Darkest Dungeon: Crimson Edition Review

After the enormous success that Darkest Dungeon was back in early 2016, the game still received a huge amount of free updates in the following months. These not only added new content but also came out with the intent of balancing a few things, most of which were due to fan’s feedback. Now, around a year and a half later, the first DLC for the game arrives after some delays. The question is, is it worth revisiting the Darkest Dungeon?

The Crimson Court focuses around the idea and theme of vampirism. It brings a legion of new enemies, a new hero class, a new dungeon, new bosses, trinkets, as well as a one or two mechanics that come to change how the original game felt on its own. The new enemy types fit perfectly with this expansion, not only in terms of actual gameplay mechanics, but also in terms of visual design. They range from a series of humanoid-mosquitoes to more vampiric-like enemies, and these are certainly a departure from what you’re used to see in the other dungeons.

If you already have a game underway, you can just activate the DLC and it will pop up next time you get in-game. If you do choose to start a new game, you’ll be given the option to either disable or enable the new class, the Flagellant, as well as the Crimson Court itself, and this includes the new Courtyard region and everything that comes along with it. The Crimson Court also brings with it some events that will trigger on a weekly basis that affect the Hamlet, such as reducing the effectiveness of stress relief activities in town.

Probably the most useful thing, and the thing that most people will enjoy a great deal, is the new hero, the Flagellant, which, obviously enough, can only relief stress through flagellation. This is a very class synergetic and is quite possibly the best bleeder in the game. He works great as a front row character and his role and abilities revolve around the idea that he’s more powerful the closer he is to death, with most of his skills based around bleeding and healing. Besides the new hero, this expansion also brings districts, which come along into the play around week 10. These are really just destroyed buildings that can be repaired at a great cost, but which will grant you some very useful passive upgrades, such as the ability to generate gold and food between expeditions, as well as some class bonuses.

The Crimson Curse that comes along with the Crimson Court, is essentially this kind of disease that only gets worse over time. This curse is contracted by your heroes when they’re attacked by specific Crimson Court enemies. Still, you can negate its effects, at least to a certain degree, by consuming blood. Blood is a new resource that randomly drops as you go through a dungeon. Nonetheless, if you end up putting a cursed hero on one of the stress relief buildings with heroes that aren’t cursed, there’s a chance that they’ll get cursed as well. Likewise, the same thing can happen if you send out a party to a dungeon that is constituted of cursed and non-cursed heroes. What this means is that, if you’re not careful, you can very well end up with your entire roster of heroes cursed.

While in theory the Crimson Curse looks like a pretty sound mechanic, that completely shifts the way players used to prepare when they played Darkest Dungeon, the issue arises when you realize that you can’t prepare yourself for the eventuality of running out of blood. Since it’s a random drop, and since it’s a very important resource for your survival, there is no real effective way to be 100% prepared for what is waiting for you on your next expedition. This is why I think this constitutes a great idea that ends up being a hurdle due to the design choices that were adopted in the implementation of this game changing mechanic.

Now, while a new dungeon region sounds very nice, there is one major caveat, the thing about accessing the Courtyard is that, despite the fact that the game considers it to be a short level 1 dungeon, it is a lot bigger and harder when compared to vanilla level 1 short dungeons. I can’t possibly comprehend how it’s labeled that way and thus, this resulted in multiple failed expeditions. And this leads to another issue which is that, usually, the game lets you know when you’ll face a boss in any given dungeon, but that’s not the case with the Courtyard, you’re pretty much going in blind not knowing what is waiting for you.

Now, once you manage to finally beat the first quest in the Courtyard, entrance will be locked to you. The only way that you can get inside after this point, is to kill a mob that spawns in the vanilla dungeons and which is carrying an invitation. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not really, especially since the enemies that can afflict your heroes with the Crimson Curse will start spawning in the base game dungeons, and since the enemies that carry the invitation tickets are able to flee after the second turn of combat.

The game still retains most of its charm with the addition of the Crimson Court expansion, from the grim and dreadful visuals, to the immersive and horrifying soundtrack, as well as the unforgiving difficulty. With that in mind, this DLC has been receiving very polarizing opinions from players, some love it because it brings more of the same, albeit with new additions, and others hate it for some of those very same additions. Personally, I feel like I’m kind of in-between. Still, while I’m not a huge fan of the way that the access to the Crimson Court was handled, I can acknowledge that, if you’re willing to ignore that, this expansion is sure to please hardcore fans of original game. It’s a shame though that, for everyone else, the enjoyment might not be even close.

In the end, The Crimson Court is a rather difficult one to recommend. All of its main additions should, in theory, work very well and add new gameplay dynamics to the original experience but, ultimately, you find that, in order to properly gain access to the new area that comes with the expansion, you first need to farm your way through the base game’s dungeons. This seems really contradictory, as you’re essentially paying for new content but, in order to get full access to it, you must first delve further into the base game in order to get strong enough to endure it. This results in some new gameplay mechanics that, combined with some design decisions, result in a mixed experience for both hardcore fans and for those who’re new to the game.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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