The original Darkest Dungeon, released in 2016, was considered one of the toughest and most punishing games. Now, we’re treated to its sequel, which does follow some core concepts. However, there are several key features to take note. Here’s our Darkest Dungeon 2 guide to help you with the biggest changes and differences from the original.
Your heroes and party in Darkest Dungeon 2 versus the original
One of the biggest changes in Darkest Dungeon 2 compared to the original is choosing heroes for your party. In the first game, you selected from a pool of heroes that appeared in your Stagecoach. As such, it’s possible to have multiple characters with the same class. It’s like having a bunch of mercenaries who are just trying to survive.
This time, each hero is unique, akin to a traditional RPG. Developer Red Hook Studios cited that this change in design makes players feel more attached to their characters. But, this also leads to stricter party builds since you can no longer have multiple characters with the same class type. Likewise, only four out of nine characters are available from the start. The rest are unlocked as you increase your profile level by progressing further in your runs.
Dungeon delving versus overworld driving
Another major change in Darkest Dungeon 2 is how you explore the game world. In the original game, characters moved back and forth rooms. A minimap allowed you to select the room; after that, you encountered rewards and monsters. Gone are those days.
Instead, the Stagecoach itself becomes our primary means of navigation in Darkest Dungeon 2. You drive it forward by pressing the W key, and you can turn sideways with the A and D keys. Moreover, characters will have their HP replenished as you travel. Unfortunately, Stagecoach controls are extremely janky and very cumbersome, too.
As you’ll see in the image below, there’s a minimap on the left-hand side of your screen. It shows branching paths, somewhat akin to Slay the Spire if you’ve played it. Sadly, due to clunky controls, you might end up choosing the wrong fork in the road, and there’s no way to backtrack.
Combat is something you’ll feel right at home with
Combat in Darkest Dungeon 2 occurs when the Stagecoach bumps into roadblocks or when you explore points of interest (i.e., lairs). The mechanics will feel familiar to veterans of the first game. It’s the turn-based, gritty team battles that we’ve come to know.
Combat mostly follows the same concepts as before, though you’ll notice the removal of the accuracy stat. Generally speaking, it should be easier to hit most enemies now. However, your foes could use spells that cause blindness, which confers a 50% chance to miss your next attack.
Additionally, you’ll want to consider character positioning before the start of encounters, as some skills can’t be used if you’re standing in the wrong spot. Lastly, you’ll often be engaged in battles where you need to defeat all your foes within five rounds. Otherwise, you won’t obtain rewards.
Affinity, Stress, and events
The Affinity system in Darkest Dungeon 2 causes your characters’ relationships with one another to grow or deteriorate over time. For instance, you might see a point of interest with an event, such as in the example below. Highlighting a character’s response will show the auras of the other characters. Gold means that decision will have a positive effect, while blue means it’ll have a negative effect.
There are other factors that determine Affinity and relationships, such as items used in the Inn, fighting battles together, and more. Better relationships can cause your heroes to assist each other during fights. Conversely, lower Affinity can make for a rather toxic environment, thus increasing the Stress levels of your heroes. As such, managing Stress is even more important now.
Goodbye Town, hello Inn
Your runs in Darkest Dungeon 2 are comprised of driving your Stagecoach from one end of the map to the other, all while completing events, finishing encounters, and obtaining rewards along the way. The end goal is to reach the Inn.
Unlike its predecessor, Darkest Dungeon 2 no longer has a hamlet or town that you need to manage (i.e., leveling up various NPCs or functions). Instead, the Inn is more of a simplified or streamlined hub. Here, you can use items that change Stress levels or Affinity and spend Mastery points to improve character skills.
A different theme
In the original Darkest Dungeon, the idea was to enter domains and crypts with your mercenaries. Exploring confined spaces, they’ll suffer from afflictions and other maladies before making their way back to town. The theme emphasized a stark reality and a grim future.
Although those mechanics and ideas are still retained in Darkest Dungeon 2, the theme relies more on hope (as explained in the opening cinematic). Your heroes have set out on a journey to finally end this nightmare, hence why you’re checking out new locations in a wider world. Still, considering that Darkest Dungeon 2 is an early access game, we might see more mechanics and features down the line as the game continues to get updated.