Darkest Dungeon II PC Review

It’s almost the same, but different and also so much better. What sorcery is this?

By R3GR3T, Posted 13 May 2023

Red Hook Studios, an indie studio based in Vancouver, and the same people who brought us the dark wonder of Darkest Dungeon on 19 January 2016, have done it again. After a long wait and, from the looks of it, a ton of work, they’ve finally Darkest Dungeon II, the epic sequel to the Darkest Dungeon. Naturally, with the overwhelmingly positive reviews for their first game, a sequel had to happen after the release of Darkest Dungeon: The Crimson Court. So, on 8 May 2023, after a whole lot of teasers, Red Hook Studios released their latest creation into the world and we absolutely loved it.

Darkest Dungeon II has a lot of similarities to its predecessor, but a lot has changed as well, though all the changes made also just made the latest game so much more amazing. However, the difficulty we know and love from Darkest Dungeon is still there in the sequel, so this game shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s going to be difficult, and you will definitely get a little frustrated, but you’ll still keep coming back because you know you can do it.

Darkest Dungeon II, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based Strategy, Roguelike, RPG, NoobFeed

Your adventure in Darkest Dungeon II starts with The Academic, a once very much alive person, now barely a living husk due to the eldritch horrors that plague the world. He’ll tell you his story and give you a very brief introduction as to why the world is the way it is… In short, the world is overrun by an ancient nightmare, with just about all hope lost, you are tasked with recruiting members for your party to free the world and restore the light. Though you don’t start empty-handed, he gives you a light and calls it hope and in Darkest Dungeon II, your light is your only hope for survival.

One thing to keep in mind is that Darkest Dungeon II is an amazing mix of Roguelike and Turn-Based Strategy, with some RPG sprinkled on top. It sounds like a wild and whacky mess, but it’s actually quite well built and balanced out. So, while it’s all good and fine that you can start a run and make some really good progress, if your party dies, you start over while only getting to take a few key upgrades with you on the next run. Each run starts with a confession, the confessions each have a metaphorical and literal meaning that becomes clear as you progress through each of them. However, the rules will also change for each one, so it would be wise to keep your strategy fluid to adapt to whatever comes your way and take home what you can for the next run.

Darkest Dungeon II is a game that is also filled with choices, both on your path with the stagecoach and in some of the stops you’ll have to make. Once you’ve chosen your confession, your first stop will be at the Altar of Hope. This is quite literally your most important and complex stop as well because it’s where you spend Candles of Hope to get new heroes to choose from at the crossroads, hero upgrades, unlock and assign memories, world-changing upgrades and random starting items. In the early stages of the game, you might not have any Candles of Hope to use, but you’ll find yourself spending a lot more time there after a few runs.

Darkest Dungeon II, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based Strategy, Roguelike, RPG, NoobFeed

As mentioned before, the Altar of Hope is your most important stop because of everything it can provide. It’s divided into 5 sections, The Working Fields, The Intrepid Coast, The Living City, The Timeless Wood and The Recollection. The Working Fields is where you spend candles for random starting items like Trinkets, Combat Items, Stagecoach Items and Inn Items. This is where things become a bit more complicated but will be explained soon. Onto the next section, The Intrepid Coast, where you can spend candles for upgrades that can change your current and future runs with things like inventory upgrades for the stagecoach, resource drop rates, cosmetics for the stagecoach and even pets.

Now the part most people love, The Living City, also known as the section where you can upgrade and unlock new heroes. However, it’s not exactly that simple. You can unlock new heroes by spending candles, but you can also unlock new paths for them through their upgrades that can change how their abilities work, resistances, and so much more. Where things become a bit more interesting is with The Timeless Wood. It only becomes useful after successfully completing a run, but it’ll let you give bonuses to the heroes you previously used and keep the quirks they picked up. And lastly, The Recollection. While it’s not as interesting, it’ll give you a rundown of every item you picked up on your previous run.

So, you’ve picked up a few upgrades and a new hero or two, but before you can charge into battle, you’ll have two more essential stops to make. The first one being the house on the borderlands, this is where you choose your confession. Again, you’ll need to keep in mind that every confession has its own rules, so you’ll need to be prepared. Then your last stop, The Crossroads, because you’d be in a world of trouble if you didn’t have a party of heroes to fight against the horrors ahead.

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You’ll initially have just 4 heroes to choose from, and you need 4 to fill your party, but with further upgrades, you’ll find your options will start expanding. The lack of options at the start might be frustrating to some, but it’s also to help ease you into the madness of Darkest Dungeon II, though it is well worth the wait because of how complex the game can be. Now then, you’ll see each hero will have some basic info, a skill list, quirks (positive and negative quirks), a path, and a story that you’ll get to unlock at Shrines of Reflection.

When building your party, you’ll need to strike a balance between ranged and melee heroes, but also their individual roles based on stats. You wouldn’t want your healer at the front and your tank in the middle. In Darkest Dungeon II, you’ll need to carefully choose your heroes and their positions to maximize their abilities, luckily, you’ll be given a brief list of info for each hero. What makes your heroes truly unique are their quirks and goals though. Their quirks can give them buffs or debuffs, while their goals usually reward you with extra Candles of Hope if you can complete them.

Now that you’ve built your party, it’s time to set off into the valley. You’ll need to steer the stagecoach through the madness, and things will only get progressively more rundown or insane as you go deeper. What you’re more likely than not to encounter in your first parts are encounters, some encounters can be skipped based on the decisions of the heroes, while others leave you no choice but to engage. This is where the turn-based battle comes into play, each of your heroes’ stats determine their turn for the round, and you’ll need to work around that to play the game to your advantage.

