Darkest Dungeon 2 Gameplay & Features Preview (Early Access Release)

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In this Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access Gameplay & Features Preview, we’re going to take a look at the gameplay mechanics that have been modified in relation to Darkest Dungeon 1, including classes, and new Affinity and Stress Systems of the upcoming gothic rogue-lite RPG developed and published by Red Hook Studios. Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access is set to be released on October 26, 2021 for PC.

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Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access Gameplay & Features Preview

  • Name: Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access
  • Platform: PC (Epic Games Store)
  • Developer: Red Hook Studios
  • Publisher: Red Hook Studios
  • Release Date: 26 October 2021
  • Genre: Roguelite, Turn-Based RPG

What is Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access?

Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access is a dark fantasy and gothic Roguelite, turn-based RPG and is the sequel to Darkest Dungeon 1, which was released back in 2015. Although a couple of gameplay mechanics have been changed, it manages to stay true to its roots in terms of challenging and strategic combat as well as its signature Lovecraftian art style. What Red Hook Studios hopes to achieve is instead of descending into madness as you progress in the game, you eventually find your way out of it.

Combat in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

They’ve also moved on from the hub-based mechanic where you go back to town after exploring parts of the dungeon in order to rest, replenish your supplies, and help your party stay sane. Now, you and your allies make your way towards a dangerous mountain in a stagecoach where you begin to either develop lasting relationships or cause animosity based on the choices you make. Additionally, each run is going to be shorter and easier to get into in the hopes of attracting a larger fanbase.

Exploration in The Tangle of Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access features Act 1 out of 5 and at least four regions with the potential to add more in the next couple of months. You’ll also be able to cycle through 9 heroes. Lastly, you’ll encounter a different way to upgrade skills and equipment as well as the new Affinity and modified Stress Systems.

Overview and Setting

Darkest Dungeon 2 is set in the same universe of the Estate, except this time around, you’ll make your way to the dreaded mountain to finally rid the world of corruption. You discover that the horror you ended before is just a part of a larger and more insidious form of evil. Your task is to defeat any abomination that gets in your way while trying to prevent the end of the world.

Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access Story Introduction

At the start of every run, you begin by carefully placing the first four available heroes in their ideal rank or position, namely the Man-at-Arms, Highwayman, Grave Robber, and Plague Doctor. You then ride the stagecoach as you journey through dark and sinister roads where you have to decide the paths you’ll take. Oftentimes, you have to choose between a safer route or a more threatening one with bountiful rewards. Similar to Darkest Dungeon 1 and any roguelite for that matter, the higher the risk, the higher the reward.

Grave Robber Class in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Whatever you end up doing will have consequences due to the Affinity System, which determines the type of relationships you form with the other heroes. Each of them can make decisions, which causes random and treacherous events to occur. For instance, trading with villagers can breed hostility among the group if they prefer to keep goods for themselves.

Assist Encounter for Villagers in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Darkest Dungeon 2 boasts an improved art style that still manages to retain its gothic charm. It features hand-drawn 3D backgrounds and combat models, which heavily alludes to the first game, especially for those who have played it. The sequel is much more visually appealing because of how ominous the environments look when you’re exploring the areas. There are also distinct animations such as heroes preparing to attack using their skills in combat.

Noxious Blast Plague Doctor Skill Animation in Combat of Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

On top of this, the music, sound effects, and narration continue to be amazing. They all tie well together to create a grim and horrific experience that matches the game’s difficulty. In terms of the narration, it’s good to hear Wayne June again but this time, with new and memorable lines to take note of.

Gameplay Mechanics

In terms of the actual run itself, the difference now is that you can no longer have multiple copies of the same class or hero so you can no longer stack several Plague Doctors in a single party. According to Red Hook Studios, their intention is to create an attachment to the individual characters, which makes their demise feel more personal. Like in the first game, you need to identify their optimal position based on their rank. For example, the Highwayman deals better damage at ranks 2 and 3 whereas the Man-at-Arms is best suited at rank 2 from the right. You then begin your journey on perilous roads ahead by driving the stagecoach.

Man-at-Arms Rank in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access


Steering the stagecoach is still clunky at the moment because you can’t drive backward if you accidentally veer into a road you don’t want to explore so you need to be careful. On the left-hand side of the screen, there’s a compass that shows the minimap where you can view possible rewards or encounter types at the end of each checkpoint. These checkpoints are also referred to as locations that are either scouted, which means it’s known, or unscouted.

