darkest dungeon 2 review

Darkest Dungeon 2 Review – A Nightmare Anew

The cosmic horrors have mutated and evolved.

Grimdark fantasy has none of the appeal of your average fantasy story– no warm meals, charming friends, or wholesome adventures. So why is the genre so popular? Some say it’s because it’s a heightened version of our own reality– a dim reflection or a black mirror– and it’s this high-action that makes it exciting and addictive. Others say that it sates different urges, the taste for hardship, chaos, and unyielding will that rarely appears in our daily lives. Or maybe it’s just that beating the odds tastes all the sweeter when your obstacles are near insurmountable. 

Whatever the case, Darkest Dungeon 2 does this sort of delicious masochism with finesse. It’s a game that has run with what the original set up, but has not been held back by it– it has eclipsed it. But is it perfect? Well in the grim darkness of a cosmic apocalypse, there is no perfection, but there is a guttering candle of hope.

Darkest Dungeon 2 Review

To organise the review here’s the topics I’ll touch on:


Repairs & Retooling

Neither the original Darkest Dungeon nor its sequel is simple. Each party member not only has unique skills, but unique modifiers, and requires a special position in your party’s arrangement. Then there is the torch light system, and food, and wagon health, and so on. The first game is quite content kicking you in the deep end, and letting you sink, sink, and eventually swim. The second takes a softer approach, which might sound disconcerting for a tough game, but it works. You start with four characters, and have a shorter, easier campaign as your tutorial. 

Yes, this time around there are multiple campaigns, and instead of being almost a management sim, it’s a more conventional roguelike without carry-over ailments or damage. So instead you pick a party and brave multiple areas and dungeons as your wagon slowly approaches The Mountain (of Madness). 

In most other ways the game is the same, there are trinkets, bosses, and a feeling of despair when your party begins to break under the weight of the cosmic evils. Perhaps the most exciting addition are Shrines of Reflection. These are points that you visit to learn another piece of a character’s backstory– the Highwayman was once a prisoner; the Duelist a brilliant pupil.

Knowing their personal struggles gives you a touch more attachment to these doomed heroes, and makes you want to succeed all the more– though the trade off is it’s harder to role-play a band of your buddies or a team of favourite characters.

On the other side of this is your own story– you the player, who is an academic of some sort. Each time you embark on another journey, you’ll be fed a few lines about how you and the narrator were involved in this world’s fall to madness. It’s basically just set dressing as it has little bearing on the game and its characters. This makes it essentially just an annoying sidetrack before you get back on the road and back into the game proper. 

darkest dungeon 2 review highwayman


Satisfaction among decay

Just as you feel immense satisfaction when you land a decisive blow and kill a horrific opponent, you feel immense pain when your character dies on the first step of Death’s Door. This balance between pleasure and pain might be what makes Darkest Dungeon so enticing, and there are a handful of systems that keep you on a knife’s edge between the two. Death’s Door has you roll the dice to see if the next blow kills your flagging cleric, or if they soldier on through the pain. 

The stress system has a metre as each character’s psychological burden grows– with either a meltdown or a revelation waiting for them at the end. It’s certainly a lot to keep track of, but this feeling of overwhelming systems and numbers to keep track of adds to your concerns, and does an impressive job of putting you in your party’s shoes.

So to say this game feels good isn’t exactly right. More often you’re beset by pain and suffering than righteous success– your Man-at-Arms contracts Dysentery, so this tank is pierced like a piece of paper; Cannonfire sets your team ablaze, and your left with a lone crusader, hopelessly ambling toward his demise. But isn’t that what you want from a grimdark roguelike? Pain and suffering paired with slow but satisfying progress? You decide.

darkest dungeon 2 review

Aesthetics & Graphics

Gothic renders and cosmic horrors

In line with adding backstories for the characters, Darkest Dungeon 2 has also taken a closer perspective of your team and the creatures. This not only looks better– the character’s details and mannerisms shine through now– but it also feels more claustrophobic and immersive; In the original game you were watching from ten metres away, now you’re fighting alongside them.

Similarly, the enemies are more imposing, and the attacks are more visceral– there are melted fanatics who burn themselves and you alive, and twisted amalgamations of flesh that cast horrific curses. Each area has its own boss to contend with, and afflictions to cure. All the detail and care put into these areas is intoxicating, but it is to the detriment of the game’s variety. For a game that you have to play over and over again to master (or even complete), it would be nice to have a few more events and monsters to challenge– and from the looks of their DLC plans, this will be the case.

But aside from that small quibble, the art is stupendous. Paired with the foreboding soundtrack, the battles really get your blood pumping in a way that the original only scratched the surface of. 


Despite being a surprisingly different game, it’s hard not to see Darkest Dungeon 2 as a pure evolution of the first game. Almost to the point that the first game feels like a beta, or a prototype for this one. The nails on the coffin have been hammered in further, the sounds of the apocalypse rings louder in your ears, the hope burns brighter and the despair runs colder in your veins. It goes without saying then that if you’re not the type to like the masochism of a grimdark roguelike, this will be even more harrowing (or just annoying) than the first.  

Branden played Darkest Dungeon 2 on PC with a review copy.

Darkest Dungeon 2 Review – A Nightmare Anew
Impressively improved graphics.
The storyline and character backstories.
Tightened systems and gameplay.
Foreboding soundtrack.
Can feel repetitive.
No quick start.
Endless debuffs and buffs to learn.
Punishingly difficult.
Editor's Rating

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