back to article Darkest Dungeon: Lovecraftian PTSD simulator will cause your own mask to slip

Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column. This month was sunny Christmas, better known as the Steam summer sale and, gosh, was it a doozy picking out some bargains. But we settled on a title known to us for some time and finally took the plunge... all the while watching our …

  1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

    Again, another game that has passed me by that needs to get added to my wishlist.

    Good job, Reg!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good {deity}

    Could they not find a genuine Jock to do the voice over, and why does the rest of the world think they can actually pull off one [I wish] of the hundreds of Scottish accents. That cut scene alone was like a whistle stop tour of about 8 places I could discern, YMMV

    Yes, I know it's an imaginary place, but it was still an attempt at Jock speak

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good {deity}

      Eh, no, he's not trying to be Scottish. It's the narrator's own voice, hammed up a little bit more. Here's him reading Poe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bT7W7dMZ0Y

      If anything it sounds slightly Scandinavian to me.

      1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Good {deity}

        It's posh American.

      2. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Good {deity}

        Reminds very much of Orson Welles reading Poe.

        https://www.wimp.com/an-incredible-recording-of-orson-welles-reading-the-work-of-edgar-allan-poe/

  3. Henry Hallan

    "...yet until recently madness, anxiety, stress and the mental cost of adventuring has been unexplored by the latter as a core mechanic..."

    Not in computer gaming, perhaps, but Chaosium's Lovecraft-inspired tabletop RPG "Call of Cthulhu" had a SAN stat decades ago.

    Good times...

    1. Rob Gr

      Amnesia pioneered the use of sanity in Computer Horror years ago.

      1. Les Matthew

        Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth had it way back in 2005.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_Cthulhu:_Dark_Corners_of_the_Earth

  4. DeathStation 9000

    Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem on the Gamecube had losing your sanity effects. Some of them were too realistic for their own good sometimes. 'twas a jolly good game too.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Eternal Darkness was bloody good - might have gotten more attention if it were not a Gamecube exclusive though.

      The Sanity effects ranged from disturbing paintings and scenery to hearing footsteps and what can only be described as hallucinations during gameplay to sudden cuts to fake gamecube system messages reporting the joypad cable was unplugged as well as health impacts.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice

    Nice to see El Reg write some stuff about the best video games ... This one is quite popular although perma death is not my cup of tea.

    What about some column on:

    - Borderland 2 (3rd is incoming in sept.). I must confess I'm above 1 000 hours on this. Yes, one thousand.

    - Any turn-based game that seem all the rage since 2012 (I love turn-based), like XCOM 2, or Wasteland 2

    1. Excellentsword

      Re: Nice

      Might play Borderlands 3, I was too late to the series. XCOM 2 was cool but I could never complete it.

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Nice

      Enjoying Borderlands 2, but as a fan of the REAL X-Com series (and the UFO-Afterxxxx imitations) I found the console style gameplay of the XCOM deeply offensive. Any world that wont ALLOW its super-secret defense organisation to defend against BOTH incoming attacks... doesnt deserve to be defended.

      Console style works for Borderlands 2 - an action game, does not for XCOM if its pretending to be a strategy game.

    3. Falmor

      Re: Nice

      I'm with you on Borderlands 2. Funny and difficult, especially in Ultimate Vault Hunter mode.

  6. juice Bronze badge

    Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

    Are now routinely featured in modern PG-rated films.

    Don't get me wrong. I've liked Lovecraft since I was arguably too young to be reading his books, and some of his stuff still resonates well today - stories like the Mountains of Madness and the Colour Out of Space are still excellent tales. And he definitely deserves a place in the pantheon of Pulp Fiction heroes, not least for the way he shared his universe with a wide range of collaborators.

    Plus, I'm a huge fan of the Laundry Files.

    But it has to be said: a lot of things he found "unspeakable" generally wouldn't phase anyone these days - for instance, Stranger Things is essentially the Hardy Boys (or Famous Five, if you want to use the British equivalent) taking on some Lovecraftian nightmares.

    Admittedly, a lot of this is because we've effectively been innoculated by fifty-odd years of HPL-inspired books, comics, tv, films, and games.

    However, it's also because modern audiences aren't HP Lovecraft - in many ways, his biography reads like a horror story in and of itself, and it's clear he had many mental health issues, thanks in no small part to the fact that his entire family appears to have been batshit insane. And y'know, he was heavily prejudiced and racist, to boot.

    I may well have a look at this game at some point, since I'm also a fan of Rogue-likes. But these days, if people were faced with "phenomena beyond our comprehension" (which to be fair, arguably covers a lot of modern life, what with sufficiently advanced technology appearing to be magic and all that), most people would just grab their mobiles to take a selfie...

    1. Dapprman

      Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

      It's the same going backwards in time. Years ago I took part in a Call of Cthulhu set in Roman times. We realised seeing a goat rent apart by a large monster (having made sanity checks for the beastie) would hardly phase some one used to the various entertainments of the arenas and circuses.