Checkpoint When Exploring in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

In order to effectively scout an area, you need stagecoach upgrades that you can apply in the inn or you have to pass by Watchtowers. Conversely, unknown areas are denoted as question marks. You’ll also notice objects lying on the ground. For these, I suggest running over them as they may contain valuable items that can help you win in combat. Unlike curios in the previous game, there’s no such thing as cleansing them to raise your chances of obtaining good loot. The items you acquire are valuable but random in the sense that you get stressed when you decide to check them out.

Exploring in The Foetor of Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

At times, heroes will point out the road they prefer as displayed on top of their portraits. To stay on the safer side, it’s best to choose those that are colored green rather than blue because they’re less likely to include Road Battles and are therefore better for your allies especially if their HP are already less than half.

What’s more is you have to be cautious about your flame’s level. Reaching a value of 40 or below provides your enemies with bonuses in combat that make them stronger than they’re supposed to be. It also raises the chances of sowing distrust among the party as you’re all struggling to see what’s in front of you. If you reach 0, you’ll be ambushed by Cultists. This is why it’s important to seek out Assist Encounters, which you can view in the minimap, to improve your flame’s condition. In this one, you aid villagers who are asking for supplies in return for a sustained light source.

Assist Encounters in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

The interesting aspect of this mechanic is that most of the heroes have a say in how they wish to help or ignore these people. Gold icons at the bottom of the screen are positive responses whereas blue ones are negative. As such, you can develop better relationships with them if you have an abundant supply of food, for example, or make it worse by completely disregarding the villagers’ plea for help.

Combat and Difficulty

Combat in Darkest Dungeon 2 follows the same format as its predecessor. It’s turn-based where heroes and enemies roll for initiative to determine who goes first and is influenced by their speed. Every turn consists of a free action and main action. The former pertains to the Combat Item you’ve assigned to a hero. These are usually potions that restore their HP such as an Antivenom and cures them of their afflictions like the Burn Salve to rid them of the burning condition.

Plague Doctor Bandage Combat Item of Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Ideally, it’s best to use the free action first because you won’t be able to trigger it after you’ve attacked your target. The main action, on the other hand, refers to the activation of skills to grant your party with buffs or to hit enemies. Note that not all skills can be used right away. The circles you see on top of them are known as Pips that tell you where they can be used. If you have Grave Robber and she uses Poison Dart, she can hit any enemy since the corresponding skill is valid in each of the 4 ranks. Furthermore, some skills aren’t limited to single targets as you’ll eventually unlock those that deal AoE Damage.

As with RPGs, you’re able to inflict status effects such as burning, bleeding and blight in addition to damage so you’ll have to plan out your moves. These three conditions deal Damage over Time (DoT), which makes combat much more efficient so make sure to prioritize them. You can also stack conditions to boost their damage on every turn. Before deciding on an action, you have to inspect your target first to identify whether or not they’re highly resistant against your skill. You can do this by hovering your mouse over them.

Poison Dart Blight Condition (Damage Over Time) in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

One of the most criticized combat mechanics in Darkest Dungeon 1 was the accuracy stat because it caused players to often miss, which would lead to drawn-out encounters. This has been entirely removed in the sequel. Instead, you’re more likely to successfully attack enemies now. The only thing stopping you is if they have the dodge or block buff. As a result, hitting them isn’t as chaotic and punishing since it has been simplified. Additionally, status effects have been converted to tokens that should be removed to improve the damage you inflict. It lets you think of creative ways to get rid of them first before effectively harming your enemies.

Combat is triggered when you encounter hostile creatures blocking your path or via checkpoints. My major gripe in Early Access is the Road Battles. Most of these types of fights are timed, which means that you only have a few rounds to defeat the entire enemy party. If you don’t, the encounter automatically ends and you don’t acquire any loot.

Road Battles in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

As long as you survive all 5 rounds, you’re safe to continue with your journey. But what this does is it creates an artificial difficulty where a timer has been placed unnecessarily. So you end up piling offensive skills against enemies that the developers intended to get rid of by removing the accuracy stat in the first place. You’re basically restricted from employing defensive skills in order to beat the timer and to retrieve your hard-earned loot.

Aside from these, there are Resistance Encounters in certain locations that entice you to fight your way through victory against local monsters. Doing so grants you Mastery Points, which are used to upgrade your skills. It also reduces Loathing, thereby making succeeding encounters less difficult. Furthermore, you don’t have the option to lower the difficulty of the game so you’re left with enhancing the capabilities of your heroes to survive for longer periods of time.

