Greetings from the Abyss! We are Red Hook Studios, an independent five-person team working out of Vancouver, BC, Canada.
We’re all big fans of the dungeon crawling genre here, going all the way back to classics like Bard’s Tale and Eye of the Beholder (1 &2!). We decided we wanted to honour that lineage and make an RPG in the classic vein. However, we also wanted to do something different at the same time. Something unique and challenging in its own way. Something memorable.
Then it hit us: Stress.
We all experience it, especially those in particularly grueling circumstances. Like being 500 feet underground and running out of food, fighting horrific monsters, surrounded by all kinds of unnameable awfulness, for instance. It turns out, being a dungeon delver is rather a rough job.
The Affliction System: Even heroes are human!
Stress is a central mechanic in Darkest Dungeon – everything your heroes see, do and have done to them affects their stress levels, both positively and negatively. Land a big crit? Everyone cheers up a bit. Watch a fellow adventurer get rabies from a feral dog bite? Not so cheery.
As an adventure goes on, heroes will get increasingly unnerved by what they’ve experienced. Once they hit their maximum stress capacity, they’ll roll an ‘Affliction Check’ – success enters them into a heroic state, inspiring allies, and bolstering their abilities. Much more likely however, they will fall victim to their stress and become branded with an Affliction – the moniker for a family of stress-driven behavior – such as Hopelessness or Masochism, Abusiveness, Irrationality, etc.
Afflicted characters are like loaded guns, you never know when they’ll go off! They will periodically ‘act out’, taking an action on their own imperative. A Masochist might advance in combat, eager to have their blood spilled, or they may refuse to be healed, fascinated with their own wounds. Conversely, watch for a Selfish character to retreat in a fight, use supplies unnecessarily, or even steal from the party’s gold!
Bottom line, as your heroes lose their grip, you as the player lose your grip on them! We think it’s an exciting, unpredictable element that challenges players to make the best of an imperfect situation. Can you succeed even when the party is fracturing?
Heroes will also develop a variety of long-lasting “quirks” as a result of their experiences. These can be good and bad – wandering around with no torchlight might grant a hero ‘night-vision’, improving his combat effectiveness in low light, whereas another may become ‘afraid of the dark’, and suffer diminished stress resilience in the shadows. Quirks are an important part of the game – the right collection on a particular character class can turn them into a hard-hitting powerhouse, or a whimpering husk.
Stress relief in town: Pick your poison
So you managed to survive your most recent quest? Maybe you brought back three of your four heroes – not bad at all! Trouble is, one is paranoid, the other is abusive, and the third is teetering on the edge of insanity. Sending this simpering lot back out into the wild would be a huge mistake. It’s time for some R&R.
The loot and family heirlooms you collect on quests are used to upgrade your home base – a small, squalid hamlet bordering a moor. Over time, you will restore and expand it, opening buildings like the Guild and Blacksmith, which allow hero upgrading. Most importantly, however, the town allows you to bench stressed-out heroes in a variety of stress reduction activities – drinking, gambling, praying, and flagellation, among others.
When you return from your next quest, these heroes will be back to their old selves, and ready for action. True to the spirit of the game, however, their time in ‘treatment’ can affect them with a host of personality quirks – your Grave Robber may get banned from the Gambling Hall for cheating, meaning she can never return there. Conversely, your Crusader may go on a bender, refusing to leave the bar in time for the next expedition!
Unpredictability is a hallmark of the Darkest Dungeon experience, and how you cope with unforeseen events will be the measure of your success.
Darkest Dungeon asks a lot from its players, and the heroes they command. It will challenge you to think like a sports coach, or a field commander. Guiding a roster of fallible, stressed-out adventurers is tough work, let alone reclaiming your ancestral estate from the clutches of a timeless evil. Heroes will get injured, stressed, and even die. It is an uncompromising experience that will not coddle you – the game saves all the time, and death is permanent, so your decisions really do matter.
Darkest Dungeon features a powerhouse soundtrack by Stuart Chatwood, chilling narration by Wayne June, and profoundly unsettling sound design by Power Up Audio. It will be available in 2015 on PS4 and Vita – stay tuned to this blog, our website, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter feeds for the latest news!
Want to know more? Post your questions in the comments!