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Review: Darkest Dungeon-The Tablet Edition

iPad •

“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.

Et tu, Brute? — Shakespeare’s Hamlet (probably)

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.

Employment does not include a dental plan.

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.

Spiders? Why did it have to be spiders? –Han Solo (probably)

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.

Darkest Dungeon’s equivalent to a unicorn: A good event

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.

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Notable Replies

  1. Pitta says:


    (Review, picture captions and the game as well).

  2. I’d give the game a 6/10. I can appreciate the design and the depth, but it is too dark and too frustrating for me to love. I’ll be spending more time with it on a road trip this weekend so maybe my opinions will change.

  3. Crow says:

    Unsurprisingly it is 64 bit as I feared so won’t run on my iPad 4. A new iPad is going to have to wait for a while though so in the meantime I need to blow the dust off my unplayed Steam version.

    For those about to delve, we salute you!

  4. I think this is about how I felt about it on the Steam version. On paper, this should be almost a perfect game for me…but its theme just sort of puts me off and it’s less forgiving than X-Com 2 I feel, and frustrating in such a way that it really takes out the fun for me.

  5. I’m a bit confused by some of the game and I’m muddling through. Thankfully only done my second quest and nobody’s died.

    But one of my guys reached 100 stress and is now paranoid. I have no idea what effect that has on the game.

    I know some of my people are going to get killed before I figure all of this stuff out. Some of the buttons and skills aren’t that intuitive.

    But it is fun!

    Edit: Also realized that I had dragged the wrong guy into the tavern and the 100 stress guy really should be there. Whoops! Now I’m down another guy for a week.

  6. If they get too stressed, they’ll get random negative attributes, and other things. It’s been a long time since I played. I’m about to start up again wth my iPad version.

    Don’t stress about making a mistake, you’ll lose people. A lot.

  7. I know that they’ll get negative (or possibly positive) attributes when they get stressed.

    I’m just not sure what effect this particular one will have. What does “Paranoid” do?

    Is the entire thing trial and error, or is there a guide somewhere?

    Edit: of course, why don’t I google it? And found one…

    Edit #2: How do you camp?

    Edit #3: Ok, that’s only for longer quests. Never mind!

    I do feel like I’m not understanding things, but I think I will pick them up as I go along.

  8. For camping, I think you need camping supplies or something like that. On the subject of what the hell does paranoid do, do you not get tooltips or something like that for long presses? I vaguely remember hovering giving tool tips.

    You’re making me want to play the game to figure it out, but my iPad is buried in the trunk in my suitcase (don’t worry, my wife is driving the car).strong text

  9. No worries!

    There are tooltips, but if I recall last night when I looked, it didn’t say what game effect it had (the guide I just read says “A very dangerous affliction which increases the suspicions of the bearer. It may lead to rejecting the healing attempts, passing the turns or rejecting the camp abilities” which I guess is kind of hard to put in a tooltip :slight_smile:)

    I do seem to recall he didn’t do something I told him to do on one turn at the end of the dungeon (he was afflicted late), but thankfully what he did instead was still an attack.

    The same guide also says that camping is only available in longer quests and that you are given the firewood for free at the beginning of the quest (I guess that indicates “camping”).

  10. Finally got around to trying this the other day. I was rather surprised to see how poorly the screen real estate is used. All the UI elements are so small on my iPad Air that it was giving me a headache and I didn’t bother playing beyond the intro.

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