An Interview With the Developers of Darkest Dungeon
Darkest Dungeon came out on the Switch on January 18, with a physical release planned for March. Intrigued by this dark turn-based dungeon-crawling RPG, we got in touch with Red Hook Studios to learn more about it.
One of the biggest things that sets Darkest Dungeon apart from other dungeon crawling RPGs is its use of stress and the need to keep an eye on your characters’ mental states. What inspired you for this aspect of gameplay?
We looked at a lot of movies and books that modeled what happens to a small group of people under extreme duress – Band of Brothers, Alien(s), The Thing. We wanted to explore heroism by contrast, not by power fantasy. The darkest, most dire circumstances are where real heroes are found, and we felt that building a game around stress and human weakness would allow the moments of triumph to shine that much brighter. We also looked at our experiences as managers facing deadlines – you never have complete agency over your team. When pressured, some will become rude, fatigued, and hopeless, whereas others rise to the challenge. In a lot of ways, making this game was a lot like being IN it!
Did the Lovecraftian elements come later, or did you already have that tone in mind when you started working on the game? Which of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories inspired you the most?
If we’re talking exclusively about Lovecraft, the game’s story is probably most directly inspired by ‘The Rats in the Walls’. There’s a healthy dose of William Hope Hodgson, and Poe in there too, however. The cosmic horror influence was something that came in at the ground level – the game is essentially rooted in the idea of taking Lovecraft out of the 1920’s and setting it in the 1620’s. What better way to explore stress than to bring a hapless party face-to-face with horrors from beyond space and time?
Are you making use of HD Rumble or any other Switch-specific functions?
The touch interface is probably the single biggest feature we leveraged. It works wonderfully for cases where the controller input is a bit tricky. The game was designed for keyboard and mouse originally, and given the number of interactions you can have – in the Hamlet especially – the touchscreen allows a simpler, more direct route for common management tasks.
What should our readers expect from the two DLCs currently out, The Crimson Court and The Shieldbreaker?
The Crimson Court is a massive, game-changing DLC that explores the Ancestor’s origins, introduces the player to a new faction of bloodsucking aristocrats, and infects the hero roster with a new mechanic centered around blood addiction. This DLC is best experienced once you have a working understanding of the core game and its systems, as it provides another layer of complexity and resource management, not to mention insectoid horrors! There’s a new playable hero, the Flagellant, as well as new trinkets, town events, bosses, monsters, curios and a sprawling swamp environment.
By comparison, the Shieldbreaker is much smaller, and focuses on the introduction of the titular character class. We padded it out with the stealth mechanic, and some new snakey enemies – and experimented with a more explicit telling of her backstory, unlocked through nightmare encounters when she camps.
Is the upcoming DLC, The Color of Madness, inspired by Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”? What can players expect from this DLC when it launches?
It’s absolutely a tribute to that fantastic short story! A comet has crashed into a farmstead on the outskirts of the Hamlet, and you will be able to send parties to control the spread of otherworldly corruption. Unlike Crimson Court, which winds itself around your campaign, Color of Madness will be contained to its own environment, and be more of an opt-in experience. The quests in this region will function differently than other regions, however – this will be a wave-based survival experience, with a few surprises thrown in. We’re eager to reveal more about the Color of Madness – watch our social media channels in March!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about Darkest Dungeon?
We’re thrilled to have been able to bring Darkest Dungeon to the Switch – it’s a great platform, and works very well for the game. We’re aware of some of the common critiques like font size, etc, and are looking into ways to improve the experience. No promises, but we do want to make sure that the Switch version gets the same support and love that we’ve become known for on the PC & Playstation.
We’re happy we had this chance to learn more about Darkest Dungeon on the Switch. Have you played it yet? Are you interested in it? Share your thoughts on Darkest Dungeon in the comments below.