    2. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

      And y'know, he was heavily prejudiced and racist, to boot.

      So true. One of my most profound beliefs is that the sort of people who get deeply upset and bothered with ressentiment by facing racism and sexism in the past should be forbidden to read writers such as Lovecraft, just the same as having filters preventing them from hearing the person's name or any works or references to them as if they never existed.

      Eventually the only way to enforce this for all woke people will be to prevent them seeing or knowing of anything created by dead white males. Maybe even all males.

      1. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

        OJ Simpson is a Heisman trophy winner, and was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend.

      2. juice Bronze badge

        Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

        > So true. One of my most profound beliefs is that the sort of people who get deeply upset and bothered with ressentiment by facing racism and sexism in the past should be forbidden to read writers such as Lovecraft

        There, there, dear. Those nasty Politically Correct people won't hurt you.

        I'm always amused when people deliberately misinterpret things so they can construct their own strawman argument.

        I never said people shouldn't read Lovecraft. I even specifically pointed out two of his stories that I think are still worthy of note. However, I would say that much of the horror in his tales is from the author's personal perspective, and that a fear of lesser and degenerate races played a key part in this. Aka racism.

        So yeah. Read. Enjoy both the original stories and the vast amount of media which has been inspired by his stories (though be careful what you search for on Google, as those cephalopods have literally gotten *everywhere* these days, especially when it comes to Japanese hentai).

        But few modern readers are liable to find his stories scary, because none of us are HPL.

        And, as happens so often, if you're looking through your sadly departed uncle's possessions, and you do find a copy of a book thought long destroyed, which just so happens to have been written in a language that you have a passing knowledge of... maybe it's best to just leave it there.

    3. Joe Gurman

      Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

      ...or buy red tractor hats.

    4. Mikko

      Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

      Well, as I recall, in the CoC tabletop RPG, when your reach 0 SAN, you are no longer horrified by what you see, but instead join the chortling, ululating hordes mindlessly venerating Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlathotep, Hastur with tenebrous, degenerate rituals...

      I think you know where I am going with this.

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

        Party at your place & Twister with Cthulhu! WOOT!

        Sanity is overrated just like pants. Let's play charades with a Shoggoth!

        ...

        I grew up reading HPL's stuff & always wondered what the big deal was. I mean, some folks find a crawling horror as something to be feared.

        I take one look & give a gleeful cry of "FLUFFY! You're back! Come here & lemme give you some tummy rubbins! Who'se a good witta Shoggoth? YOU! You're a good witta Shoggoth! Cootchie Cootchie coo!"

        =-D

    5. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

      "Lovecraftmon! Gotta Fht'agn 'em all!"

    6. Long John Brass Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Those crawling horrors of which we dare not speak...

      But it has to be said: a lot of things he found "unspeakable" generally wouldn't phase anyone these days - for instance, Stranger Things is essentially the Hardy Boys (or Famous Five, if you want to use the British equivalent) taking on some Lovecraftian nightmares.

      The old comic User-Friendly had Cthulu show up. He was most miffed that the eldritch horror shtick no longer worked on people. He blamed video games :)

      Might re-watch From Beyond tonight in honour

  7. juice Bronze badge

    > even gaming, yet until recently madness, anxiety, stress and the mental cost of adventuring has been rarely explored by the latter as a core mechanic

    Traditional Dungeons&Dragon/pen&paper RPGs have always included sanity as a factor.

    Equally, games like Dark Seed on the PC/Amiga (based on HR Giger's art, but with heavy HPL influences) revolved around a man going crazy thanks to malign external influences.

    And games like Amnesia (again, heavily HPL influenced) have sanity meters which affect your ability to play the game.

    And Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is directly based on HPL and again has a sanity meter mechanism.

    Outside HPL, there's games like Sanitarium and Spec Ops: The Line. Or if you squint a bit, games like Fahrenheit and various horror games.

    So, y'know. It's not been explored that much, but there's definitely been some delving in this area...

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      True enough. I played Dark Corners and dabbled in a little Amnesia, but these were a long time ago. It's certainly not something seen frequently.

    2. Dapprman

      Santiy in RPG Games

      The sanity stat was introduced by Chaosium for The Call of Cthulhu, I'm not aware of other RPGs, certainly for a long time, that also had a similar function - actually as I write - the humanity stat in Cyberpunk could be used a similar way.

    3. Sloppy Crapmonster

      _Spec Ops: The Line_ was quite obviously a retelling of _Heart of Darkness_, but I felt the ending was a letdown because I didn't understand the guy at the end was talking to *me the player* and not John Walker(the PC).

      I'll have to go back and play it again, but after I finish _Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain_. It's goofy, but it's deadly serious about being goofy.

      1. juice Bronze badge

        > _Spec Ops: The Line_ was quite obviously a retelling of _Heart of Darkness_

        Yeah. I ended up playing it twice - I gave up partway through on the Xbox version as I was getting frustrated with the auto-aim, but later came back and completed it on the PC.

