Darkest Dungeon is a wonderful game. It is also a mother fucker.
Some general info: Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based strategy game, where you manage a hamlet of adventurers. Your goal is to complete missions, defeat bosses, and earn resources. There are all sorts of recources to gain, and they’re used for a large variety of purposes. There’s simple, obvious things such as improving the skills and gear of your adventurers, to macro objectives such as improving your buildings (and the bonuses they offer). Finally, you have to manage stress, which adventurers will accrue pretty much perpetually.
Stress can be gained by getting critically hit, to being in the dark, to retreating from a battle, to retreating from a dungeon, to all sorts of other things. Alleviating stress is done by sending adventurers to stress-relief places, which is a tavern or a chapel (with different methods of stress relief as well).
Combat is a smart, strategical affair that is based off of line placement, buffs and debuffs, and other reasonably simple mechanics that coalesce into a pretty deep system.
All of this is to make you hurt. This game is not about winning. It is about your pain, defeat, and how you deal with it. It’s brilliant, frustrating, tiresome, and satisfying all at once.
I didn’t know it was possible for a pyrrhic victory in a video game to actually give me gratification, if only because the still-negative outcome was better than what could have happened. But it is; this game has framed not-losing-so-bad as a triumph. I’m not sure if that’s crazy-smart design or a formula for me wanting to cut whoever made this, but it’s damn intriguing at the very least.
I’m actually about to restart my campaign, if only because I’ve learned some lessons and want to get a better start to what I was doing. It’s pretty common for me to do this; if I notice that I had too many inefficiencies in a game like this, I’ll start over to “get a better start.” However, I’m not sure that’s possible. I have a sneaking suspicion that my start that I’m lamenting was actually sort of OK, and my retry will probably be similar.
And then I’ll learn what this game may truly be: a defeat simulator, a masochistic automaton of harsh reality. An engine of pain that is meant to grind out any preconceived notion of heroism or “I’m the player and I should win”, like a slow zamboni paving ice before a hockey game.
Wow, that got dark. This game is fucking with me.