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Darkest Dungeon review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Red Hook Studios
Developer: Red Hook Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

I'll say this for Darkest Dungeon: the things it does well, it does very, very well.

Take the voice acting, for instance. Darkest Dungeon is all about its moody, miserable atmosphere. To that end, developers Red Hook Studios went out and got a narrator, Wayne June, who — per Wikipedia — is best known for lending his talents to H.P. Lovecraft horror stories. With that kind of background, it should come as no surprise that he brings an appropriately creepy, menacing vibe to the proceedings here. Every description of the players’ collective terror, of the encroaching dark, of the blow-by-blow in every battle: it's all given a kind of horrifying gravitas that's guaranteed to draw you in.

On top of that, the game's entire aesthetic is pretty creepy. Between the quick speed at which torches burn out while you crawl through dungeons and the traps and gothic horrors that await your every step, it's easy to feel a constant sense of unease throughout your time with Darkest Dungeon.

As for the rest…I wouldn't say that Darkest Dungeon does anything really badly, necessarily. It’s more that it does things in a way that makes it a hard game to truly love. Admittedly, some of this is by design: you don’t include permadeaths and frequent autosave points in your game unless you’re trying to make things as difficult as possible, so I’m not going to criticize this game for that.

I will, however, say that it would be nice if it explained just a few things a little more clearly and/or obviously. Things like how to use your items outside of battle. Or how to get characters out of churches and bars once they’ve been put into them. Or, most importantly of all, how to switch characters in and out of your party. These are all things that you’re likely to figure out sooner or later on your own, but it would be nice if there were some easier way to pick it up than trial and error.

Then again, that’s probably not what Red Hook were aiming for when they set out to make Darkest Dungeon. As I said earlier, this game wants you to feel uneasy the whole way through, and it’s hard to think of a better way to do that than not telling you what you’re doing. It means that their game isn’t for everyone — but I suspect that if it’s for you, you’re going to love (and fear) every second of it.

Grade: B+