The new Darkest Dungeon DLC, The Crimson Court, tacks a couple more stressful mechanics on top of an already stressful game. I love it.
Darkest Dungeon is a game about losing—you will lose all your party members as they explore dungeons, they will all lose their sanity, and you will lose the game. Despite being unrelentingly oppressive, it’s a fun time. If you’ve ever thumbed through a Lovecraft short story, it’s kind of like that, minus the racism. Wanna see the lowest depths of humanity? Watch as unspeakable monsters tear through your party after a main healer becomes a kleptomaniac, opens a trapped treasure chest and dies.
The Crimson Court launched yesterday for PC and Mac, with a PS4 and Vita version to come. It adds a new character class, monsters and a creepy new area, but it’s most brilliant addition is the new Crimson Curse. It’s a kind of vampirism—in the new Courtyard area, your explorers can be bitten by monstrous mosquitoes who can give them this Curse. It can’t be cured in the Sanitarium, and must be sated by The Blood. If they’re thirsting for Blood, it’ll bring them down to normal. You can also give them Blood at other times, which will give them Bloodlust: a huge stat boost that also raises everyone else’s stress levels. The first event in the Courtyard also makes stress-reducing buildings like the Tavern and the Abbey less effective until you complete it, so inevitably a good third of your party will succumb to The Curse. The Blood is also very rare, meaning that you’ll be managing thirst for it on top of stress. Characters with the Crimson Curse who actively need The Blood will have a status debuff, so bringing them along will be liability, even if they’re low stress.
The Crimson Court’s new character class, the Flagellant, is interesting if a bit overcomplicated. Flagellants can transfer status effects like poison onto themselves from other party members, and most of their abilities will inflict bleed on themselves or the enemy. While they won’t ever gain positive attributes from having their resolve tested, they do enter a state called “Rapturous” that appears to give them an attack buff. The hard part is managing the fact that this means your Flagellant will be bleeding to death all the time. If one of those is in your party, it’s going to take up a lot of your attention. Although I find these new mechanics fun, I can’t justify how much work the Flagellant adds to my party.
If anything, The Crimson Court gets you to the weird aspects of Darkest Dungeon even faster. Before you know it, everyone is breaking from stress and your Jester is a nymphomaniac, just because you had to send him into the Ruins even though he was thirsting for The Blood. This game is at its best when you use it as a tool to tell strange stories—The Crimson Court only makes them stranger.