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1eyedking Darkest Dungeon: The Story of the Iceberg - Review by Celerity

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by Infinitron, Dec 6, 2016.

  1. DeepOcean Arcane

    DeepOcean
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    Celerity without drama:

    Darkest Dungeon is a casual farming game in which you make obvious best choices and grind out effortless victories.
    The game is littered with newbie traps, with skills and even entire classes being obviously useless. Most of what is presented as legitimate options actually are not. Common newbie traps are using the Tavern at all (leveling it slows skill grinding, meaning you have less accuracy and complain of RNG more oh and they lose trinkets) and not understanding that something like 80% of the curios in the game are just the FTL "Giant Alien Spiders" event with a different skin. Blue option, opt out, or screw yourself. Those are your options. Of course "Giant Alien Spiders" had broken risk/reward on purpose, as that quest was deliberately implemented as a means of punishing those who blindly accept quests without reading their descriptions. Here, it renders nearly the entire non combat exploration mechanic irrelevant because once you understand curios are just a 3 step chart there's nothing left but walking around and fighting.

    The entire non combat mechanics of this "game":

    1: Is the curio always safe? If yes, 4. If no, 2.
    2: Is the curio always safe with a specific item that you currently have? If yes, 4. If no, 3.
    3: Ignore it and keep walking.
    4: Check it, using item if necessary.

    It is worth mentioning at this point that "Town Events", a feature that Kickstarter rules require be in at release but was not and has instead been delayed twice and counting have repeatedly been described and they sound just like these curios, but in town and they trigger after a run. For emphasis - copy pasting one thing repeatedly with various skins takes at least several months, and will be yet another mechanic you simply ignore or follow a basic decision tree that has no situational awareness because such a skill is simply not required here.

    The combat, amusingly enough actually fares worse than the non combat. Remember how the vast majority of "options" are newbie traps? Well the ones that aren't consist of damage spam - that is, loading your team with the highest damage (a process that involves stacking several members of the same class, generally Hellion), as well as accuracy and speed and just exploding everything before it can move. Which was easily possible. Should you try being "tactical" or "different" by using any of the other abilities that exist in the game such as stuns, damage over time (bleed/poison), buffs, debuffs, movement effects etc you will be actively punished for your efforts as all of those abilities are mathematically nonviable both compared with the enemies, and compared with the abilities that are actually good. This is so prominent I've specifically praised other games as "anti Derpest" for having a range of viable tactical abilities, in particular bleeding and poison effects that are relevant parts of the tactical metagame.

    Not only is the difficulty and balance entirely lacking, but the variety is as well. By the time you have done a single run in each level 1 area you have seen almost every enemy in the game. The only ones you have not are most of the mini bosses (like Ghoul, Swinetaur...) that start appearing at level 3, and the actual bosses. Everything after that point, including the level 3 and 5 bosses is just a copy paste of what you've already encounters and further those mini bosses and bosses do not change the combat formula at all.

    If it summons, you spam AoE and kill the summons for free then single target the boss.

    If it has a shared lifebar you spam AoE as that deals the highest net damage.

    If neither is true you spam single target, generally on rank 3 or 4 (where the boss is).

    None deviate from this formula, and further none have high enough stats that they last very long. Even bosses are barely capable of mathematically surviving 2 rounds. So as you can probably imagine, any mechanic based on 2 rounds, or 3 rounds, or more is fundamentally flawed not only for them not numerically being worth using, but for the fight flat out ending before any situation in which they could hypothetically be useful can exist. This also invalidates many skills and even entire classes, anything based on marking I'm looking at you. Some of the whole enemies not being functionally different is a direct factor of the class imbalance, it doesn't much matter if your AoE fodder looks like a skeleton or a pig, and it doesn't much matter what they will do if they get an action because they will not get an action. Most of it however is a separate problem. There's only a few things enemies can do, they're only using a small subset of those things so everything feels the same.

