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Video Game / Darkest Dungeon 2

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"In the howling darkness of the end... men will become monsters...
...but hope will ride with those courageous enough to carry...
...the flame."
The Academic

Darkest Dungeon 2 is the sequel to the acclaimed 2016 Gothic Horror Dungeon Crawling RPG Darkest Dungeon, developed by Red Hook Studios. Not much is currently known of the plot, but Red Hook did an interview with PC Gamer in which they stated that the game will focus on the global repercussions of the Ancestor's unearthing of the Heart of Darkness. The game is available in early access through the Epic Games store since Oct. 26, 2021.

You are the protegee and friend of the Academic. One night, the Academic confronts you and informs you that your worst calculations have come. A malevolent eldritch power is affecting the entire earth, driving the population mad, stirring the dead, corrupting the land and its inhabitants, and driving onward hordes of monsters. The Academic gives you the last scraps of Hope, a mere spark which you fit on the Torch at the top of your stagecoach. It is now up to you and your party of four heroes to cross the land in your solid stagecoach and reach the Mountain, the lair and prison of the source of the evil that has cursed the planet, and to slay its occupants.


Darkest Dungeon II's gameplay is noticeably different from its prior installment. Instead of sending parties of heroes to explore one land, the Estate, you now have to assemble one team of four Heroes available in your roster but this time you must cross large distances while trying to manage them the best you can the whole way, with few options to change the composition of your team. You must now ride across the land, choose which path is preferable, fight through malevolent humans and monsters alike, scour the monster lairs on the side of the road and assist the remaining few good people that you come across. The combat system remains a 4v4 Turn-Based Combat with the same health and stress bars, with notable tweaks to it such as an emphasis on special Status Effects, as well as teamwork. The Affliction system has now been abandoned of the Affinity mechanism, as actions in and out of battle affect the relationships between your heroes and these positive or negative relationships will greatly affect how the heroes do in battle.


Previews: "The Howling End", "A Glimmer of Hope", "Road of Ruin".

Promotional materials for Darkest Dungeon 2 contain the following tropes:

