This difficult adventure is simultaneously one of the most fun and most maddening strategy role-playing games in recent memory. It seduces you with its forceful, energetic gameplay and then kicks you to the curb with its unforgiving balance. Beware, ye who enter here: You must be able to accept failure and come back with a "We'll get 'em next time" attitude. If not, you're in for some serious frustration. Exploration and combat are the dual cornerstones of Darkest Dungeon. You may be tasked with exploring 90 percent of a given area thanks to a helpful mini-map that sometimes defines the locations of treasures and enemies. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that darkness is deadly. Horrible things lurk in the dark, and if you don't bring enough torches with you, you're in big trouble: Get ready to fight.
Winning fights depends heavily on recognizing your enemies' strengths and managing your heroes' abilities well. Questing and battle is tough enough as it is, but Darkest Dungeon goes one more step by adding an "Affliction System." Exploration and combat cause your heroes stress, and if that stress gets too high, they basically lose their minds, doing things such as wailing in despair or becoming totally irrational. The only way to avoid this is to get characters to relieve stress between quests, which costs money -- lots of money. Without careful stress management, you can paint yourself into a corner, with the only way out being starting an entirely new game. At least the console and Vita version has cross-play functionality, which allows you to bring your adventurers with you anywhere you go, and the Switch version is completely portable. Unfortunately, the controls do take a bit of getting used to, so you could accidentally hit the wrong button when you're exploring or during a fight, accelerating a restart of your tale. The Switch version cuts down on this somewhat, thanks to its touchscreen controls, which are much better than the Joycon controls that can frustrate players. But on the bright side, the fun of combat and the lure of treasure lessen the pain of starting over repeatedly, while the graphic novel-like art and the halting delivery of the melodramatic narrator (he has something of a William Shatner-like quality) make for a truly engrossing (and challenging) experience.