crusaders, Flagellants, Jesters, and Houndmasters are the best characters to remove Stress while in the dungeon, and most classes have good campfire abilities for removing or reducing Stress gain as well. Abominations have an ability to remove their own Stress.
- There is a button to unequip items. Use it. Characters you throw into someplace to get better such as the Bar can result in them losing their equipped items. Don't trust those fuckers. You also don't want to forget that your best gear is on someone so insane you send them on a suicide run. In general, unequip everything from everyone who you aren't immediately sending out. The only danger when you are holding onto the items is a fairly weak boss stealing them, and that happens very rarely after the first time.
- You can also change skills during a dungeon (but not during an actual battle). Feel free to swap out the Crusader's Inspiring Cry ability for the larger heal ability Battle Heal for the next battle if a hero got unexpectedly beat up.
- Speed is a very useful stat in general for most characters (...until they're on Death's Door with bleed or blight on them and act before a healer. Try to avoid this scenario from happening).
- Lepers are high damage, low accuracy, and can only hit the first two ranks while having minimal abilities to help the rest of their party. They were previously one of the worst characters in the game in general, although in the same ongoing theme of Color Of Madness the weak were buffed and now the Leper is decent to take (which shouldn't be surprising since in a patch FULL of nerfs he only got buffs). Even before the patch they were useful for things such as the Vvulf boss, but were by no means mandatory in any situation. They are particularly useful in the early game for having high damage and hitting both ranks with one of their primary attack, but even after the patch their use against bosses is minimal given that most bosses hide behind obstacles in the first two ranks.
- In the reverse of the Leper, the Occultist who was formerly one of the best classes in the game and usually auto-include when you weren't taking a Vestal has been nerfed as a healer substantially.
- CoM taking an axe to stalling was harshest for the Crusader, who’s main role was stalling. His Speed is low, his damage is middling, and unless you are using Antiquarians his durability doesn’t matter much in the new high damage/lower durability monster meta. Currently he is like the Leper where he is amazing in the early game, but is not as useful outside of the Ruins (many monsters are Unholy, high Stress) and Cove (same). His Stress Camping heal is very useful, but outside of the Darkest Dungeon itself you won’t likely need him much anymore for anything but Ruins runs. The exception is teams of four Crusaders, since those non-stalling abilities got buffed and they can shuffle/buff. Like the Leper their inability to hit rank 3 and 4 is their main weakness, keeping them out of most boss fights as a viable pick. They can charge with a "Holy Lance" skill from the back ranks, but it shuffles them so don't count on it.
- Your party doesn't need to be in a logical melee-front, ranged-behind formation if they can just use shuffle skills. Combine characters with shuffle skills in the same party while considering the speed to determine their generally-expected turn order to let them do these skills repeatedly - these skills tend to be well compensated in effect for having to deal with this caveat (not much will last long against two Highwaymen up front repeatedly using Point Blank Shot). Be careful about lining up the Speed stats of the characters you plan on starting a combo, from highest to lowest.
- A character doesn't die when they drop down to zero health, they enter the Death's Door state. Every time they take damage there's a chance they will then die, and upon being healed they are no longer on Death's Door although the debuff lasts for the rest of the mission. The Vestal AOE heal as a result is very useful. A character with a damage over time effect on them however could die at the start of their next turn.
- The Crimson Curse DLC begins as soon as you finish the first mission. Avoid it in the beginning, it is a newbie trap which will result in almost all of your heroes being afflicted by the titular Crimson Curse and causing the very difficult boss The Fanatic to randomly spawn in dungeons where he will most likely wipe your party.
- Your Flagellant and Crusader can act as free Stress relief similar to how the Plague Doctor can cure Disease for free. The Flagellant has an ability that allows him to absorb a large amount of Stress from an ally but takes a medium amount himself. The Crusader has an ability which heals both the Stress and health of a party member while also increasing Torch level. In easier fights, the two can be used together to mellow put a party. Combine with the Houndmaster and/or Jester Stress heals for a therapeutic stroll through the estate. Note that if a hero gains a mental issue during the dungeon from recieving too much Stress, healing their Stress back to 0 removes it. This will not remove Quirks unfortunately. Such a Stress-relief party has only the Flagellant as a major healer, and abandoning the quest results in Stress gain, but this should be negligible if you manage to remove most of their Stress and still bring back some loot.
