Darkest Dungeon II for PC

First major Darkest Dungeon II update draws from original beasties and more

By Brain Crecente

 First Major Darkest Dungeon 2 Update Draws From Original Beasties And More


While Darkest Dungeon II is about the journey away from the nihilistic themes of its predecessor, that doesn’t mean it needs to leave everything from that original brutally unforgiving role-playing game in the shadowed past.

The Beasts & Burdens update, the first major milestone in the game’s early access development due to hit today, brings with it, among a number of major upgrades, a bit of the original game to this aspirational sequel in the form of creature dens.

The creature den is a new node that can appear in any region (outside of Mountain and Valley), where players will face a random group of beasts in two waves with no rest between. Winning the encounter awards special loot items which, once delivered to the Inn, will result in major benefits to the party. 

But what makes this new node in the game so unusual, is that it’s packed with creations from the original title, something game director Chris Bourassa calls a playful nod to the community.

“Most of the enemies in Darkest Dungeon II are some human-based mutation or hybrid - each faction being deliberately designed to reflect a response to the end of the world,” he said. “When planning this milestone, we recognized we had an opportunity to add diversity to our rogue’s gallery by incorporating some twisted wildlife.  While we could have sprinkled these new monsters everywhere, there’s something very fun and game-y about clustering like-minded cretins into a little gang.”

The collection of Rabid Gnashers, Webbers, Spitters, and Carrion Eaters, once defeated, force players to transport their rewards to the next Inn for the real prize, which also creates inventory pressure in the game.

“The Creature Den as a whole is really emblematic of how we work at Red Hook - iteration, and building out a robust feature from a core concept,” Bourassa said. “As we designed the milestone, a simple mandate of ‘more monsters’ evolved into a new location type with unique rewards and fight structure!”Darkest Dungeon 2 Rabid Gnasher

Another major addition is a tweak to Darkest Dungeon II’s Crossroads, where players typically select their heroes. The update now has heroes who may arrive not just as default wanderers, but heroes with skills already mastered. Some may even arrive with a special class, such as a Plague Doctor who is a surgeon.

The upgrade, said game designer Tyler Sigman, is meant to build out the roguelike-heart of the game, delivering a different gameplay texture to each run.

“The heroes are the beating heart of the game and we’ve invested heavily in broadening their scope and capabilities compared to the first game (for example, each has 11 skills in DDII vs 7 skills in DD) Hero Paths is the next step in blossoming what heroes do.

“There are three shared Paths (that is, paths available to all heroes) which just change whether the hero starts with any skills mastered. But each class also has two completely bespoke paths that dramatically change the hero’s capabilities.”

As often seems the case in the Darkest Dungeon universe, the class-specific paths don’t just deliver strengths, but also weaknesses to each hero. The idea is to force players to think a bit more about the structure of their party and open up the ways a player can use their heroes.

“A Surgeon Plague Doctor, for instance, gets a substantial damage bonus to her Incision skill, and that alone might tempt you to run her at the front of the party. (And now imagine what a Surgeon Plague Doctor with the ‘Breacher’ quirk might do!),” Sigman said. 

Darkest Dungeon 2 Hero

Initially, all of the paths will be unlocked from the start for the heroes, so the developers can get the most feedback from players. But Sigman said that, eventually, they’re likely to gate paths with experience points, hero usage, or perhaps some mastery system.

“But,” he said, “Early Access is perfect for dropping the unlocked feature in this way and thereby letting people kick the tires immediately.”

Another addition coming to Darkest Dungeon II with this update is the addition of two new types of Pillagers – the Pillager Firemouth and Pillager Mongrel – as well as a new Swine: The Swine Skiver. These additions, Bourassa said, helped to build out two factions that seemed a little light at launch. The new monsters are meant to add visual and mechanical diversity.

The update also delivered a number of quality of life and balance changes including quirk revisions, more specific item tooltips, adjustments to hero combo skills, and more.

More like some overhauling of the Academic View used in combat and the player’s Travelogue, which is viewed upon arriving at the Inn.

“An important new feature on the Academic View coming in this update allows players to find out information about the enemies’ combat skills,” Sigman said. “This is a highly requested feature from the community. We had a barebones version of this in the original Darkest Dungeon but we’ve enhanced it here to show more info and do so in a more pleasing graphical manner. 

“When the player first encounters a monster, all the skills will be obscured as “?”. As the player observes the skills happen, then the skills will appear in the Academic View along with key information such as where the monster must be to use the skill, what hero ranks the skill targets, and what effects the skill does. Surfacing this information enhances the tactical nature of combat.”

Bourassa added that the team wants to bring as high a level of polish to the game as possible, and that improving user experience on key screens like the Academic View and Travelogues has a big impact on the game as a whole.

This February update is just the first in what developers Red Hook have said will be a half-dozen milestone updates carving a path through Early Access and up to the full launch of the game – which will arrive with a new playable hero, final boss, story content, and achievements.

Darkest Dungeon 2 Milestones

While the milestone updates are roughed out on the developer’s site, the team working on the game are big fans of reactive development.

“In many ways, Darkest Dungeon and Darkest Dungeon II are games that couldn’t have been created if we always listened to which way the current wind is blowing,” Sigman said. “This is just to say that our North Star has always been internal creative discussions that establish high-level goals of what we want the game to be. However, user feedback is incredibly useful as a tool to refine those ideas and to polish and balance the game. (It’s also good for letting us know when certain ideas just don’t cut it.) Early Access was crucial for DD and the same is true for DDII, which is why we wanted to do that type of development structure.

“We have a lot more analytics hooked up in DDII than DD, including some really great dashboards for everything from hero skill selection to general run completion percent data. However, Big Data in this sense is just another tool for us to refine the product. It’s not useful at all to chart overall direction. Analytics can help answer really specific questions. Philosophically, though, we believe that product direction and high-level game design are creative endeavors, not statistics-based ones.”

Pick up Darkest Dungeon II for your PC from the Epic Games Store.