I think I may have promised to finish The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild so I can write up a more thorough reflection of the game as a whole.
Since I finished Dark Souls 3, I’ve been going to other dark places in my spare time. Decrepit places that creep and crawl with unspeakable horrors and unnameable evils. I do it for the challenge. I do it for the rewards. I do it for Lovecraft. Mostly, I do it because I’m curious to see what’s hidden in the depths of the …
This game is brutal. Like, one wrong move, one forgotten resource, one neglected weapon or armor upgrade, one debilitating negative quirk, and … your adventurers are gonna be way stressed out and/or they’re gonna die.
The stress mechanic is pretty cool, as it’s a neat way to reflect the harrowing nature of any journey into unknown lands with untamed monsters waiting to devour the first adventurer who stumbles. It goes hand in hand with the torch mechanic, which allows you to light your way as long as you have a steady supply of torches. The longer your quest, the more torches you’ll want to bring. The darker it becomes, the more stressed your adventurers become, unless they’re different and they like the darkness.
So keeping a flame lit is the surest way to battle stress, but there are other factors that bring down your party’s spirits. Food is another realistic aspect of the game, and if your dungeon delvers don’t eat, they can starve and get stressed that way. Naturally, all the crazy fiends and beasts you fight can pile on the stress as well … shit, everything is set to stress you out in Darkest Dungeon.
The good part of all this tough adventuring is the comfort that awaits the end of your travails. There’s a nice little hamlet on the edge of the wilds that serves as your base of operations, and you upgrade it as you dive deeper and discover more treasure.
Once your hamlet is upgraded to include proper amenities such as a tavern and an abbey, you can send your adventurers to these places to unwind and find peace. There are also, naturally, places to hone your adventurers’ skills and a blacksmith to upgrade weapons and armor. Thus, Darkest Dungeon becomes a drawn-out cycle of adventuring, accruing stress and treasure, heading back to town (if your adventurers survive) to spend hard-earned gold to get rid of stress and purchase upgrades, and using the next hand-picked party of your people to start the whole process over again.
It sounds like a grueling experience, and in ways it is, but nothing beats the feeling of seeing that “Quest Completed” notification as your adventurers lose their minds from stress and one of them is standing at Death’s door while the other three are bleeding and/or shaking because of cuts and the blight, respectively.
They return to town. They haul plenty of loot, and as soon as they sell it, you send them off to different places in town so they can haul their weary minds back toward sanity and good health.
It’s a stressful game, to be sure. But damn, it’s enjoyable, too. I’ll keep on delving. You keep on gaming, folks.