  • Action Initiative: The speed stat determines who gets to act first during a single turn. There are ways to buff one's speed or debuff the enemy's speed, notably some trinkets or a skill.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: A significant number of trinkets have alliterative names. After collecting a few, you might be using such trinkets as Rousing Recorder, Parrying Patriarch, Gnarly Knuckles, Clotting Cruor, and Cleansing Censer.
  • After the End: Downplayed but only in the sense it's rather During the End; Darkest Dungeon 2 takes place just after an unknown (but implied to be the destruction of the Heart of Darkness from the first game) cosmic event has sent the world "into a spiral of madness", which isn't an exaggeration in any sense, the world really has gone to hell in a hand basket. Entire cities are alit in flames from marauding bands of bandits and doomsday cults springing up. The woods are now infested with the remnants of fallen armies; undead soldiers infused with roots and trees. The few people still sane cling to themselves hopelessly, traveling in roving bands on the road, or hold up in fortified inns. The world of Darkest Dungeon has become a Cosmic Horror Story Hell on Earth.
  • Alien Kudzu: Mixed with Evil Is Visceral. The Foetor, once a prosperous land where farmers lived a simple and peaceful life, has been covered in masses of flesh and gore. It is only fitting for the land of the Plague Eaters to be covered in the same mutated growth.
  • Animation Bump: The animation for all the characters and enemies has been greatly improved upon. Not only they have better idle animations, they also have many more single animations for unique situations. For some examples, a hero prepping themselves for a particular skill during battle, the skills themselves being fully animated instead of being a single frame, or a fighter crouching down with an exhausted look when they enter Death's Door.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary. The narrator speaks of an unbalanced ephemeral equation and that the Earth now spins on a "strange and terrifying new axis". This has caused total societal collapse as whole population went mad with only a Desperate Few still clinging on to their sanity and hope. Whole cities are devastated, large parts of the land are now covered in eldritch gore and there are more monsters than ever. Not all hope is lost, though it barely fits in one's palm, and a party of Heroes can reach the Mountain to stop whatever monster is causing this catastrophe.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The size limit for your active party is again set at four heroes.
  • Arc Symbol: The Stress symbol returns in full glory, along with the odd shape of the mountain you need to go to, with its split in the center. Every time you reach an Inn, the camera pans to show the mountain getting closer.
  • Art-Shifted Sequel: The original game had a dark chibi, 2D art style. Now, the characters are rendered in cel-shaded 3D with more realistic proportions.
  • At the Crossroads: Darkest Dungeon 2 emphasizes travel, and thus crossroads take on bigger meaning. Firstly, the Crossroads is a landmark at which the player chooses the Heroes that will be in their party. Secondly, the navigation highlights the idea of choosing between different paths at the crossroads.
  • A World Half Full: A theme of the game. The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but not everyone has succumbed to madness or despair. It's reflected in gameplay, too; helping those you meet along the way keeps the flame of hope alive, while braving challenging encounters lowers the loathing in an area.
  • Bag of Sharing: Bar the one slot for combat items for each hero, the party shares one big inventory which can be increased with the right stagecoach upgrades. There are more slots to the inventory but there are many items of different types and all of them stack poorly. Between the in-game currencies (relics and baubles), the inn items, stagecoach items, trinkets and combat item, the player will soon find themselves sort on space and must consider what they truly need for the journey.
  • Battle Couple: What happens when two heroes develop the Amorous relationship. It is usually very positive to have Amourous heroes, except when one hero's stress increases when their loved one is injured, or when there is jealousy over another relationship.
  • Big Good: The Academic, your patron - after being booted back to the Valley by your death, he leaves you a supply crate, and the ember of Hope needed to possibly save the world in the intro.
  • Call-Back:
    • In the first game, the first four characters you receive are called "The Usual Suspects." In this game, they're called the "The Unusual Suspects."
    • When trudging through the Sluice, the Academic remarks that the first sightings of the Swinefolk were reported from a hamlet on the west coast.
    • In the Jester's first backstory chapter, the pose and instrument of the old man resembles the Squiffy Ghast enemy from the first game, furthermore, said enemy focuses more on attacking the Jester if present in the party.
    • The Hoarder is the Caretaker sent Wandering the Earth by the Hamlet's destruction. He's even got Portraits and Busts poking out of his backpack.
  • Cel Shading: Cel shading is used on the 3D models to reproduce the flat black shadows of the original games, providing continuity in art style despite the use of 3D this time around.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the original release of the game the Leper was close-minded and openly bigoted against the Abomination. In this game, he's practically The Heart of the cast and his backstory focuses on his compassion and kindness.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The Team Shot in the "Howling End" teaser shows that the Hellion, the Leper, the Highwayman, the Plague Doctor, the Grave Robber, and the Man-at-Arms will all be coming back.
    • The "Glimmer of Hope" teaser is a similar Continuity Cavalcade, once again showing the Man-at-Arms, Plague Doctor, Highwayman and Grave Robber, and now adding the Occultist.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: The background during the stagecoach driving sequences is filled with 2D sprites for litter on the road, buildings and trees on the side of the road, and other minor landmarks. The variety and quality of the sprite helps alleviate the feeling of repetitiveness of the environment, however.
