Darkest Dungeon has some of the best voice work I can remember in a game.  The glorious voice of your corrupt ancestor, alternatively bemoaning his own fate and pushing you to violent revenge against the unnatural fruits of his works, is simply compelling.  It alone pushes Darkest Dungeon into the realm of the must-play, in my opinion, especially when combined with the beautiful artwork.

Aside from that, it’s a perfectly competent tactics game with a somewhat shallow metagame.  It’s fun figuring out how to use the different heroes, trying out combinations, and discovering different ways to use trinkets to your advantage.  The zones provide distinct challenges and push you to strategize carefully, especially once you reach the medium-level quests.  The game asks you to find a balance between upgrading heroes and letting them go, buying trinkets vs. removing quirks and affliction, and training new heroes or pushing old ones.  It’s interesting, and definitely a challenge.

The problem is, the story and atmosphere is almost entirely incidental to the gameplay, and after a certain point, when you’ve memorized all the narrator barks and seen all the monsters a few times, when you’ve built and lost a few good parties and have had your sentimental attachment to your favorite hero broken … after all that, the game starts to suffer a bit.

All RPG’s are, at one level, about making numbers get bigger.  They try to hide this by using the numbers to unlock new things – story content, zones, characters, etc. – but the game mechanics  come down to making various number sets go up or down, allowing you to stay in place on the combat treadmill.  I’ve done this a million times in a million games.

Darkest Dungeon executes this side of things well enough, but by the midgame the surprises and newness of everything begins to fade, the system becomes known, and it becomes a set optimization problem, where the chief variable is your willingness to grind.  Mine is rather low, and I have begun to tire of the game.

To be fair, it’s taken 30 hours or so of gameplay for this fatigue to set in.  I could also imagine putting another 30 hours or so in, if I was going to seriously pursue the endgame.  I don’t think I will.