    Now what I describe is the game as it existed Feburary 3rd-Feburary 6th of 2015 however over a full year later the formula has not changed, not even slightly. If anything everything I said is more true now than it was then. Power creep has handed out more, and greater, and more common direct damage bonuses while non direct damage abilities have actually been nerfed by the patch that allegedly buffs them (July 15th of last year). It also buffs everyone's base damage. A standard damage spam character now does 23-44 single target and 10-19 single target and 5-9 AoE - or the same damage but against 1 enemy at a time instead of 3. That is how much the massive and many direct damage buffs have made a difference - and it's worth noting they did eventually fix AoE math so that it's actually sane, but as you can see the power creep is hardly checked at all (under the old math AoE spam would be 18-33... which is significantly higher but AoE still got a large net buff over time).

    So while I'm sitting here with a perfectly functional and long lasting game filled with actual choices and difficulty, I am watching as the official version steadily becomes easier, more one dimensional, and more incoherent. I'm keeping tabs on it and firetesting it periodically. For example when the new bosses Flesh/Cannon/Prophet were added, I went in blindly with level 0 characters. They trivially won of course. They then trivially beat the level 3 bosses despite just being random damage characters while still at level 0. They probably could have beaten the level 5 bosses, except protection mechanics were different back then so they'd have just hit for 0 and eventually died. The point of this test was very simple - if the game was actually difficult and deep now I'd be punished for disrespecting it so heavily. I wasn't. Indeed, the only thing that provided any resistance is the Ghoul, and that's only because entering dungeons with a 3 level handicap gives 30 stress on entry and -75% stress resist. This was also the Heart Attack patch, yet no one had one (and you couldn't turn them off yet either). So even with what is effectively more than double stress damage + other handicaps (a level 0 character dies after 93 effective stress damage, not counting entry), the game was still a joke. In fact, it was more of one than when I was a 5 hour noob and still rofflestomping everything at the very beginning when I first got the game.

    Ghouls have been nerfed since then, incidently enough. More than once. Howl crits for 40 stress on your entire party and no Howl fizzles (it has a 70% hit rate, not counting the miss chance from accuracy) was the only time stress was ever remotely a factor in vanilla.

    The disaster zone started on the Corpse and Hound patch, released July 15th 2015. It's important we understand here absolutely every aspect of this patch, not just the corpse meme made the game worse in some way. Either it added another trap option in the Hound(master), it added more power creep in locked positive quirks, it added more grind in various "features"... what's more, nearly all of this was hardcoded, so there was no way of removing the grind and tedium and replacing it with actual difficulty. The corpse meme that everyone got stuck on is that an enemy that doesn't fight back adds difficulty, which sounds laughable when you actually think about it but most don't, the game having self selected out critical thinkers quite effectively by this point. This of course kills discussion about difficulty, because instead of it being about actual sources of difficulty which the game lacks (enemy stat and AI buffs, synergies, and so on) you just have some trash on the ground that does nothing. Of course, streamers/casuals were just using bad teams and clicking on whatever was in front of them blindly, which is the only logical reason I can see why they got this idea at all. Obviously if you're blindly clicking the thing in front of you, putting garbage in front of you would make it "harder".


    You might have noticed I haven't talked about the actual game for a while. Really, nothing happened with it that changes the core game throughout the rest of the development. Or the first half for that matter. There was one more noob trap class, the Abomination and 2 more reskinned damage spam areas, the Cove and Darkest Dungeon. Nothing changed the formula though and quite a bit reinforced this whole damage spamming thing starting with corpses. A very significant amount of grind was added, and it eventually became apparent for all why when tedium/grind modder Maester Silvio was hired after many of his "features" were specifically implemented in the game during the July-December timeframe. It makes sense, he thought that was difficulty and mismarketed it as a difrficulty mod, Red Hook thinks various things that are not difficulty (like tedium and grind) are, so it was a good fit... but all the rest of us, especially those wanting a difficult Roguelike lose hard. It's all skins, UI. No game, no substance, no meat.

