Darkest Dungeon is a role-playing video game developed by Red Hook Studios and published by Merge Games. The game was first released for Microsoft Windows and OS X in January 2016, which followed a year-long early access development period. Later that year, it was released for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Linux, with ports for iOS being released in 2017, and Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One being released by 2018.
Darkest Dungeon has the player manage a roster of heroes to explore dungeons below a gothic mansion the player has inherited. Played out in a mix of real-time movement and turn-based combat, a core feature of Darkest Dungeon is the stress level of each hero that increases with further exploration and combat; a character sustaining a high-stress level may gain afflictions that will hamper, or possibly enhance, their performance as an explorer. The game received positive reviews from critics, garnering several award nominations, and went on to sell over two million copies. A sequel was announced in February 2019. A Board game adaptation is currently in development.
At the outset of Darkest Dungeon, the player learns that they have inherited an estate from an Ancestor who, while seeking to fulfill his ambiguous ambitions by excavating the dungeons and catacombs beneath his manor, has unearthed some terrible monstrosity and released a number of horrific and evil creatures and corruptions onto the world. Now as the owner of the estate and the surrounding lands, the player must recruit a roster of adventurers and mount expeditions to cleanse the estate of its vile inhabitants.
As the player ventures into the manor, the dungeons below it and the surrounding lands, they find their Ancestor’s memoirs telling of the terrible deeds he had done in pursuit of knowledge and power, as well as personal desire. Eventually, the player is able to enter the Darkest Dungeon itself, the source of the land’s corruption, taking steps to reveal its ultimate form. Within the deepest chamber, the player encounters the disembodied spirit of their Ancestor, who now remains as “an Avatar of the Crawling Chaos.” After defeating the Ancestor’s apparition, the party battles the Heart of Darkness – which the Ancestor reveals to be the heart of the planet itself. The party manages to defeat its physical form at great cost, but the Ancestor’s spirit reveals to the player that this has only delayed its inevitable awakening and, by extension, the end of the world. The Ancestor claims that this is merely part of an endless cycle in the player’s lineage and that the player will eventually meet the same fate as he, and their descendants onward. The Ancestor then accentuates this cycle by repeating his first words from the start of the game: “Ruin has come to our family.”