Tragedy and Despair awaits you around every corner in Darkest Dungeon, and the game takes gleeful satisfaction in pushing your characters to their absolute physical and mental limits.
Being prepared most times can still result in devastating losses, and you can lose an entire party of characters that you’ve invested days of your time into.
Darkest Dungeon is a challenging game, but there are certain things players can do to make the entire experience a bit more merciful.
1. Be Prepared For Failure
In Darkest Dungeon, death and defeat are inevitable.
The game uses an auto-save system while you play, so everything that happens is permanent, regardless of whether it’s a good or bad thing.
The Heroes in your party will develop afflictions and act in uncontrollable ways; a lot of your favorites will even die. And this will keep happening, again and again, because that’s simply the nature of this game.
The trick to success is to expect losses and never place all of your hopes on a particular Hero or party setup.
Teach yourself that the game is built around this system, and you’ll never get frustrated when you suffer a crushing defeat.
2. Play Tactfully And Remember To Retreat
If you jump into Darkest Dungeon thinking that you can brute force your way through most dungeons, then I have some terrible news for you.
Things rarely go as you expect them to in this game since even a single mistake can cost you dearly.
So if you come across a situation where you think that your party will take heavy casualties, or even if you’re unsure how to advance, never be afraid to use a tactical retreat. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and this can save your hide more often than you think.
Retreating means that your heroes don’t get any experience points at all, regardless of how many enemies they’ve killed, and they also suffer from stress for failing their mission.
But as a general rule of thumb, it’s better to let your heroes get stressed then to let them get killed.
3. Upgrade The Stagecoach First
After you finish the tutorial and gain access to the town, you should upgrade the Stagecoach before any other building.
An upgraded Stagecoach not only gives you access to a greater number of new Heroes after each quest, but it also increases the size of your overall roster of characters.
This is highly useful in the early hours of the game because your selection of Hero classes is limited at the start and these upgrades will let you acquire better and more diverse characters that can help you turn the tide in battle.
If you’re having a tough time and dying often, this also ensures that you have a steady supply of fresh meat to fill up your ranks.
4. Always Bring A Healer
Regardless of how you choose to fill up the rest of your party slots before venturing into a dungeon, you should always save at least one slot for a healer.
It might seem like an attractive prospect to create a team filled with nothing but tanks and high-damage dealers to cut through enemy hordes, but what will you do when they get injured?
Heroes like Vestals, Occultists and Flagellants play an invaluable role in a party by helping you keep your characters in good health so that they can keep fighting. They can even bring them back from Death’s Door by healing them for a minimum of one health point.
Never underestimate the value of a healer in a game as tough as Darkest Dungeon.
5. Have Backup Heroes Ready At All Times
Once you gain access to new Heroes and then get into the groove of things by creating a team that effectively works for you, It becomes effortless to focus your attention solely on those particular characters and neglect your remaining roster.
Then if one of your favorite Heroes dies and you don’t have a powerful enough replacement available, you can find yourself in quite a predicament.
To avoid this problem, always keep training some backup Heroes alongside your primary group.
When venturing into previously visited dungeons, bring along one or two newly recruited faces along with your veterans. They might not be able to do much at first, but merely being able to survive in tough dungeons alongside experienced Heroes will help them level up quickly.
So now, if one of your character dies, you won’t have to start training up a new replacement from scratch.
6. Be Wary Of Stress
Heroes acquire Stress in Darkest Dungeon in various ways, like exploring dungeons in the dark, watching companions die, or failing a quest.
If the Stress meter is left unchecked, it can have some adverse effects on the character.
At 100 Stress, Heroes may develop one of many different Afflictions, which are traits that negatively impact their behavior and stats. Depending on which Affliction they have, they might refuse to be healed, use an item, or even retreat. This can make combat extremely challenging.
Then at 200 Stress, they will suffer from a heart attack during combat that will put them at Death’s Door or even kill them.
To avoid these situations, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on how stressed your characters are.
If Stress is getting high, send them to either the Abbey or Tavern in the town to help them get rid of it before things get too bad. This makes them unavailable to use for some time, but the alternative could be much worse.
7. Know When To Cut A Hero Loose
Quirks are both positive and negative character traits that Heroes in Darkest Dungeon can develop through a few different ways, like going on expeditions or interacting with curios. These affect stats and behaviors just like Afflictions but to a lesser degree.
They are also semi-permanent, so if you don’t like a particular quirk, you can go to the Sanitarium building in the town and pay gold to get it removed. Take too long to do this; however, the quirk might become reinforced. It can still be removed at this point but at a much greater cost.
You might be willing to spend the unreasonably high amount of gold required to get them back into fighting form, but that would mean that you are actively taking resources away from your other fighters.
So, if you are faced with a situation like this where you have a Hero with multiple negative quirks, who is also stressed continuously with Afflictions, sometimes the best thing to do is to cut them loose.
You can’t use them effectively anymore.
8. Use The Antiquarian Class To Earn Gold
Gold is hard to come across earlier in the game, yet it is required for several different essential upgrades for both your Heroes and the town. That’s where the Antiquarian comes in handy.
Combat-wise, this Hero is arguably the weakest one in the whole game, but she has some other very useful perks.
She can increase the amount of gold you can carry in a single stack in your inventory from 1750 to 2500, which is a significant amount of money in the early game.
She also causes unique loot to drop from both enemies and curios, which can then be sold for a lot of money after you come back to the town.
If you ever find yourself in need of some gold, make sure to recruit an Antiquarian as soon as you encounter one in the stagecoach.
9. Don’t Waste Gold And Heirlooms On New Recruits
The Guild and Blacksmith buildings in town allow you to upgrade your Heroes’ combat skills and gear. And while it may seem wise to invest resources in recruits to get them into fighting shape quickly, this is actually a bad idea.
As mentioned before, Heroes die quite often in Darkest Dungeon and gold and heirlooms are hard to come by at the start. So dumping money into upgrading recruits is wasteful if there’s no guarantee that you can keep them alive.
Only spend your valuable resources on characters that have already leveled up a bit and you know for sure can hold their own in a fight.
10. Keep Your Provisions Stocked
Provision items like Food and Bandages help your Heroes with effects like health restoration and stopping bleeding. It would be best if you never underestimated their importance during quests.
It might seem tempting when venturing into a dungeon to keep most of your inventory slots empty for any treasure you might find on the way, but that is a mistake that can cost you dearly down the line. Always prioritize slots for provisions.
Make sure to take stock of what you have available to you and what you require more of, especially when going into new dungeons for the very first time. It’s always better to be over-stocked with provisions than unprepared and you can always drop extras to make room if necessary.
Items like Torches are crucial to the game since they determine the effects of the Light Meter, a system by which both Heroes and enemies in dungeons gain radical buffs and debuffs depending on how much light is available.
So always pay attention to how many Torches you have. You don’t want to run out of them in the middle of a battle.