Classes, Skills and Equipment

Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access features 9 playable classes. Eight of them are familiar to those who’ve played the first game while the Runaway is new. Man-at-Arms is a tanky knight who can buff allies and defend them as needed while dealing heavy melee damage. Highwayman is a hybrid melee and ranged damage dealer that utilizes a knife and pistol. He specializes in inflicting massive Critical Damage. Grave Robber also inflicts melee and ranged damage on top of blight while the Plague Doctor focuses on dealing blind, blight and bleeding as well as healing her allies.

Plague Doctor Skill in the Inn of Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

For the next set of heroes, you unlock them when you level up your account profile by continually playing the game instead of buying heroes from the stagecoach like in Darkest Dungeon 1. At Levels 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15, you get the Hellion, Runaway, Jester, Leper and Occultist, respectively, which you can switch to at the Inn if your current heroes die. This is the game’s roguelite aspect since you gain access to additional heroes and items as long as your account level goes higher. You’re able to do this by accruing Hope at the end of every run. The things you get can then improve your chances of surviving to reach the mountain.

Account or Profile Rewards in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

When it comes to skills, these are unlocked at the Shrine of Reflection. The shrine also provides a backstory about your chosen hero. Mastery Points upgrade your skills but it’s shared across all characters, which makes progression slow. You can randomly earn them by completing Road Battles and Routes or main quests. Lastly, you’re able to change the skills you use in combat even when you’re on the road.

Man-at-Arms Shrine of Reflection Backstory in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Unlike in Darkest Dungeon 1, equipment such as weapons and armor can no longer be upgraded. Instead, they’re permanent features of your heroes. Only trinkets that provide you with enhancements can be equipped.

Affinity and Stress Systems

In terms of the new Affinity System, each hero has a bar that represents how they feel towards others. When this is filled up, a new type of relationship is reached. Positive relationships mostly ensure the lasting alliance between two characters or more whereas negative ones always result in growing animosity so the heroes involved will cause chaos in the party. For instance, an amorous relationship enables them to randomly heal their friend.

Amorous Relationship in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

However, the downside of this is that your amorous friend may get jealous whenever you buff or heal other party members. Negative Affinity effects, such as Tumultuous, can cause heroes to bicker, give each other debuffs, or increase stress levels. This system has a direct impact in combat so you have to manage it well by making sure that your party is cordial with one another.

There’s also the familiar Stress System, which dampens the heroes’ treatment of one another. It can be remedied by applying items at the Inn but you have to make sure that your Quirks don’t get in the way. For instance, you won’t be able to apply Boxing Gloves to a hero to reduce their Stress Level by 1 if they have the Peacemaker trait so you’ll have to use another item instead. The maximum Stress value is now capped at 10 instead of 100 unlike in the previous game. When you reach this, you’ll suffer from a meltdown, which greatly decreases your HP and destroys any good relationships you’ve formed with your allies.

Reducing Stress Levels with Boxing Gloves in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

The Inn

When you reach the Inn, there are five sections to consider particularly, the Travelogue, Provisioner, Mastery Trainer, Wainwright and Route. The Travelogue shows you a historical record of the relationships of your heroes with one another as well as the Quirks they’ve gained through exploration. It also shows how good or bad your Loathing is. The Provisioner sells potions, Combat Items, and upgrades. Mastery Trainer and Wainwright are where you can enhance your skills and stagecoach, respectively. And finally, selecting a Route gives you your next subquest that you can do for rewards such as Mastery points or trinkets.

The Provisioner in the Inn of Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Final Thoughts

Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access is a roguelite, turn-based RPG where your experiences of the game improve as you play again and again due to the heroes and items you get from leveling up your player profile. Although they can and will die at any moment, you’re able to develop closer and meaningful connections with these characters since they have their unique strengths that sets them apart from the others. Rewards are difficult to come by but as you continue completing every run, encounters become much more manageable.

This is a major departure from Darkest Dungeon 1, where you would often have large rosters of heroes that you would interchange in between dungeons.

Random Combat in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

I do wish that the Road Battles will be changed in some form so as to encourage us to be strategic in terms of using other skills, which aren’t solely damage-focused. Hopefully, hero conversations in the stagecoach will be developed instead of being limited to short banters in order to further highlight their personalities and relationships. The game’s performance should also get some more optimization. There were frequent frame drops especially when you’re traveling in the stagecoach.

If you’re looking for a highly challenging game with a lot of RNG, then you may want to check out Dark Dungeon II Early Access. It comes out this Tuesday, October 26, 2021 but no cost has been disclosed yet. You can use the link below to support the channel!

What did you think of this preview? Will you be trying out Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access? Let us know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out our recent previews Disciples: Liberation Gameplay & Features Overview and Salt and Sacrifice Gameplay Hands-On: The Soulslike Monster Hunter You Can’t Miss.

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