"Darkest Dungeon focuses on the humanity and psychological vulnerability of the heroes and asks: What emotional toll does a life of adventure take?"
As we all know, dungeons are nasty places. They're smelly, dirty, pestilence-filled shitholes infested with traps and slobbering monsters; full of horror and danger and fear. So why do most games portray them as consequence-free playgrounds for their cast of shiny heroes to beat up and destroy? And, more to the point, why does all this death, destruction and unadulterated terror have absolutely no long term effect on anybody involved? Dark Souls is the only game that springs to mind where the actual environments themselves are thoroughly unpleasant and where all the characters show clear signs of impending insanity but, in general, heroes prance in, slaughter whole communities of monsters and then retire to some tavern somewhere to swap stories and carry on like nothing has happened.
Well. It appears that this is about to change.
Darkest Dungeon is an upcoming game from Red Hook studios and it promises to make its heroes fallible human beings; subject to all the same anxieties and neuroses as the rest of us but just a bit more willing to leave the house. This is a world where your brave warrior has turned to drink, your priest bolts at the first sign of skeletons and the bard is still sat in the tavern muttering to himself and rocking back and forth. Events will affect your characters, they'll develop paranoias and phobias and end up not being able to work with other party members or, conversely, they could get more determined, more fanatical and more confident. Your job is to work out how best to cope with the bad stuff and magnify the good, which adds another dimension to the usual process of allocating points to skills and ruthlessly killing endless hordes of monsters.
It also makes you wonder why this hasn't been done before. Call of Cthulhu does it, but even that took the easy way out when trying to translate insanity into a videogame. The aforementioned Dark Souls does it to the player, rather than the character, and there was also the rather excellent Eternal Darkness, but really the mental effects of a character's experiences are very rarely tackled.
It's still extremely early stages as the game was only announced a few days ago but signs are good. I like the art style, especially the plague mask on the doctor, and it looks like it could be a gritty take on a rather tired genre, if done right. Red Hook are planning on a release in Autumn next year but will almost definitely have a Kickstarter before then. You can find the website here and sign up to the mailing list to get updates on their progress, or you can follow them on twitter @darkestdungeon
Be careful out there.