Wednesday, 11 July 2018 15:00

Darkest Dungeon: The Color Of Madness Review

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Darkest Dungeon: The Color of Madness DLC is a great excuse to return to the Ancestor’s Hamlet. While definitely geared towards veteran players, the Shard Mercenary mechanic allows new players to access the new content without having to grind through the lower levels as quickly. At the five dollar price point, it’s a worthwhile buy for any fans of the base game.

It’s Teal, Apparently

When I first picked up Darkest Dungeon’s newest DLC, The Color of Madness, it had been an age since I last walked the hallowed grounds of my Ancestor’s Hamlet. In my absence, an otherworldly comet had crashed into a nearby mill, killing the poor Miller, his family, and his workforce. Sensing a greater threat imminent, I rallied a small coterie of adventurers and sent them out to investigate. They regaled me with the details of the myriad horrors they had seen prowling the permanent, chilling twilight of the Farmstead. Dismissing them, I ruminated on the abysmal task that now befell me.

All prose aside, however, Red Hook Studios once more delivers on atmosphere and ambiance that easily sweeps you away. The Farmstead, the new location added by the DLC, represents the warped landscape surrounding the aforementioned crashed comet. Unlike the other locations, there is no map, only waves and waves of unceasing enemies to throw your beleaguered adventurers against. The new enemies, all members of the Miller’s workforce and the comet itself, all glow with a sickly blue light that shines through the gaps in their skin and clothing.

Wayne June returns once more to reprise his role as your ill-fated Ancestor, conveying the story of the doomed Miller and his family with the same haunting diction that made the original release so captivating to just listen to. While I cannot overstate the impact June’s performance has, the script itself is no slouch. While the DLC itself is relatively story-light, the new voice lines really drive home the otherworldliness of the monsters you encounter.

These Hallowed Grounds

The Color of Madness brings a host of new content along with it. The Districts section of the Hamlet has a few new buildings to construct, utilizing resources obtained from the new Endless Harvest mode, which unlocks after beating two runs of the Farmstead. A few new quirks have been added to the pool, most notably the Prismatic quirks. These convey potent buffs to an adventurer, but only one adventurer on your roster can have any one of these quirks. For example, only one adventurer can have Prismatic Isolation, which conveys a whopping +25% Debuff Resistance. Also added to the Hamlet are the Jeweler, a section of the Nomad Wagon where you can trade Comet Shards earned in the Farmstead for new Trinkets, and the Crystal Mercenaries — Rank 6 adventurers who will only fight in the Farmstead for a percentage take of the Shards you earn.

The grounds surrounding the Hamlet have also been changed slightly since the comet’s landing. A new wandering boss, the Thing from the Stars, will stalk the halls of a map of one of the four base areas. Defeating him will reward you with a Trinket and a handful of Comet Shards. A bit of luck is required, however, as selecting a map for that area will only give him a chance of spawning. More than once I have scoured a whole map for the sole purpose of fighting him, only to be sorely disappointed by his lack of presence. As for the fight itself, the Thing from the Stars is a potent foe, spawning crystals each round that will explode for massive damage if you don’t destroy them. Couple that with a change in battle dynamic in the second half of the fight and it’s not something you’ll take on lightly.

The Definition of Insanity

The main addition to the game is the new area, the Farmstead. Unlike the previous areas in Darkest Dungeon, the Farmstead is all combat. You will fight wave after wave of enemies, most of them new, until you have killed a set number of them. A new enemy, the Sleeper’s Dream, will appear to whisk the party to Curio room. The Curio therein will provide either a bit of healing, some stress relief, a handful of supplies, or a chance to rest. The first two forays into the Farmstead are finite, ending at twenty enemies killed and a boss fight respectively. From the third run onward, however, it is a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?-style gauntlet where you face wave after wave of enemies for a progressively-building prize pool. Lose within the first set of waves and you get nothing, but survive longer and the rewards scale accordingly.

The Task’s End

While I laud this boss-fight design where each major beat in the DLC builds up into the culmination of the Endless Harvest mode, it’s this that makes The Color of Madness feel completely separate from the rest of the Darkest Dungeon experience. Unlike with The Crimson Court, wherein you could find enemies from the Courtyard littered throughout the other areas, making it seem like a constant threat, that never happens with the Husk enemies from the Farmstead. In order to experience the content, you have to go out of your way to hunt it down. Even death in the Farmstead has a dulled effect on the rest of the game, as the only thing you lose is a bit of time and the Trinkets they carried.

Worse yet, and without venturing too far into spoiler territory, the format of the Endless Harvest almost demands a specific party line up. In Darkest Dungeon, there has always been an "ideal" matchup for each area, i.e. enemies in the Cove have high Bleed resistance, so sending in a Houndmaster, a Jester, a Flagellant, and a Hellion is likely a bad idea. However, the endurance test that the Endless Harvest offers leaves little room for experimentation with various party configurations, should you want to progress past the first set of waves.


The Verdict: Great

Darkest Dungeon: The Color of Madness is a fine addition to an already great game. The Endless Harvest mode adds perpetual, challenging content fit for veterans, and builds up across a playthrough well enough to entice novices as well. While the comet’s presence doesn’t loom quite as large over the Hamlet as the Crimson Court vampires did, there’s more than enough reason to traverse the tainted soil of the Farmstead, seeking gold and glory.

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John Gerritzen

John Gerritzen is a programmer by education, author by hobby, and game critic by occupation. While he usually favors RPGs, he will play anything that engages him narratively or mechanically. When he's not playing games for fun or profit, he's usually reading or watching anime.