Darkest Dungeon: Baby Steps

“Hell is empty / And all the devils are here.” Darkest Dungeon’s narrative bears resemblance to an anonymous man’s cry in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In Darkest Dungeon’s opening cinematic, the narrator speaks of a “damnable portal of anti-deluvian evil”. And as one delves deeper into said game, those words hold more weight.

This guide is here to aid you in your campaign of tactics and callousness. It will inform you on the essentials: how to grow your arsenal, make profit, manage your roster of heroes, and avoid defeat by preparation and indifference.

Your First Impression

Start killing off the first humans you fight by using the Crusader's Smite ability and the Highwayman's Open Vein or Stunning Blow. In the second fight, you might notice you're up against an Andre The Giant look alike (with a less civilized upbringing). Not to worry! Have your Highwayman use his Grapeshot to damage both enemies. Now focus on Andre and "Swing Away!" - I mean, Smite-away! Do not use the stunning blow - Andre's too strong for it.

When fighting the undead, have your Crusader use the Smite attack. The undead take extra damage from this. But remember not to use your Highwayman’s Open Vein attack. They are immune to it. Both said heroes have a single-enemy attack and an AoE, which hits several. It is best to worry about one enemy at a time: better you kill one enemy than wound two opponents that remain on the battlefield. Hence, use AoE’s strategically when it suits the pace of the battle. Try to focus on one enemy. Though, depending on where your adventurers are positioned, this might be an unreasonable request. Nonetheless, do your best to remove the back-row enemies first. They do more damage, but are easier to kill. Keep this in mind: Stun-attacks are useful, but aren’t to be over-used. If you do, your enemy develops stun-resistance. Use stuns to buy an extra round or two at most in one battle.

The Town and Heroes

Whether your party is half-dead - stressed with quirks - or relatively healthy and battle-hardened, the minute you hit town, acquire new recruits from the Stagecoach. In all likelihood, you'll be given a Plague Doctor and a Vestal. Now look through and inspect your team. The Crusader has sturdy armor, and a large amount of health. Hence, he should be at the front of your party, taking most damage. Keep your Plague Doctor behind everybody else, as he is there to heal and throw damage-potions from afar. The rest you can choose. If you are looking to start strong, then focus on upgrading the Stagecoach. Investing into the "Stage Coach Network" is your livelihood for the first few weeks.

Is there a certain political, financial, or religious etc. community you despise? Then by all means, change the names of your adventurers to people from that 'party' so you can treat them with indifference. Unlike traditional turn-based RPGs, Darkest Dungeon does not ask you to bring back healthy heroes ; the game wants you to use and discard. Giving them names of people you despise might help you get rid of them or let them die in battle, without getting too involved. Say you name your Crusader George Bush, getting rid of him will be that much easier, or - if he happens to prevail - your adventure will be tinged with irony. This game asks for little to no empathy from its player. Keep that in mind.

Use your resources - the Deeds and Crests - to upgrade the “Stage Coach Network” every other week, until it sits at Level 3. Enhance the “Hero Barracks” concurrently until it reaches Level 4 or 5.The town establishments need various currencies to upgrade slots. Check whether you need more Pages(found in The Weald), Portraits (found in The Warren), or Busts (found in The Ruins). Explore the dungeon that has the merits you need.

Dungeon Survival: Get In\Get Out

This is where the advice might sound nonsensical. For your first few weeks, abstain from buying provisions, or completing the quest. Only go in as far as your ‘provision-less’ party can take it. Then escape back to town. There are many benefits to this: a) whatever you bring back, becomes profit, b) you will get used to the variety of hero-classes available without getting attached. Get in, loot and fight as many enemies as possible. And get out before your entire party dies. Acquire new heroes. Now rinse, wash, repeat.(Try to keep two party members from getting too stressed out every-time you head out.) Repeat this process until you’ve accumulated around 12,000 in your purse.

Do not worry about your torch. The less light, the better loot you will find. However, by not bringing extra torches, traps aren’t visible, which will damage your health. Choose whether you spend any money on provisions. Until your purse count is above 10,000, I would advise not to.

It's easy to set your mind on completing dungeon missions that you end up bringing one too many provisions. If so, you won't make profit, and will stress out your heroes at the same time. It is not your responsibility to keep your heroes sane or alive. All you are asked to do is build effective fellowships to beat dungeon quests. So: spend your money on a select few of your best heroes. Get used to firing the rest.

Completing Missions:

It took me fifteen weeks to acquire enough money and sustainable recruits before I completed missions - remember that. If your purse is above 11,000, and your recruits are plentiful, you are ready. You need only select few provisions. In the worst case scenario, you may have discarded more recruits than you wished to. If so, over-prepare by a smidgen: bring six torches, four bandages, and seven food. Anytime you run into rubble, click on it, then move a shovel in between the hand and X option. This will clear the debris without you losing health. Its up to you whether you bring more provisions. Yet they may go unused, which will hurt your purse.

Accept the “defeat every room battle” missions first. For then you have the choice to skip out of any battle that is not situated in a room; they are slightly easier than the “explore 90% rooms” quests. If you’ve grown in confidence but need to complete a few more short missions, try bulldozing your way through without a healer. You’re on a good roll if your average is two dead heroes a mission.

However, for Medium to Long missions, the preferable load-out includes two skilled healers and/or Level 1-2 heroes, since they are less susceptible to afflictions. Camping is your cheat against the dungeon. It is rather self-explanatory: right-click on the wood logs when you’re ready. The only areas you can set up camp are in Rooms. When to camp is up to the stress and affliction status of your heroes. For your first few camp-inclusive missions: the earlier you camp, the better. This allows you to treat your party’s stress and prevent a ‘plague of afflictions’ early in the dungeon. Check which camp-related skill-buffs your adventurers have before you head out. This can help you pick the right [wo]men for the job.

When you press Embark, and enter the quest select menu, the number on the right of the dungeon meters mark the level of boss. Completing missions will build up this meter. When it reaches 100%, the following boss is unlocked. The meter will remain at a 100% till the boss is killed. Once you execute the boss, the meter will reset.

Additional Combat Tips:

There are things worse than death in Darkest Dungeon, known as stress damage. One party member’s death becomes a godsend when you see the effect stress attacks have on your entire fellowship. There are several aggravating consequences to stress-inducing attacks: members skip their turn, refuse to be healed, attack or escape the fight, yell cynical remarks to further induce stress in others, and attack of their own accord. This incursion of stress, rather than the death of one party member, can destroy your entire party. Enemies such as the Female Cultists or Bone Courtiers are to be taken out earliest to prevent these occurrences.

Hiring Recruits:

I have not yet touched upon the subject [in length] as to which type of characters make the strongest team. It’s easy to get into the wrong routine, make the same mistakes, and have the game punish you continually. Adapt your strategy to available recruits rather than limit your choice of recruits to your singular strategy. You will evolve as a Darkest Dungeon player. Every class ‘can’ bring a hefty advantage to a battle. The question is whether or not you can utilize every character class to its full potential.

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