    As for the final release version itself, well I long since got tired of the boring, bland, one dimensional grind so I wrote a basic script that basically runs around and holds 1. Send it with a standard damage spam team and it's the same "experience" as actually being in front of your computer while letting you do something else that actually requires thought and effort. Long story short, damage spam bot vs final dungeon = bot easily wins, proving the game hasn't changed at all. Of course, Never Again requires grinding out more Hellions because those ones are scared of absolutely nothing and I have no interest in doing that, of grinding out 4 redundant clone teams. Grind being repeating the same trivial thoughtless tasks... if the combat and runs were not all thoughtless copy pastes it'd be less grindy even if it were the same length, and I have well north of 10,000 hours on turn based RPGs so I am well versed on both long games and grind.


    The most unfortunate of all is that the big critics fell for this review fodder as well. This is exactly the sort of game they'd blast for being review/Youtube fodder (side effect: after 2-5 hours no refunds), and were they aware of the shadiness would absolutely condemn those abusive Early Access practices and do so with special fervor as they themselves were personally fooled. One actually is aware, but supported them anyways out of pure self destructive spite whereas the other most likely doesn't know, but still seems like a reasonable but strict critic. It's the most unfortunate thing because if an Early Access game is a failure... that's actually normal and expected behavior. If it's a failure, yet is falsely praised as a success by virtue of looking good without being good not only is that very unusual (most cases of Early Access censorship show no subtelty, they showed a little but still generated hundreds of posts of evidence against them), but you'll see plenty of copycats from no talent hackjobs who just spend all their budget on advertising'/marketing, then develop a shiny thing at a glacial pace with many delays and get away with it themselves.

    You might have noticed, throughout that entire, very long review I did not mention RNG at all beyond a passing mention. The RNG complaints actually DO have merit, but not in the same way they are usually presented.

    1: As mentioned before, the vast majority of skills and even entire classes are useless. Stagecoach gives random classes, with random skills (though you can completely bypass this with backer heroes and get your Hellion spam going Week 1). Early on the Blacksmith is locked and a bit later it's available but expensive. Should the game not give you at least a few useful things, you will fail through no fault of your own because even though say, the Plague Doctor should be a legitimate choice, and her blight and stunning abilities should be valid tactical options they are not.

    2: Regarding the usual presentation, of complaints of RNG in combat these are self generated by virtue of falling for the newbie traps either by lack of critical thought, or sheer stubbornness/being different/being "tactical"/etc. It's simple math at work. If an enemy has a 20% critical hit chance, the odds they critically hit you at least once are 20% if they attack you once, 36% if they attack you twice, 48.8% if they attack you 3 times and so on. Critical hits can just as easily be diseases, or debuffs, or any other on hit effect. The more chances you give RNG the more likely that RNG screwage becomes. In normal games this is balanced out by various defensive and recovery mechanics so that that, and simple attrition do not force a damage spam fest. This one intentionally breaks said mechanics and actively punishes everything except damage spam while rewarding damage spam, resulting in a game where you're either bored and grinding, but winning, or bored and grinding, but losing and raging about RNG. And the reason for that is very simple. Using skills that mathematically don't work (anything but direct damage) increases combat length by a factor of 2, 3, or even more. That's more enemy actions and more bad things happening.

    You might have noticed I went through this entire thing and only acknowledged 14 classes. Part of that is because most of it was written when there was only 14, part of it was because the 15th is so unremarkable I only remembered it was now here near the end.

    So the 15th class is the Merchant. It has a different, more pretentious name but I won't acknowledge that because I've had quite enough of informed traits. As is always the case with Red Hook design, it sounds ok until you examine it at all and then it very quickly breaks down in an incoherent, nonsensicial, and failure of an execution. Allegedly this class prevents grind by giving you more gold, but is otherwise completely useless. It... technically does that, but not in the intended way at all.

    Remember, anyone who understands the game mechanics is spamming Hellions and damage in a dark run. This means you find plenty of gold, and the actual problem is inventory space, or more precisely tiny stack sizes + many different but interchangable types of "gold stacks" (gold, 6 different gems...) So you grind and grind, and then drop most of the loot you grind out in favor of other loot. Getting more loot you'll just drop anyways does not help matters and making gold stacks slightly larger is both more than canceled by the 2 new stacks of gold variants, and made irrelevant by the fact you'll be dropping gold in favor of stacks worth more than 2k anyways.

