Jay Z and Oprah vs. Darkest Dungeon
"Hey, name a famous person," I say to Quibian, one of the editors here at GameCrate.
"Uh...Mila Kunis," he replies.
"Perfect," I say, typing into the name field for one of my characters in Darkest Dungeon.
And so it goes, as I ask Quibian and fellow editor Karim to offer up famous people and historical figures. In a few moments, my team is complete.
Part 1: Meet the Team
Mila Kunis, the Highwayman. A Highwayman fights with a sword and gun, and can deal modest damage and cause bleeding.
Oprah, the Vestal. A Vestal is Darkest Dungeon's take on a priest or cleric. Oprah wields divine healing magic and is no slouch in a fight.
Channing Tatum, the Plague Doctor. Plague Doctors have some interesting ranged abilities and can debuff your foes, but Channing Tatum the Plague Doctor is generally lousy.
Taylor Swift, the Jester. Jesters are like Bards, and can use their music to boost your team as well as damage your enemies. Taylor Swift is one of the superstars of my squad.
Pharrell, the Arcanist. Pharrell can use his magic abilities to inflict damage or to provide a risky healing boost of a random value which causes the target to bleed. Oprah's healing is more reliable, but when she isn't an option, Pharrell provides backup.
Ashton Kutcher, the Jester. Not as good as Taylor Swift (and not as funny as he thinks he is). He's obsessed with money and doesn't need to eat when he gets stressed out.
Abraham Lincoln, the Crusader. A stalwart Paladin, Abraham is currently suffering from some pretty serious mental issues and will be spending his time trying to recover.
Julius Caesar, the Grave Robber. A knife-wielding fighter who prefers to hang out in the rear ranks.
Malcolm X, the Bounty Hunter. A versatile damage dealer who begins our story as a Meditator (which helps him recover stress), as well as being both Bloodthirsty and Anemic (which hinder his abilities in various ways).
A pretty impressive team, right? Let's see how they do!
Part 2: The Disastrous First Expedition
With several of my team members recovering from the stress and strain of previous quests, my options are limited when it comes time to select a crew of four to send into the Ruins. I end up going with Channing Tatum the Plague Doctor, Ashton Kutcher the Jester, Julius Caesar the Grave Robber, and Malcolm X the Bounty Hunter.
As it turns out, this team is missing a couple of key components. They don't have a reliable tank who can absorb damage, which hurts. They also don't have anyone who can heal them, which basically spells doom in Darkest Dungeon. I realize my mistake almost immediately and think about abandoning the quest, but the game has clever ways to discourage that.
Embarking on a quest requires buying provisions like food and torches, and you don't get any unused extras back after completing or abandoning your mission. So once you've embarked, you're already in the hole financially. If you don't manage to come back with a fair bit of loot, you can quickly find yourself out of funds and basically unable to progress. With this in mind, I decide to press on with my motley crew in an attempt to at least win a couple of fights and gather some gold.
It doesn't go well.
Ashton Kutcher, seen here being useless as always.
Moments after entering the dungeon, Malcolm X explores a rusty iron maiden and gets tetanus and lockjaw from the poisonous fumes. His damage-dealing abilities are hampered, which is a real shame. This nasty situation increases his Stress (one of the two vital statistics you have to carefully manage in Darkest Dungeon) and he has a mental breakdown, becoming Masochistic. Masochistic characters will sometimes refuse healing or purposely put themselves in harm's way.
Malcolm X's newfound weaknesses hamper the team in their very first fight against a team of skeletons, and after an unlucky critical hit Julius Caesar is at Death's Door. If I had a healer on the team I could potentially save her, but instead she takes another hit and dies. This death understandably stresses out the rest of the team, and after barely managing to dispatch the skeletons everyone is at a the end of their wits.
I run away with very little treasure or experience to show for the whole mess.
Part 3: Hard Knock Life
Like Dirt Off Your Shoulder.
Back in town, I scramble to help my team deal with their terrible traumas. Since Malcolm X particularly likes meditating, I send him to the chapel to do just that.
I also need to recruit a replacement for Caesar. There aren't any Grave Robbers currently available, but I'm happy to pick up another Crusader. I name him Jay Z, and say a silent prayer that he'll help my team get back on the right track. I notice he's a Kleptomaniac, but hope that doesn't become too much of an issue.
I return to the Ruins with a team composed of Pharrell the Arcanist, Taylor Swift the Jester, Oprah the Vestal, and Jay Z the Crusader -- and they WRECK the place. Taylor Swift boosts the team with her Battle Ballads and Oprah spreads the healing love. Jay Z has 99 problems but apparently none of those problems include skeletons or spiders because he rips through those without slowing down. Sure he does have a nagging tendency to steal treasure for himself rather than sharing it with the team, but I figure he's earning whatever he pockets.
Pharrell doesn't do a whole lot but he's there too, so good for him.
The team returns home alive and intact, laden down with riches.
Part 4: The Death of a Legend
A mystery awaits the team back in town. Malcolm X's meditation has been a great success, ridding him of his Masochistic tendency, but now he's gone off on a vision quest! He's off the team roster and nobody knows where he is (I assume it's Mecca, but the game doesn't say). His absence gives me a free spot on my roster so I could potentially add someone new, but I'm not sure what will happen if Malcolm returns and puts me over the max roster size, so I refrain for the time being.
Riding high on my recent success, I undertake a new mission. I'm tasked with killing a Necromancer Apprentice, and I bring along basically the same team as last time (swapping in Mila Kunis the Highwayman in place of Pharrell).
Things go well for a while.
The Judgement of Oprah is a terrible thing to behold.
But in Darkest Dungeon, there's a very fine line between glory and disaster. All it takes are a few touches of bad luck to turn your sweet wine to ashes, and that's exactly what happens when Oprah suffers a critical hit from a brigand's dagger. Since she's only a level one character that's enough to send her to Death's Door, desperately clinging to life and waiting for a healing spell to save her or an additional point of damage to tip her into the grave.
Oh, hey, and she's blighted too. That means she's going to take an additional point of damage right at the start of her turn for the next few turns. And since she's our only healer, that means that...oh, no...
Oprah dies, you guys. It's awful.
I feel this loss in my gut. Oprah was the most important person on my team. Her combination of healing spells and combat prowess meant she was good at just about everything, and without her the mission to kill the Necromancer quickly falls apart. I consider running away as soon as Oprah falls, but instead I foolishly press on and nearly get Taylor Swift killed in the process.
Back in town, the surviving heroes mourn their dead.
Currently there are three. There will be many many more.
How will they go on? How will they endure? And where the hell is Malcolm X?!
Some dry details: Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG in which you assemble a roster of heroes to undertake quests in an effort to restore the land of your ancestors to its former glory. Aside from RPG staples like health, accuracy, and speed, you'll need to concern yourself with light management (the game becomes more challenging and rewarding when your torches burn low) and the sanity of your heroes.
Darkest Dungeon is an incredible game, even in its currently unfinished Early Access state. It has the accessibility of a mobile RPG combined with the tension and resource management of Rogue Legacy, all bathed in an astonishing presentation which makes every moment a treat for your eyes and ears. It's dark, funny, and intensely satisfying to play.