- Speaking of the Flagellant, there is a very good reason that the game forbids you from taking more than one of them in your party at a time: While at first glance they are an inconsistent class oriented around heavy risk-and-reward tradeoffs, a second glance at their abilities reveals that the debuffs a flagellant receives from performing his strongest abilities do not actually penalize his functionality, as being a bleed-based fighter he cares little about weapon damage debuffs, and being a character who can only perform said abilities at 50% health or below means that the Defense debuff is more of a benefit. And then there's the fact that he can heal stress, remove bleeds and blight AND can heal for large chunks of maximum health while being a durable frontliner with a soft-taunt, freeing up your backline slots to have more damage or another healer to ensure that your party will never, ever die. Add that to the fact that his offensive attacks have reasonable bleed damage AND inflicts bleed debuffs, making even the bleed-resistant fishmen vulnerable, and you've got a rock hard wheel of cheese in the form of a diseased beggar that can make many, many of the game's most frustrating encounters trivial. He took a nerf in CoM that makes his healing more debilitating to himself, but is still very good.
- The most debilitating Quirks are those which cause a character to irrationally act in the dungeons. When they investigate a Curio they do not use the correct tool, so they usually suffer the negative effect be it poison, minor Stress, summoning a fight, or massive Stress gain. Even worse, you lose out on potential resources. When scouting new recruits be on the lookout for these, and on your favorite level 6 heroes or your two achievement starters its fair to consider giving them mental treatment.
- Speaking of Curios, it is not cheating to look up what they do and what to use on them. Its sometimes counter-intuitive, and given you'll be running through these areas a LOT there's no surprise to ruin when you learn that using bandages to check something that might be poisonous somehow will help when an antidote to poison will not, or that adding that antidote to rotten meat will make it edible, or using a simple object on a strange statue you encounter early in the game will immediately send your party against a boss in another dimension that endgame parties would usually be butchered by.
- Remember that Curio tip about the boss that will kill your party? Well, spoilers, do NOT put a torch in the Shambler's Altar, unless you're extremely well-prepared for a very hard fight. The reward is an Ancestral trinket that can't be obtained any other way, though.
- The Color Of Madness added an Endless Mode at the Farmstead. This differs in that rather than trying to survive to complete the mission, the mission is obviously endless until you are wiped out or simply quit. You should either focus on killing encounters as fast as possible, focusing on anything you know deals high damage and/or Stress first, or surviving anything thrown at you and relying on the fact you can heal but they cannot. Stress will be the bigger concern, so Jesters/Houndmasters are recommended as are Vestals since most encounters will have attacks that hit most or all of your party at once. Corpses turn into crystals, which grow until they explode which forces you to deal with them, although since destroying a crystal heals the hero they give you an easy way to keep injured heroes going. Shovels and Skeleton Keys are useless, Bandages and Herbs are VERY useful as is food.
- The Thing From The Stars is the Color Of Madness wandering boss that can be found anywhere. The Shieldbreaker is the most effective against it for breaking the Protection buff it has, the Grave Robber is also recommended for ignoring Protection, as is any Bleed or Blight you can stack. It causes massive Blight and Stress, so any character who can remove Stress or cleanse Blight is also useful.
- The modding community is...colorful. Usually its best to stick with the official game, although there are many decent mods available and some to the same degree of quality that they are indistinguishable from official content. Just be prepared to sift for them. In particular the Marvin Seo mod classes are top notch and Muscarine's class mods are also excellent and tastefully lewd.
- Only send heroes into the courtyard who already have the Crimson Curse, or barring that characters with high disease resistance, since they're otherwise guaranteed to have the Curse when they return.
- Always keep track of how many of your heroes are vampires, how many are Wasting in a given week, and how much of The Blood you have in stock. Eventually you'll have to deal with a roster consisting almost entirely of vampires, so it's recommended that you get the Sanguine Vinters district (which brews two bottles of The Blood every week) up before you first venture into the courtyard. Since the crimson court DLC only includes two means of curing the curse (one of which is to kill a court boss, the other is to kill a specific randomly encountered boss, who will drop two vials of The Cure) it's recommended to also have the COlor of Madness DLC installed, since it includes a town event that allows you cure one disease form everyone in the hamlet, including vampirism. While on it's onw this is a very rare event, it still occurs much more frequently than either of the other two methods of curing.
- Remind yourself that overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.
- Considered a spiritual successor by many to Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.
- The rules are actually basically already a tabletop game, and could easily be converted into one.
- The final boss is a reference to Nssu-Ghahnb/The Heart of Ages from the Call of Cthulhu Role-Playing Game. This is supported by Nssu-Ghahnb being trapped within an alternate dimension and being responsible for spawning all the monsters in the known universe, just like the final boss.
- It is inspired by Torchbearer, a tabletop game
- And now, it's getting its own board game courtesy of Mythic Games:
As of February 12, 2019, Red Hook Studios has officially announced that they are creating Darkest Dungeon 2.
The trailer is here.
Another trailer: here.