    Further, the heirloom grind is specifically unaffected even though that was the actual grind point. It was affected by a different change, but as that different change results in grinding 15% fewer deeds and 50% more crests on the blacksmith it really at best shuffled the grind, and at worst further amplified it while allegedly reducing it which is also a classic move by this company.

    Ultimately even if the class did work correctly and as intended, you get like 5%-10% more gold for 25% less damage in a game all about damage, so just take a 4th useful character. You'll grind more if you die, anyways. And it's not like there's any penalty for that. Even the so called real Rogue NG+, that for some reason they could not give us a year ago when anyone starts the game has such a forgiving time limit people are derping their way through in less than half the alloted time limit. So there's no functional difference here (ignoring that no one actually wanting a Roguelike would grind through Cookie Clicker for 80 hours, so they get Cookie Clicker with 20% higher enemy stats).

    Now I mentioned the class does work but in an unintended way. Again in classic Red Hook fashion, it's full of obvious bugs and exploits as they have zero understanding of logic or emergent gameplay.

    Enter a Long quest, immediately camp. 3 Merchants spam the give me a trinket skill, 1 whatever uses a no night attack skill. Do this twice and leave. Repeat. They'll get bombed with negative quirks and diseases but those don't matter as this is your infinite gold farm team, like Suicide Squadding but much faster. They'll also get stress but leaving a quest caps your stress at 100 even if it's higher and doing this shouldn't make you go 100-200 so they'll never die (and if they do, replace with more level 0s, they're infinite and free). You might need 4 food (2 per camp) for this. You'll still make much more selling the junk and keeping the few useful trinkets (read: those that promote the alpha strike dark running). As an added bonus this shouldn't even advance the week (other than the week they get afflicted) so you literally have infinite grind time even if there is allegedly a time limit. Completely unintended, but the only time the class actually gains you resources as intended.


    TL;DR: RPG that suffers from bad balance, favor direct damage dealing classes over others, easy, repetitive trash fights, game breaks through powergamming, has grind and RNG can screw you over if you get the wrong classes unless you are a backer. On another words, like most RPGs ever with RNG on top of it. I don't know how old you are Celerity but welcome to the club of the people that wait cRPG developers to actually design good systems, boy the butthurt will squash your nerd soul until you realize most people suck at games and while that is true, game developers don't need to care.

    Also, when writing a review, write for someone that didn't play the game, a review isn't an strategy guide.
     
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  2. Mustawd Arcane

    Mustawd
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    Someone please explain to me what a "curio" is. Is it like a "mob"?
     
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  3. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Strap Yourselves In Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Nah man, curio is like an artefact.
     
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  4. DragoFireheart all caps, rainbow colors, SOMETHING.

    DragoFireheart
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    So does this mean I should avoid buying Darkest Dungeon?
     
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  5. Gondolin Arcane

    Gondolin
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  6. Crispy Don't get old. Undisputed Queen of Faggotry

    Crispy
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    Why has Celerity not posted in this, his triumphant, thread?
     
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  7. Orobis Arcane Sychophantic Noob

    Orobis
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    Maybe he will when it reaches 1337 pages?
     
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  8. DeepOcean Arcane

    DeepOcean
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    Personaly, the idea of the game is pretty nice and the art style is cool, I would really like some more abstracted straightfoward combat RPGs like Darkest Dungeon, you don't need RPGs to be 100h games full of filler, but don't expect ultra tight mechanics from indie newbies after the Steam Early Acess gold rush. Buy it for a few bucks, on a sale, have fun for an afternoon and wait for someone to make a better game.
     
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  9. Zorba the Hutt Arcane Weasel

    Zorba the Hutt
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    Pretty sure he's saving himself for the newspost thread
     
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  10. lukaszek the determinator Patron

    lukaszek
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    deterministic system > RNG
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
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  11. Outlander Custom Tags Are For Fags. Patron

    Outlander
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    I wonder if VD's legendary Oblivion review would fly in Nu Codex...
     
