When the abyss stares, don’t blink
Darkest Dungeon is a terrifically difficult game that delights in torturing the player. You could spend hours fine tuning the perfect party only to encounter a new enemy type or area that absolutely demolishes them. It’s a nasty game that can ruin your day if you’re unprepared.
But that doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless! With these quick tips in mind, you should have a strong leg to stand on while you get familiar with Darkest Dungeon‘s many dangers. These tips won’t see you through every obstacle and horror it will throw at you, but they will give you a solid foundation to build your own strategies on.
Hamlet and roster management
- Pay attention to mission goals and rewards. Don’t just pick whatever mission – look at what heirlooms and trinkets they reward and think about what would benefit your party the most. Prioritize missions that reward Deeds early on, as you’ll need them to upgrade the Coach and the Blacksmith. Both are essential.
- On the same tip, organize your party according to the mission. Make sure to avoid obvious problems like characters who have a phobia of a certain enemy types or primarily attack with a damage type that is heavily resisted in an area. On the contrary, you should be looking for damage types and quirks that will help you. Take characters that do Unholy damage in the Ruins, anti-beast damage in the Weald, bleed for the high-HP monsters in the Warrens, and blight for the Cove monsters who resist bleed damage. Think strategically and don’t bring the same compositions to every fight.
- Don’t be afraid of taking on long missions. With the right camping skills, you can often end up with less overall stress on a medium-length mission than a short one if you rest near the end of the run. Several characters also have buffs they can apply during a camp that will make a mission much easier if used early-ish or in the middle of a dungeon. Resting right before a boss and stacking buffs is also an obvious but effective strategy.
- Make sure to cultivate at least a handful of warriors in your roster that have repositioning skills. It’s easy to focus on flashy, easy to understand classes like the Crusader, Man-at-Arms, and Vestal, but don’t underestimate classes like the Jester, Highwayman, and Gravedigger. Skills that let characters make a useful action (attacking/debuffing enemies, buffing themselves, etc.) while moving forward or back are AMAZING. If you stack your team with too many position-dependent classes (Lepers, back-line Vestals), you can easily be killed by even weak monster parties if they can shuffle you around. With a few flexible characters though, you can realign your party order without wasting turns on pure movement or *gasp*, passing.
- Be thoughtful about trinket usage. They can make a huge difference if used intelligently, but can also sabotage your team if you equip them with abandon. For example, many early game trinkets provide a mediocre benefit at the cost of a speed debuff. Is it really worth an extra 1-2 damage on an attack if it guarantees your Crusader will go last every single round? No. Be smart and only equip trinkets when the benefit outweighs the negative.
- Pack heavy for missions. Think about the cost/risk value. A few hundred extra gold on torches, shovels, and bandages may save the life of a soldier you have invested several thousand gold into upgrading and equipping – it’s worth it.
- The dark side of this is you can gamble with weak links or burn them out. If you have a bunch of disease-ridden neurotics you plan to boot anyway, run them into the ground with a suicide mission or two and let them collect loot for you before you fling them out into the cold.
- Cut ’em loose when they’re ruined. Yeah, it’s cruel, but we’re in the dungeon business, not the hugs and snuggles business. If a low-level character picks up multiple damaging quirks or diseases that impede your ability to complete missions, it is better to dump them than to invest thousands of gold and weeks in the Sanitarium trying to work out every kink.
Dungeon and battle strategy
- Blight and bleed will do you well, especially in the early game. On enemies with high protection stats, stacking bleeds and blights on them can work wonders. Melt an enemy away with unblockable damage instead of trying to chip through their defense.
- Focusing down targets is almost always a better idea than spreading damage around. Save your AoE attacks for when an enemy is on the brink of death and you might as well chip away at his buddies while you finish him off.
- Don’t become attached to the same old skills. If you find you’re never using your AoEs because you’re (wisely) following the above advice, trade them out for a self heal, a repositioning skill, a debuff, or a mark. Trade them out based on the enemies you face, too. For example, I like my Hellions super aggressive, but when fighting in an area with a lot of enemies that cause bleed, I’ll drop Breakthrough and take Adrenalin Rush so I’m not chewing through bandages every round.
- Prevention is greater than healing. Don’t crutch on a Vestal or Occultist to heal every bit of damage your team takes – it’s a losing proposition. You’re better off preventing damage with quick kills, stuns, and high dodge/protection stats than trying to swim upstream. Use heals as a tool to keep soldiers away from death’s door and focus more on skills that undermine the enemy’s ability to do damage in the first place.
- Back-line enemies tend to be insidious dangers. Snipers who fire on your vulnerable party members or use AoE attacks, wizards with stressful incantations who push your team to the brink of insanity, or spotters who mark your team for extra damage – all assholes. Killing them can be difficult, but don’t forget about skills that can pull them to the front or push other enemies to the back. Just like your party, enemies tend to lose access to their best skills when out of position, so it can often be worth spending one or two attacks shuffling them around before focusing them down.
- Stress is every bit as dangerous as damage and harder to heal. Prioritize enemies that cause extra stress. Don’t stick in a death spiral. If one of your party members hits maximum stress and picks up an affliction like Irrational, Paranoid, or Masochist, it’s best to abandon the missions than press on unless you’re on the very last fight or two. Afflicted party members have a tendency to pull the other party members down with them, piling on stress, disobeying orders, refusing heals, and so on. It’s better to suffer some group stress and rally than to lose an entire team.