On the 19th of January, 2016, Red Hook’s turn-based roguelike RPG Darkest Dungeon, was officially released to the world. And the world loved it. With praise flooding from all corners of the internet, the past year has only seen the game go from strength to strength. Focused on the psychological dangers of adventuring in a gothic world where everything Lovecraftian wants to cripple your heroes, or render characters gibbering wrecks – it’s not exactly easy.

Armed with a party of four, your task is simple (albeit somewhat insane). You must reclaim your ancestral home from some ancient madness that lurks within. Sadly this madness doesn’t want to move out. The opening cut scenes perfectly set the murky tone, as the first of your party, a knight called Reynauld and a highwayman called Dismas, end up trapped along the old road.

You’d assume that after cutting down a few bandits and actually reaching safety in the nearby hamlet, the game would make the tutorial area a cakewalk. This is a fallacy. Everything simply gets harder, and harder, until everyone is dead, or insane. The atmosphere of Darkest Dungeon is one of totally hopelessness, but with every victory it becomes a little more bearable for everyone involved.

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It’s not often that a 2D title founded on insanity, stress, and dungeon crawling is so popular. But it is because of its authenticity, its very nature that makes it appealing to players everywhere. The past year has seen numerous updates to the game, with new characters, areas, items, and some hefty buffs/nerfs where appropriate.

Prior to the actual release date, the game was in beta for almost a year. With the team at Red Hook making drastic alterations based on the feedback they got their, at the time, small community of players. The largest of these updates were the named updates – the ones supported directly by the Kickstarter backers.

The first of these ‘named’ updates came on the 28th of May, 2015, and was aptly called ‘Fiend Frenzy’. Not only did this update add the vital classes of the Man-at-Arms, and Arbalest, it also introduced several bosses that are some of the most evil in the game. Specifically, the Gibbering Prophet. And it brought heart attacks to the stress system, meaning character with high stress would instantly be brought to a whopping 0HP if they reached a full meter during a dungeon. Which it simply great.

They didn’t stop there though, because on the 29th of September, 2015, the ‘Those From Below’ update went live. Possibly the biggest update to date, this introduced the Cove as a playable region, with new narrator voice lines, music, and even items to collect. Following this, the final two major updates before the games’ release continued to build upon the success of the previous ones. Final notable addition were the inclusion of the Abomination, as well as both the Collector (a terrifying random miniboss), and the Shambler.

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The future of Darkest Dungeon looks ironically bright, as the team is adding the finishing touches to the Crimson Court DLC. This massive expansion will add not only an entirely new area, with new enemy types, bosses, and a miniboss – but also a new hero. The Vampire Hunter is coming to lend his skills to the team, and he looks set to counter the blood-sucking hoards of the night with Holy Scriptures (and stakes).

If you’ve not managed to play Darkest Dungeon yet, it’s definitely worth your investment. The team is constantly working to improve it, and the community is very active with trying to assist each other with problems. Even better is the fact that it’s just an incredible game. Deeply enthralling, every quest leads to another, and it’s incredibly hard to put down. Happy birthday to you Darkest Dungeon!

Written by Matt Dawson

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