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  12. Prime Junta Self-Ejected Patron Vatnik

    Self-Ejected
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    This needs extensive rework. It's not hopeless but I'm not surprised there was nobody there willing to commit to the amount of work it would've required to turn this into an actual review.
     
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  13. Mustawd Arcane

    Mustawd
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    No. The shit needs to be completely redone from the ground up to even be coherent. No one is gonna do it unless they want to write a review from scratch.
     
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  14. Western Arcane

    Western
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    Codex 2012 Codex 2014 Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    Tyranny has decent production values, but outside of that it's really a poor man's Age of Decadence (even in terms of writing/branching/setting, but the gap here is smaller for writing/setting). The awful combat is the worst yet from Obsidian, starting from such a shit position I'm at a loss as to how to improve it, perhaps massively increasing the bestiary or better yet reducing the amount of combat altogether. Next to AOD the combat is an absolute HP sponge clusterfuck.
     
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  15. Mustawd Arcane

    Mustawd
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    Western has decent production values, but outside of that he's a poor man's Prime Cunta.
     
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  16. Western Arcane

    Western
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    Codex 2012 Codex 2014 Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2
    I see PJ as more of a poor man's everybody else (he's a both a Goon and low rent Communist after all).
     
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  17. DeepOcean Arcane

    DeepOcean
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    Where is Celerity? I expected more drama and butthurt, disappointed so far.:(
     
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  18. Mustawd Arcane

    Mustawd
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    Sure, but I just wanted to say that.
     
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  19. Celerity Takes 1337 hours to realise it's shit. Village Idiot Possibly Retarded

    Celerity
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    Posting in epuc lulz thread.
     
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  20. Riskbreaker Guest

    Riskbreaker
    Given how far this site's overton window has been moved in this matter, and what sort of opinions as pertaining to games are now considered as unworthy, not serious, edgy/hateful for the sake of it...

    Rough draft of his review would've been posted for the userbase to mock.
     
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  21. agris Arcane Patron

    agris
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    I'd like to think I helped squeeze, err push, this one out.
     
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  22. Bumvelcrow Bellator Sempervirens Patron Dumbfuck

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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Strap Yourselves In Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I'm strangely proud of myself for accepting the challenge and reading that and I can quite honestly state that my respect for Celerity has gone up considerably.

    So, play it straight and it gets boring after 5-10 hours. Abuse the mechanics and it plays itself. If only there was some kind of lesson there.

    In other news, Darkest Dungeon is currently 40% off on GoG. Hmm...
     
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  23. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    RPG Wokedex Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    When's the last time you read it? http://www.rpgcodex.net/content.php?id=129

    I also think the site's Overton Window has been moved, but not in the way you think. To me, Vault Dweller's Oblivion review comes across as almost tame in its conciseness, like he's picking at various side issues instead of taking the horror of the game's badness head-on. It's a very different style from today's Codex reviews, whether positive or negative. If it was rejected today, it would be for not being thorough enough.

    It also says things like this:

     
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  24. hoverdog dog that is hovering, Wastelands Interactive Developer

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    butthurt autistic teenager: the thread
     
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  25. Celerity Takes 1337 hours to realise it's shit. Village Idiot Possibly Retarded

    Celerity
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    Lords of Xulima. Elimnage Gothc.

    Seriously though, it's not hard.

    1: Give enemies enough stats sso they don't just die in 1-3 hits from basic attacks.
    2: Introduce useful status effects that turn the tide on battles you otherwise could not get through. Alternately, have attacks that are useful on their own and that also inflict statuses (Examples: Gungnir, Gothic weapon procs, Xulima weapon strikes)
    3: Improve enemy AI/skillset enough so you need that range of tactical tools yourself or you lose.

    A lot of Derpest failings are just common sense. If you have an attack that does x damage a round for 3 rounds, that damage should be higher than if you just hit the enemy in the face 3 times and combats should consistently last 3+ rounds so you can get the full mileage from it. That can't happen with the current "game" unless they did 50+ DoT damage per use and trash mobs had like 300+ life (aka more than bosses do now). And you'd need actual tactical abilities because right now anything other than damage spam means you lose.

    It's actually a useful case study in anatomy of failed design.
     
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