Some people just don’t want a new experience

I’ve been playing a solid amount of Darkest Dungeon since the release of the Radiant mode patch. For a still-accurate overview of my thoughts on the game, here is my review post from 2015. Radiant mode shortens the game, but doesn’t actually make it easier, which is perfect all around. I’ll likely have a wrap-up post once I actually beat the game. I’m on week 60 right now, with a nearly maxed village and multiple maxed heroes, so I should be pretty close, and just need to get the courage up to enter the final dungeon…

I also really enjoy reading comments about DD on various sites like Polygon or RPS, because people fall into basically two camps. One camp ‘gets it’ and enjoys the fact that in DD heroes aren’t permanent, and the point of the game isn’t to get your favorite buddy to the end, but rather to manage the whole stable of disposable heroes in such a way to eventually beat the final dungeon. The other camp is people who dislike the fact that heroes aren’t meant to be permanent, and just can’t get over that hurdle to enjoy the game for what it is.

The reason I find this so interesting is because it shows how set in there ways some people are. DD by its very design is intended to shake up a tradition in the RPG space (that heroes are the focus), and it accomplishes this very well. It can be rough at first, but once you make the mental shift things click. Yet some people don’t want that shakeup, and despite the rest of DD being what they want, they just can’t make it click.

In this regard, it’s easier to see why, for example, we continue to see basically the same MMO released over and over with just different settings. For every person sick of the same old kill/fetch/grind quest model, there are people who don’t want that shaken up, to the point that they won’t accept anything that does. It’s not ‘wrong’ by any means, because what you find fun is what you find fun, but it helps to explain why we don’t see more developers pushing gaming in different directions; it’s simple easier and safer to stay with what works and what people expect.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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15 Responses to Some people just don’t want a new experience

  1. zaphod6502 says:

    I’m happy with the game as is. Not sure why people would be unhappy with losing heroes as the game is designed at its core as a high risk game. If they’re wanting to change that aspect then they should choose a different game. Luckily the majority of players are perfectly happy with Darkest Dungeon as designed.

  2. Bhagpuss says:

    Good point, well made. I’m very much in the camp that is comfortable with the type of MMO I’ve been playing for a decade and a half. I would like more MMOs like those because different scenery is always nice but other than that I’m quite content with the ones I already have.

    On the other hand, I’m not so unimaginative as not to be willing to give new approaches a try. I might find I like it. There ought to be room for both experimentation and consolidation. You can see why the people spending the money and taking the risk might prefer to go with the audience they already know is there, though.

  3. Esteban says:

    Yeah, the first thing that any red-blooded RPGer says when confronted with an expendable-heroes paradigm is ‘Ha! That’s for scrubs. I’m going to keep all these guys alive and have a perfect run, and we’ll all ride off into the sunset at the end.’

    Which… is just about possible, in DD, but raises the challenge a great deal. In addition to just playing well, you have to have iron discipline about keeping risks low. And, of course, there are certain complications at the end.

    Terrific game, all in all. Easily one of the best of last year.

    • Eph says:

      If one is unwilling to view heroes as disposable, then they need to accept that retreat is preferable to struggling against unfavorable odds – and *that* concept is even harder for all too many RPG players to wrap their heads around.

      • SynCaine says:

        That’s another good point. Even if you aren’t against the disposable hero thing, I think another hurdle for many will be accepting that despite the best planning and strategy, some missions just aren’t going to be possible, and its important to retreat before they become a disaster. This is most prominent at the most difficult dungeons, because you are already maxed for gear/skills, so you can’t just get stronger and apply more brute force to win.

  4. agnasg says:

    Wondering what should be, in your very experienced opinion, an interesting, not boring, imaginative alternative to “the same old kill/fetch/grind quest model”? Because I have years thinking about that, and after play a lot of mmo, muds, and so, I don’t have any with a little hope to be successfully.

    • SynCaine says:

      Almost any MMO that isn’t a copy/paste themepark, most notably EVE. We’ll see how games like Crowfall and Camelot Unchained do as well.

    • Eph says:

      “Not boring”, “interesting”, “imaginative” and “alternative to same old grinding model” are not exactly the terms that I would use to describe DD’s gameplay. Its core fight mechanics are as complex as FF1 (a game that celebrates its 30th birthday this year) and its repertoire of challenges and environments becomes stale very quickly.

      The main strengths of DD are its writing, voice acting and art style. Much like Sunless Sea or Alpha Protocol, it relies on its flavor to conceal or lampshade its mechanical flaws. Repeatedly throwing disposable characters into money runs and dismissing/killing the survivors is as much of a shallow bullshit grind as EVE’s AFK ratting, WoW’s dailies or killing rats in Ultima 1. DD only gets away with it by framing it as you being a cruel monster (just like your Ancestor!), thus giving it a measure of narrative meaning.

