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Darkest Dungeon 2 charts a new path through terror in a roguelike road trip to save humanity

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PC Gamer magazine

(Image credit: Future)

This article first appeared in PC Gamer magazine issue 358 in July 2021. Every month we run exclusive features exploring the world of PC gaming—from behind-the-scenes previews, to incredible community stories, to fascinating interviews, and more. 

The world is dying. Tendrils of darkness crawl across the land, swallowing up everything but the battered road ahead and your flickering torch, the world’s last hope for salvation. The apocalypse has arrived—but if that sounds bleak, you’ve probably never played Darkest Dungeon.

“The first Darkest Dungeon, the further you go down, the worse and worse and worse it gets,” says Red Hook co-founder and creative director Chris Bourassa. Chris is about to convince me that this game about the end of the world, full of lost souls and horrifying monsters, is actually about hope. Darkest Dungeon II is a road trip, a roguelike mash-up of Darkest Dungeon and The Oregon Trail about clawing your way out of the darkness, rather than descending ever deeper into it.

Last wagon out of hell

“The more you learn about The Ancestor, the worse of a guy he is,” Bourassa says, looking back on the story he and cofounder Tyler Sigman created for Darkest Dungeon starting in 2014. “This guy was the worst piece of shit in history. You get to the end of the game and you’re like, not only is he the worst, but the whole world is the worst, everything’s the worst… I feel like six years into Obama we were all ready to have some fun with nihilism, but it just didn’t feel like we could go any further down. We went to the heart of the actual planet, revealed it’s a monster, and then nothing matters.”

(Image credit: Red Hook Studios)

In Red Hook’s first game, surviving a 40-plus-hour campaign meant putting dozens of heroes through the grinder and watching them go insane, then replacing them with fresh meat. Darkest Dungeon II wants you to care more about your flawed heroes. It’s keeping the idea of quirks and stress creating unexpected, sometimes maddening surprises. But this time you’ll be managing a party of only four heroes on a roguelike run to an ominous mountain, a brisk five hours if you survive the journey.

Shorter runs will hopefully be more inviting for players intimidated by the first game’s enormous campaign. Like other modern roguelikes, there’s meta progression between runs. And like Hades, DDII will have a story that evolves over the course of development in Early Access. The idea is for the game to be easier to get into but just as deep once you’re hooked. “We want more people to feel worse” jokes Bourassa.

Darkest Dungeon 2

(Image credit: Red Hook Studios)

“There’s some games where once you have the sequel there’s no reason to go back and play the original. We wanted to do a different structure,” says Tyler Sigman.

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