“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for any man to actually succeed at Darkest Dungeon.”
— Jesus (probably)
Darkest Dungeon is a bitch of a game. A dungeon romp in which your chance of success is lower than being struck by lightning. It’s brutal and unrelenting and frustrating as hell. It’s also a lot of fun if rare success against overwhelming odds is something that trips your trigger. If games like FTL or Don’t Starve haven’t scared you off, then Darkest Dungeon will be right up your alley. The Steam version of Darkest Dungeon has been available in its full version for nearly two years, and it was available in Early Access well before that. Now there’s a tablet version so you can get depressed on the couch.
I’m not sure I need to praise the gameplay of Darkest Dungeon more than it’s already been lauded over the past few years. It’s basically XCOM mixed with Lovecraftian fantasy, meaning you send squads of adventurers on quests not to hunt alien invaders, but to gain loot and unlock more of the eldritch mysteries surrounding your ancestors. Problem is, the critters they discover on their journeys are mean and yucky, which translates into your adventurers either dying or going mad with all the hard work you put into building up your troops dissolving in the blink of an ichor dripping eye. It’s a bit of a roguelike, but not really. It’s a squad based tactical combat game in which each combat ratchets up the tension until you either succeed at your quest and gain the rewards or die trying. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, die trying = permadeath.
Apart from the delves, you’ll also manage the hamlet surrounding your family estate. This involves hiring new adventurers, upgrading weapons and armor, leveling up your heroes, and treating your heroes to a bit of therapy before they snap. You’ll upgrade different buildings by finding family heirlooms on your quests, and you’ll also discover trinkets that you can equip on your troops to boost their abilities. There’s a lot more going on in Darkest Dungeon than the quick combat tutorial would lead you to believe. Luckily, the game doles out small chunks of new content after each dungeon raid, so it’s never overwhelming.
If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of Darkest Dungeon. I’ve been playing it since Early Access and have been looking forward to a tablet version since Owen first brought up the possibility way back in 2014. It was worth the wait.
The tablet version includes everything you get in the base game on your PC/Mac, right down to the over-the-top narration. Every building, every character class, every cinematic is right there waiting for you. The UI has been redone to accommodate the touchscreen, with movement and combat flowing easily via screen taps on abilities, enemies, and your party. Information on abilities or enemies was accomplished via mouse hover in the PC/Mac version. Here you can access that information simply by tapping on an ability, affliction, or item. A small popup window will appear and remain when you remove your finger, so reading hidden info is a breeze. I’ve been playing on an iPad Air, but I could see those with the smaller screens of an iPad Mini having issues tapping on the correct set of words when trying to learn about their hero’s latest affliction. The only issue I’ve personally had with the UI is having character portraits sticking to my fat fingers and sliding about when all I wanted to do was see their character sheet. I have a feeling this is more user error than an actual bug, though.
Darkest Dungeon is a solo affair, so multiplayer isn’t an option. The game does offer iCloud saves for those of us on iPads, but that’s the extent of its online requirements. Online saves are optional, so you can go completely offline with DD if you want.
The only negative I can find with Darkest Dungeon comes from its requirements. The game needs a 64-bit system, so anyone with a pre-iPad Air device is out in the cold.
Darkest Dungeon on a tablet is everything I could have hoped for and deserves to be mentioned right along with other fantastic PC ports like FTL, Don’t Starve, XCOM: Enemy Within, and Guild of Dungeoneering. The tablet UI has been finely tuned to not get in the way, and all the grim, gothic loveliness has translated beautifully. The only downside is that it’s far easier to throw your iPad across the room after a TPK than it was when playing on my old desktop. Time to buy stock in OtterBox; I foresee a huge demand.