  • Damage Over Time: The DOT game mechanism makes a return. In addition of the Bleed and Blight effects, there is now the Burning effect which represents when heroes or monsters are set on fire, with the appropriate skills to inflict it and items to cure it.
  • Darkness Equals Death: Just like the first game, keeping your torch bright will provide buffs to the party, while dim light will buff the monsters. If your Flame reaches 0, the party is immediately attacked by a band of cultists.
  • Death Mountain: The Mountain is the end point of every expedition. Looming on the horizon, this ice-covered twin peak mountain is the home of eldritch abomination from which Cultists come to harass the heroes. Once you reach it though, your party doesn't climb it but instead follows the road until they reach a great cavern at the base of the mountain where they fight the final boss.
  • Die, Chair, Die!: During the stagecoach sequences, it is encouraged to run over everything that litters the road, from bushes to piles of burning book. They sometimes yield small rewards like relics or supplies, and there is no penalty for running into them.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: This is how the developers describe the shift in tone since the first game: it's going to be miserably hard, but things can get better.
    "This game is more about trying to swim up, hoping you have enough air to break the surface, and the fear that you experience when you realise that it's just a little further out of reach each time. It's about trying to surface and trying to come to grips with your failures. But if you can manage to do it, there is a path to a better future."
  • Early Game Hell: If you thought the first game was tough on new players, Darkest Dungeon II is even more punishing for newcomers. While in the first game you could hope for two support characters to heal you through the first, short dungeons, now the game lets you fully dive into a journey to the Mountain and forces you into a specific composition where the only healer is the Plague Doctor with a limited use Battlefield Medicine skill. You also begin with little to no resources, with only an Academic's Cache to give you some supplies. Then there are the hero abilities, with some powerful options, including some staples from the first game, needing you to visit Hero Shrines to unlock; for example, Plague Grenade - a reliable Plague Doctor talent that allows her to rain blight on the rear enemy ranks - cannot be used at all until you've completed two Hero Shrines with her.
  • Elite Mook: The Cultists from the first game have ascended to become dark, Cosmic beings who are all significantly stronger as units than the other factions.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Heroes can have the "Amorous" relationship with each other regardless of gender. In one run, the Grave Robber may hook up with the Man-at-Arms; in another, the Highwayman might; and in a third the Grave Robber might instead fall for the Hellion. It's not exclusive, either; it's very unlikely, but it's not impossible for your entire coach to end up as a free-roaming polycule.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The final area of the game so far is a snowy mountain where the final boss of the run resides. Whether this is true for the other four "chapters" remains to be seen.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: A worldwide example; the apocalypse has driven so many people to madness that the last Holy Flame, a supernatural manifestation of hope, is a mere ember resting on top of your rickety carriage, and all (overly) religious classesnote  from the previous game are absent.
  • Fallen Hero: One of the previous playable heroes from the first game, the Antiquarian, has betrayed the Hamlet, joining a group of pillagers out of Greed, and is fought as a Mini-Boss. Justified; as even in the first game, the Antiquarian was always clear they were in on the quest solely for profit.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: It is possible to build a good relationship between heroes through various acts in battle, like healing an ally or protecting them. Once a good relationship is completed, then the heroes will sometime perform a free action assisting their comrade, like healing them, or protecting them when attacked.
  • Foil: The Academic, the narrator this time around, in contrast to the (possibly) regretful Villain Protagonist Ancestor, always comes off as a Knight in Sour Armor rather than dangling false hope; he never says that anything is more than a Hope Spot, and talks down your expectations constantly, but when your party inevitably dies, he gives you encouragement and a supply for a new journey. He is also explicitly alive, and rather than hiding lore behind boss fights, he reflects on his and the Player Character's friendship with him. On the occasions you find his own experiments with eldritch forces, he freely admits to it, but became aware it was a bad idea and stopped early, as opposed to the Ancestor going full Mad Scientist.
  • Foreshadowing: At the start of the "Denial" chapter, the narrator says "The shackles of denial must. be. destroyed." Indeed, at the end of the journey the party fights four animated shackles that are tying the Brain of Darkness and once they are destroyed, the Brain is freed and the chapter ends.
  • Game Gourmet: In contrast to the first games generic Food provision, the sequel offers a wider range of food items which are only usable in The Inn to heal the party. The items range from disgusting Slime Mold to Stale Bread to delicious Flapjacks. A few Trinkets are also food items, such as the Stiff Drink for the Grave Robber.
  • Game Master: A new character, the Academic, takes the Ancestor's spot. Fittingly for the new tone, he focuses more on grit, determination, and rejection of nihilism rather than endlessly browbeating you over man's failures.
  • Genre Shift: Darkest Dungeon 2 abandons the claustrophobic Dungeon Crawling and Resources Management Gameplay of its predecessor for a linear and grueling experience. This game is about The Quest. Instead of assigning parties to individual dungeon runs, the player has to manage a single party of four individual heroes as they travel the post-apocalypse in a stagecoach, choosing which roads to take and who to save/kill. Instead of an endless supply of interchangeable heroes, there is now only one of each class, with detailed personality and more customization options.