        As per ye old Wikipedia, there's four potential endings; I may have to dig out the old save games at some point to look at them all. Or just fire up Youtube ;)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spec_Ops:_The_Line

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Darkest Dungeon is great but note that there's some DLC you will want to get at some point - except for the Crimson Court, which adds some really tricky stuff to the campaign that you might want to avoid for a while.

    DD also now has an option called "Radiant Mode" which is essentially a shorter, less-punishing campaign. This doesn't mean it's quick, it's still tens of hours for a single game, but the base mode can stretch to hundreds of hours so if you don't have that level of patience then Radiant Mode is well worth enabling for the new player.

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Meanwhile .... Back at AI Virtual Reality Base Camp, 0Day Seeds Grow in Thoughts that Flow

    The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

    Well, we all should know where that went so quickly badly wrong ..... for Voyaging Far and WWWide is the Greater Grand EMPowering Answer .... and IT Delivers the Unusual and Novel for Presentation in Future ProgramMINGames Play.

  10. Hemmels

    Narrative flavour

    "Curious is the trapmaker's art - his efficacy unwitnessed by his own eyes."

    Wayne June's voicing is a treasure to behold.

    1. LenG

      Re: Narrative flavour

      I have a set of Lovecraft stories read by Wayne June. No one does it better. I occasionally play the opening to "The Dunwich Horror" to more ... sensitive ... friends and it never fails to induce terror.

  11. Mike 16 Silver badge

    I.T. Angle?

    For starters, I could swear one of my bosses had his MBA from Miskatonic University.

    And then there is The Lurker in the inter-record gap:

    http://www.textfiles.com/humor/record_.gap

    1. Old Used Programmer

      Re: I.T. Angle?

      People have made Miskatonic U. "diplomas". Some fans gave one to Marion Zimmer Bradley. MZB had it framed and hung it on a wall. When she hired an editor for her fantasy magazine for her English Lit. background and skills (but, unfortunately, totally lacking in any fantasy or SF knowledge), said editor spotted the diploma and remarked to Marion, "Oh! Is that where you got your degree?" She was serious.

      1. Glen 1 Bronze badge

        Re: I.T. Angle?

        I was today years old when I learned about miskatonic university

  12. lk1d

    The interface is hard to use on a Switch, so much so I had to stop playing. Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup is still the best imho.

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Re Call of Cthulhu Repercussions

    Is there an HP Lovecraft disciple/victim depicted in this present man-hunt news item? ......Royal Canadian Mounted Police Hunt

    And will it be used by defence counsellors as a virulent and venal meme to explain, if not excuse, unacceptable actions/mad mishaps?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also available for macOS

    Not sure why mac was missed off the platforms, Steam seems to think it is available.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Also available for macOS

      Apologies, was supposed to be there.

  15. Jonjonz

    Please ID turn based games in the Headline

    Sounded interesting till it revealed 2/3 of the way it that it is rogue-like and turn based, yuk.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Please ID turn based games in the Headline

      Christ, no.

  16. MonkeyCee Silver badge

    Not unlikely at all

    "That the most unlikely of characters could save the world"

    I thought the point was that a hobbit was the best/only choice since while having a ring of power doesn't always mean you go all "the world is mine", as various characters have one and are on the side of good. Well, on the side of not-Mordor anyway. But even old Gandy won't touch it, and even the otherwise great and good being tempted to nick it for their own ends.

    Since all hobbits want is to be left the hell alone to eat and smoke weed, they can cope with the temptation. Give it to a human, dwarf or elf, and it's dark spikey armour and glowing eyes in no time. Give it to a hobbit, the worst case is paranoid schizophrenia and long life.

  17. clockwatcher1004

    "...Unless Inordinate Exsanguination Be A Virtue."

    The narrator's name is Wayne June, and he's also got a wonderful singing voice. Special mention should also be given to the bloody amazing soundtrack, by Stuart Chatwood.

    Going back to the Darkest Dungeon itself, the game is a flawed masterpiece (the mid-game grind does rather suck the life out of things for a while) and the only early access game I have paid good money for, and enjoyed thoroughly. It peaked with the Crimson Court expansion, but I've gladly pissed away whole days playing it.

    The fanbase are gloriously unhinged and lurid too. I'm surprised more of them don't surface herem

  18. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    CoC

    Many years ago (as a callow youth) I spent a while playing Call of Cthulu. Now, I'm generally a fan of tabletop RPGs (I've played many different systems - currently playing Pathfinder). I eventually gave up - my preferred character type is magic-using and doing so in CoC hastens the retiremment of your character due to SAN loss.

    In fact, no matter what character type, you were pretty much guarenteed that your character would eventually have to be retired, simply due to game mechanics. Not by favourite game system..

    Paranoia OTOH can be fun, especially when accompanied by alcohol.

  19. mithrenithil

    An amazing game, but FEAR if your boss starts playing and takes the wrong lesson from it!

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