Darkest Dungeon II, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based Strategy, Roguelike, RPG, NoobFeed

While in an encounter, you’ll need to keep an eye on your heroes’ health and stress levels. Battling it out with the creatures or hostile people out there does mean you’ll take damage, and while you have several options to restore health, they’re not always available to you when you want. The most obvious solution to this while in an encounter is to have a hero who classifies as a healer. However, healing abilities do usually come with conditions that need to be met first. For example, your target hero needs to be below a set percentage of health to restore a set percentage of health. The alternative is using healing items, though these do provide less health and need to be equipped to a hero before they can be used in an encounter.

During an encounter, you can choose between using abilities, swapping your hero with an adjacent hero or passing the turn. Abilities come in all kinds of different types, colors and effects for each hero, but they also have requirements related to the position or even buffs/debuffs that need to be present for both hero and enemy. Once again, this is why you need to carefully decide which heroes you pick and where you place them, it can make all the difference you need.

Remember that you need to keep an eye on your heroes’ stress level. That slowly rises as an encounter goes on, but it can also be increased by abilities from your heroes and enemies alike. When a hero’s stress maxes out, one of two things can happen. They have a meltdown which will typically drain most of their health and lower their relationship standing with the rest of the party, or they can resolve, which will give them a myriad of buffs and a full heal along with boosting their standing with the party. In a game like Darkest Dungeon II, a good relationship between party members is extremely beneficial. However, a poor relationship can have devastating effects as well.

Darkest Dungeon II, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based Strategy, Roguelike, RPG, NoobFeed

On your beaten path, you’ll occasionally reach a fork in the road where you need to decide which way you want to go. One path might be peaceful, while another is filled to the brim with danger. In most cases, you won’t know unless you find a watch tower that will reveal a huge chunk of the map to you. The map is your most important tool when you’re out steering the stagecoach, if you’ve found a watchtower, you can plot your course accordingly based on your current needs. However, there are other things to watch out for as well.

Some of the things you’ll find aside from encounters are lairs, assistant encounters, hero shrines and so much more. Most of these will also come with the choice of how to proceed, and these choices affect the relationships between your party members. You’ll need to weigh out what you’d be willing to sacrifice and what your party can handle in its current state, though not all choices are easy.

While your heroes might seem good as they are, there’s always room for improvement and maybe even a new ability or two. This is where the Shrines of Reflection shine brightest. You’ll have to choose a hero in your party, but you’ll get to learn more about that hero’s story, and as an added bonus, that hero gets an extra ability you can replace an old one with.

Darkest Dungeon II, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based Strategy, Roguelike, RPG, NoobFeed

In a world that’s just about overtaken by cosmic horrors and madness, there are a few rest points here and there. At the end of every major part of the journey, you’ll get to stop at an inn. Every inn has its own effects that can sometimes give your party a much-needed heal, boost a few stats, and even lower stress, but there’s so much more you can do at the Inn. You can visit the Mastery Trainer to upgrade hero abilities, and you’ll need those upgrades. The Provisioner is similar to a shop where you can buy various consumable items to use at the inn, in battle, trinkets and stagecoach items.

The Wainwright is one of the more important aspects of the inn you’ll need to visit. From repairing your stagecoach to equipping new items for it, you’d be pleasantly surprised at how much difference a few well-placed items can make. Though, as mentioned before, the relationships between your heroes are important too. Your stop at the Inn is your last chance to improve their relationships and possibly lower their stress before things get hairy. Luckily, there are several items you can buy that will improve or worsen their relationships.

Before heading out again, you’ll need to choose a path to take from the inn. This doesn’t go unrewarded though, depending on the path you choose, it will also come with a set condition that will give you an item in return if you can complete it by the time you get to the next inn. Once that’s done, all that’s left is to rest and embark. However, this is also where the relationships come in. Having a positive relationship can give bonuses to hero abilities and sometimes even create synergies for combo attacks, but a negative relationship will instead do the opposite by creating a debuff between heroes for ability use.

Darkest Dungeon II, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based Strategy, Roguelike, RPG, NoobFeed

There’s no guarantee that you’ll successfully complete the run you’re on, but failure is an option that pays off as well. Whether or not you manage to complete the run successfully or if you fail, you’ll still get Candles of Hope, even more so if you can complete a few hero goals. Every run in Darkest Dungeon II is a gamble, but it also allows you to come back stronger than before. There’s always room for your heroes to grow, change, and come back deadlier than ever.

Darkest Dungeon II has an extremely dark-themed soundtrack that just doesn’t get old, even if it is repetitive. However, that same dark-themed music matches the overall aesthetic of the game down to the last letter and just adds so much depth to a game that’s quite literally overflowing with it. The heroes might not be voiced, but little captions of what they are saying already do more than enough without drawing away from the game as a whole, but you’ll always hear The Academic telling his story or even cheering you in his own strange way.

Something that should not be taken at face value is the visual side of Darkest Dungeon II. It has a mix of 2.5D and comic-styled 3D, where these two concepts would clash heavily against each other. They instead complement each other really well when paired with the dark overtones of the overall design. The game relies intensely on darker colors and an atmosphere of death and decays all around you in some parts, whereas in others, everything is burning or on fire. Each major part of your journey has its own story to tell just from the visuals alone and how different they are from each other.


Overall, Darkest Dungeon II is not just a game, it’s a masterpiece. It has such a rich environment to see and explore, and a massive multitude of enemies to slay, and it takes strategy to new heights with how the heroes interact with each other. This is not a game for the faint of heart, but with some patience and maybe some out of the box thinking, anybody can learn to love this game and all the strange horrors it’ll introduce you to.

Jay Claassen
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Red Hook Studios
Developer(s): Red Hook Studios
Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
Themes: Role-Playing, Horror, Strategy
Release Date: 2023-05-08

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