  • Ghibli Hills: Played with. The Valley, your starting location, is a dreary, overgrown, perpetually autumnal forest menaced by undead Gaunts - yet in comparison to the Hell on Earth that is everywhere else, it is outright pleasant. The Academic outright says that leaving the Valley is leaving the one remaining safe-ish place on Earth.
  • Healing Potion: To Healing Salves combat item allows the heroes to instantly heal 33% of the health bar without restriction, which makes it a powerful item in a game where there is a lack of dedicated healer and the few healing skills have many restrictions.
  • Heroic BSoD: Max Stress here results in the fittingly titled Meltdown, wherein the ailing hero loses much of their health, gains a large amount of negative affinity with other heroes as they verbally lash out, and suffers Sanity Slippage. It's possible to recover, but not easy.
  • Hope Bringer: Both as a theme and as a mechanic. You are given the literal last dregs of hope in the world as the Flame and it is possible for you generate a bit of hope to Desperate Few you encounter during your journey by giving relics or by cleaning up Lairs, which strengthens the Flame. The game also uses "hope" as experience, with increasing amount of hope restored unlocking heroes, trinkets and better supplies between successive runs.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: The Death's Door mechanic is coming back, not only for the heroes but also for the enemies. Heroes and monsters may enter Death's Door when they HP hits zero, suffering from a damage debuff but staying alive and having the possibility to survive the next attack.
  • Light Equals Hope: The last of the hope in this world is materialized as a small ball of flame which you place on a torch at the back of your stagecoach.
  • Lighter and Softer: Played with. Per this interview, DD II tones up the bleakness a little bit within the game play (it's an even more brutal, punishing slog), but with the hope of a less nihilistic ending. In addition, the Academic is a straight Big Good who is actively helping you out, and one of the major ways you regain light is helping refugees, while lowering Loathing involves going out of your way to remove entrenched threats.
  • Lost Woods: The Tangle, a large creepy forest where the undead Lost Battalion roam, is one of the possible levels in the game. In addition of the dense vegetation with numerous bushes blocking the view and large trees tangled in vines, the Tangle is visibly the site of an old battlefield as one can see abandoned cannons and small mounds indicating grave pits, as well as the occasional Outpost or even a Keep. The party is most likely to fight formations of the Lost Battalion, undead soldiers animated by plants that still keep on fighting, with drummers, bishops, arbalests and knights supporting the foot soldiers.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The Cultists of course use powers bestowed to them by whatever new eldritch deity they now follow to impede your heroes. The Cultists in this game have fleshy mutations that resemble cephalopod limbs like vampire squid legs for the Evangelists or octopus tentacles for the Deacons, Cherubs, and Cardinals. Much like the original game the Cultists use shadowy powers to stress, debilitate your heroes, and even empower themselves. Of course one of your returning heroes, the Occultist, also makes use of eldritch magic as well to fight and heal for you.
  • Meat Moss: The Foetor biome is overrun by a fleshy growth of tentacle-looking meaty trees, telling you that an eldritch plague has full sway over the area.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The more elite Plague Eater monsters, like the Lord and Maid, will devour the corpses of fallen Plague Eaters for a heal and the ability to use a powerful attack.
  • Morale Mechanic: Managing the Stress of the heroes is once again an important part of the gameplay. The Stress bar is now scaled from 0 to 10 and works differently compared to the prior installment. First, the current stress level is measured in phases of Tense, Irritable, and Roiling, which changes the odds of positive or negative relationship changes occurring. If the Stress level reaches 10, the hero experiences a Breakdown, which resets the Stress to 2, reduces the hero's health to almost nothing (but never to zero, and can never cause a deathblow), and degrades all relationships by several pips. Stress is accrued at random, by enemy attacks, or by the verbal barbs of teammates. It can be healed by various methods as well.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Plague Eaters, the non-bandit monsters of the Foetor, are defined by horrible giant mouths full of an uncomfortable number of teeth. Some of them have more than one such mouth.
  • Nothing but Skulls: Even by Darkest Dungeon standards the Tangle has an excessive number of the things.
  • Orphanage of Fear: St. Martha's Orphanage, mentioned briefly in the Vestal's Afflicted barks in the first game, makes its return in the backstory of the Runaway, and the story makes it quite clear that the nuns who ran the place were abusive and sadistic, making it little wonder that the Runaway, well, ran away.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: One of the positive relationship that Heroes can develop is the Inseparable one, which suggests that these heroes really get along without it turning into romance.
  • The Professor: The Academic is one by profession and nature.
  • Religion of Evil: The Cultists from the first game make a return, but are now noticeably more threatening as a force and much more organized than in the prior installment. Gone are the Eagle-Clawed wannabes and dark priestesses, replaced with a fully-mutated army barely hiding their monstrous forms behind sleek metal helms and elaborate black robes. Their ranks are now filled with massive Deacons wielding giant metal axes, horrific Cardinals who will debilitate your heroes with their mastery of the void, svelte-levitating Evangelists Dual Wielding swords coupled with lightning and shadow, and monstrous flying Cherubs whose disgusting existence will drive your heroes further into madness.
  • Relationship Values: The game indicates how well a Hero gets along with other members of the party with meters made of rows of diamond pips. When two characters begin to form a positive relationship, these pips will glow yellow. A relationship is fully formed when 6 pips light up, and can be strengthened further by lighting up four large pips. If the relationship is strained, these pips shatter. Conversely, characters who dislike each other light the pips blue.
