I suspect that we all like to think of the ye olde "dungeon hack" genre of gaming as a very casual, jump-in/jump-out proposition. Alas, Darkest Dungeon is NOT THAT KIND OF GAME. Far, far from it, in fact. True to its name, Darkest Dungeon is a rival for the most mentally harrowing, emotionally insensitive, and just plain-old punishing "dungeon hack" you are ever liable to endure. Practically every conceivable "light" fantasy element has been stripped out - not a happy hobbit village in sight, I'm afraid - and replaced with all manner of death, disease and psychological disorder. Our once-valiant heroes have been replaced by claustrophobic crusaders, kleptomaniac lepers, corpse-obsessed grave robbers, lycanthropic abominations, and nymphomaniac clerics who might de-stress between adventures by either booking into a brothel and catching syphilis, checking into the local sanitarium to rid themselves of their debilitating alcoholism, or flagellating the very sin from their bones in the local abbey. And the monsters? Lovecraftian fish-men, spore-spurting fungus-men, gigantic arachnids and maggots, razor-clawed cultists, straight-jacketed madmen (who assail your sanity by screaming accusations at you), and of course, no shortage of all things undead. But the savagery doesn't end there...oh no, that's just the beginning. When all is said and done, this is all child's play in comparison to the gameplay itself.
You'd best unlearn every trick every other dungeon-grinder has ever taught you. Forget about building up individual characters to be your personal champions...best get used to sacrificing foolhardy adventurers left, right, and centre for the common good. There's no room for favourites here...said favourites are surely destined to die, and probably when you least expect them to. "Hey, this battle is going pretty well," you'll tell yourself, and by getting cocky and dropping your guard for just that moment, you'll soon be blinking at the screen in disbelief as half your party is teetering "at death's door". Make no mistake about it: This is a seriously brutal game, on all conceivable levels. Darkest Dungeon doesn't play "nice". At all. Darkest Dungeon hates you, and will make you suffer for your overconfidence, and any "infallible" strategies which you attempt to carry over from other, ostensibly similar games. Darkest Dungeon will feed your very worst masochistic impulses by getting you hooked, then handing your arse back to you on a frequent basis; and you will just meekly say "thank you" to Darkest Dungeon in return for its complete and utter lack of compassion or generosity.
This isn't a "scary" game in the usual sense, but it is a frequently stressful experience, and you will definitely feel the horror of each and every death blow as yet another character you spent literally hours grooming for stardom bites the big one. Make no bones about it: This is definitely a "horror" game. Not only in the kind of pitch-black, atmosphere-laden fantasy scenarios that it presents, but also in its evocation of the sense of sheer and utter horror and despair which one would surely feel in the very worst times of war. Darkest Dungeon is nothing less than an epic battlefield, littered with the corpses of those slain in the pursuit of riches or glory. Darkest Dungeon will put you in your place...and then some. Darkest Dungeon will lay waste to innumerable tens if not hundreds of hours of your short and precious time here on this planet, but should you actually emerge triumphant from the final dungeon itself, you will have a feeling of genuine achievement which few other games can deliver.
I love Darkest Dungeon. I hate Darkest Dungeon. Given half a chance, you might, too. Do you dare the dungeon? What have you got to lose, other than your sanity and almost all sense of self-worth?! Go on, you only live once (and not for very long, if you're unfortunate enough to be one of the "heroes" in this perverse fucker of a game)...