      However, while flavor and story can carry a single player game, they’re not enough to sustain a MMO above non-niche numbers (case in point, SWTOR’s fourth pillar). Do you see yourself playing Darkest Dungeon for 1,000 hours? 10,000? Because I certainly don’t.

      • SynCaine says:

        I think you are selling the complexity of DD combat pretty short, given how many different classes and skills there are, plus trinkets on top of that, along with the importance (and disruption) of formation. Not only did FF1 not have any of that, very few modern-day RPGs have anything close to that complexity, nor the difficulty/setting to make it all actually matter. I mean yes, heroes aren’t permanent, but once past level 1, you also can’t go into every dungeon tossing half of them out if you want to make any kind of progress.

        As for length, Steam says I’ve played DD 80 hours, which for a non-AAA priced game, is very good value IMO, especially because so much of that 80 hours was memorable and enjoyable.

      • Esteban says:

        Perhaps I’m missing some non-literal nuance to your question, but I have not played any single-player game for 1000h. The triple digits are things like Warband, Civ V, Elder Scrolls games, BL2. So a bit of an impossible standard.

        A Darkest Dungeon multiplayer version (not an MMO, let’s not get silly) could actually work okay, if it involved competitive dungeon exploration and brawls if you meet another player’s team in a room. Call me shallow, but I could see myself playing that, if it were well executed – perhaps on mobile.

        Also, in my experience, a good rotation of squads (assembled with a view to their intended foe type) on quasi-dark runs generally keeps you in the black without the need for throwaway money runs. I recall also having a farming team for the occasional cash injection which would simply bail out of a lowbie run once their bags were full, rarely needing much treatment. The Antiquarian’s gone a long way toward solving any gold-flow problems.

  5. Eph says:

    Yeah, and Dark Souls was intended to shake up a tradition in the shooter space (that ranged attacks are the focus and first person is the perspective), and it accomplished that very well. Yet some shooter players didn’t want that shakeup, and despite the rest of Dark Souls being what they wanted, they just couldn’t make it click!

    Sarcasm aside, the primary reason why so many RPG players don’t like DD is that DD is not an RPG. It’s a strategy game with a revolving roster of disposable characters with different stats and a modicum of personality – which also describes XCOM, Crusader Kings 2 and Football Manager 2015. If someone who likes Pillars of Eternity or Witcher 3 doesn’t enjoy Football Manager series, that doesn’t make them a close-minded neophobe, it simply means that they don’t enjoy strategy games, especially ones that are mislabeled as something they are not.

    • trego says:

      The distinction between role-playing game and strategy game is not so black and white as you put it. DD is solidly in the tradition of hack-n-slash party-based CRPG’s that have existed for the last 40 years…the kind of RPG that you are willing to accept came to computer platforms much later. This blending together of the genres isn’t limited to computer based role playing games either, no matter how far back you go, this tension exists.

      If you go to tabletop gaming, then there is a spectrum of gaming, from totally story based gaming, to games which are much more formalized, use more miniatures, etc.

      If you go to the idea of ‘role’ outside of gaming, then you have roles in theater, which are generally more story/acting based, although there are also all those nonspeaking roles to consider. Then you have the idea of ‘role’ in sociology, which is about all the socially expected performative actions we take and analyzing them in a way which makes our actions seem much more mechanical and game-like than we normally think of them.

      I google Football Manager 2015, and although it is clearly socially expected to call it a “football management simulation video game “, by those playing out their roles as video game critics, it’s interesting to see how each review starts, which generally describe the game as something like “Football Manager 2015 allows you to live the life of a real football manager”. Sounds like a role-playing game to me.

    • trego says:

      Don’t get me wrong, we’re not that far apart. If you simply changed a part of your argument from “DD is not an RPG” to “DD is too far towards a strategy game for many RPG players”, I’d be tempted to agree with you.

      However, as you have named a few games to make your point, there’s a game which I would like to bring up, to illuminate my point. Let’s compare DD to wizardry I: the proving grounds. This highly influential early computer role-playing game is interesting to compare to DD. When characters died in Wizardry, sometimes they would turn to ashes upon being rezzed. Also, when you had a total party-wipe, you had to rescue them with a second party, or they were lost forever. When I played Wizardry as a tender young lad, these factors led me to play it much like DD, leveling up spare party members with the existing party, mixing and matching, to have replacements ready to move in. Over time, many of these mechanics were abandoned in other games that were inspired by Wizardry. In this particular historical view, many of DD’s features, which you insist make it a strategy game instead of an RPG, are actually direct callbacks to a game fairly universally acknowledged as not just an RPG, but a trailbreaking and influential pioneer RPG from 4 decades ago. DD, furthermore, provides the player with an actual role to play–you are explicitly described as the person hiring and assembling these parties, the owner of the estate troubled by the evil invasion. In wizardry I, you are basically this same person, but you are never explicitly included into the fantasy world. Instead, the game proceeds by analogy to the fantasy novels which players were assumed to be familiar with, with the player operating as both a co-author and a reader of the story playing out before them.

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