  • The Resenter: What heroes become when they develop a Resentful relationship. They begin to criticize another Hero when the latter performs a successful action, and insist on them having it easy compared to themselves.
  • Rest-and-Resupply Stop: The Inn, which is situated at the end of each zone, is a crucial building as it is the only type where your heroes can properly rest and upgrade. The heroes can be seen languishing in the guest room and you can give them various supplies to regain health, relieve stress, build relationships, or acquire buffs for the next stretch of road. There are also merchants at the Inn from which you can buy supplies, a Mastery Trainer that allows you to enhance skills at the cost of a mastery point, and a Wainwright who enhances the stagecoach with upgrades you've found.
  • Road Trip Plot: Instead of sending parties exploring various parts of the Estate, the general plot is about one party travelling towards the mountain on the horizon in a stagecoach. The player is able to maneuver the stagecoach, and choose between branching paths. The travel is punctuated with various encounters, battles, and buildings on the side to explore.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: If you look closely, the mountain in the teaser trailer has the faces of a number of Eldritch Abominations trapped in the ice.
  • See the Invisible: The Chalk Dust combat item allows the heroes to negate the stealth token on an enemy, presumably by invoking the idea of dispersing a cloud of dust to reveal invisible enemies.
  • Shout-Out: One of the area missions is "Bat Country," which gives you an encounter with Cultists that needs to be dealt with.
  • Stalked by the Bell: Run out of light, and your wagon is pulled into a shadowy dimension to fight Cultists with all the buffs from dim light snuffed out - or worse, the Shambler. You can win, and in so doing revive your torch halfway - generally enough to reach the next Inn - but it is never easy, and there are far safer ways to get Cultist or Shambler loot than inviting an ambush.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: Some of the backstory fights use turn-based combat to create a mini-stealth game whereby an enemy will attack random positions and the hero must maneuver or use skills to avoid being attacked, as they themselves have few to no ways to retaliate. Examples include a younger Grave Robber having to avoid the attacks of guards as she robs graves for the first time, or the Runaway trying to steal keys from a nun to escape her orphanage.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: This is what happens when heroes with a bad relationship fight together. They will fight together, but at random, one hero may make a snide remark at their hated teammate, which also has a chance of inflicting a debuff.
  • Timed Mission: Some of the encounters, notably those explicitly on the road, have a 5 rounds limit. If your team hasn't completely dispatched the enemy side by turn 6, then the battle automatically ends with no reward but the wounds and the stress you've accumulated, forcing the player to play very aggressively on these occasions.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: At the Shrines of Reflection, the player can access the backstory of the heroes, divided into chapters and told by the narrator. Sometimes, the game adds flair to the flashback by using the combat system to narrate the fights the Hero had to do in their past. For instance the Highwayman's backstory involves a prison break whereas we see shackled and in a prisoner's garb, fighting four enemy soldiers and having a different moveset reflecting how he'd fight at the time.
  • Tunnel Network: The Sluice is a vast network of derelict abandoned waterways with barely functional roads covered in crude barricades. The Swinefolk have made it their territory, as the Sluice is connected to the Warrens. As such, the place is littered in piles of corpses and iron cages, and is teeming with Swinefolk.
  • Turn-Based Combat: The combat system is turn-based as in the previous game. Speed is still the main factor of turn initiative, but this time you are shown the turn order of the next four characters.
  • Urban Ruins: The Sprawl is a ruined, burning city occupied by crazed Fanatics. As suggested by the many statues holding books, the Great Libraries in ruins and the amount of burning piles of books, it was once an enlightened city until a mob of Fanatics overtook it and laid ruins to it. The party is most susceptible to fighting Fanatics, horribly scarred humans that have gone crazy and extremely violent, attacking with flails and fire.
  • Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Mountain; it's ominous enough from a distance, but when you're on its slopes, it loses all pretense of being a normal Earthly place, as a lightning storm starts over it and the ground becomes awash in shadowy mist as you approach the cult Ziggurat at its center, where the chapter boss awaits.
  • Visual Initiative Queue: One addition to the HUD compared to the previous game is that the order of who acts after your hero's turn is displayed, which allows for some degree of planning.
  • Wanted Meter: Loathing, the amount of power the Cultists and their monstrous allies have, works like this - the more there is, the more power and bonuses your enemies get, and the faster your torch depletes (giving them more power and bonuses), but you can force it down by destroying Resistance landmarks (places where monsters have built smaller bases than true Lairs), and Cultist encampments.
  • World Gone Mad: As revealed by the intro cutscene, the entire world has given into complete madness with many large cities descending into complete chaos.
  • You All Look Familiar: Darkest Dungeon already had only a single model used for a single kind of enemy that can attack you, but 2 goes even farther than this by reusing a model of a mustached-and-bearded man wearing jack of plate armor and morion helmet as the guards of a prison the Highwayman was in, the soldiers that were under Man-at-Arms' command and his enemies, and enemies that the Hellion fought, the only difference being that they have clubs at the prison but are using swords everywhere else.

Ruin has found you at last...

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