Darkest Dungeon is a brutal roguelike turn-based RPG that breaks the spirit of its characters and players alike. It has a unique take on dungeon adventuring and chooses to focus on the psychological stress and effects of dungeon crawling and constant near-death encounters.

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There are numerous mechanics present in Darkest Dungeon that new players might be taken aback by. Long-term party management is something that you might have never given any thought to in prior gaming experiences, and it might all be a bit too much to handle. However, taking it all one step at a time and going in with the right mindset can save you from a lot of stress.

Updated by Damien Lykins on September 19, 2021: Darkest Dungeon's combat system features several mechanics that are purpose-built to increase the pressure attached to every move and decision — even the order in which you've configured your party members plays an all-important role, and the game's got several tricks up its sleeve built around taking advantage of that. We've added a tip on countering placement shuffling and the "Move" status effect and provided some further detail on other tips, such as stress management and curios.

11 Know What You're Getting Yourself Into

Darkest Dungeon Official Artwork Party Members

Darkest Dungeon is an unforgiving game. You will not succeed if you go into it like any other turn-based RPG. There is no strength in friendship like any JRPG will have you believe; your party is not going to have a good time.

With that being said, lighten up a little bit. A party wipe isn't so bad and it might happen frequently as you get accustomed to the gameplay mechanics. There's no need to start a new save, just keep on pushing. You'll save yourself from a lot of stress if you treat your party members as replaceable pawns. So, uh... try not to name them after any of your friends.


10 Bring A Healer

vestal artwork from darkest dungeon

There aren't very many ways to heal in Darkest Dungeon, especially during battle. You must bring a healer into your party during the early stages of the game. Later on, you can experiment a bit more with party formation if you're confident and think you can handle it.

While you're still new, try to save your food and have some faith in your healer. Random hunger checks will mess you up if you're not careful, so it's better to just keep food around unless you have extra or really need it. Toward the end of party preservation, lean hard into recruiting Vestals and Occultists whenever the opportunity's available.

9 Keep Your Light Level High

Darkest Dungeon Classes Artwork

As a general rule of thumb, always keep your light levels above 75. This makes for better accuracy — which actually matters a lot in Darkest Dungeon — and easier scouting. As a new player who isn't accustomed to the game, keeping the light levels high minimizes the randomness of the dungeon and won't throw you for a loop.

If your light level drops below 75 then you're prone to receiving more stress damage. If the light level drops below 50 then monster accuracy and damage increase and there are chances that enemies will surprise you. Keep some torches on you at all times.

8 Be Picky With Your Heroes

Darkest Dungeon heroes collage

At the start, you need every hero you can get. However, once you come back from a dungeon or two, you need to wisely pick and choose who you bring with you. Start thinking of team formation and paying close attention to quirks.

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There is very little room for error. Picking heroes whose quirks and merits match their role is a must. If you have a tank, then it's generally a good idea to make sure that they don't have a quirk that lowers their HP.

7 Upgrade Your Stage Coach (And Hero Barracks)

Darkest Dungeon Stage Coach In-Game Screenshot

You want to get more heroes, and you do that by upgrading your Stagecoach. In the early game, it's a safe decision and one that is highly encouraged. You always want to have a good number of heroes handy in your roster in the event of a party wipe. Once you get the hang of things then you should feel free to look around and upgrade other facilities that will benefit you later in the game. But for right now, the Stagecoach and Hero Barracks are your lifeblood and serve as investments that will never let you down.

6 Don't Be Afraid Of Longer Dungeons

darkest dungeon the manor

Of course, there's no shame in going on a short dungeon while you're getting acclimated to the game. However, don't be discouraged by medium or long dungeons. You might perform better in those dungeons for any number of reasons.

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Longer dungeons have camping, which allows you to: heal, relieve stress, obtain buffs, and recover your light level. Camping at just the right times could save you in the middle of a dungeon run. Also, let's not forget that longer dungeons give you the chance to come out with more and better loot.

5 Keep Track Of Your Stress

Darkest Dungeon affliction official art

Stress is a major mechanic in Darkest Dungeon and one of the unique features that make it absolutely painful to play (in a good way). As such, keeping track of how stressed your party is and how to manage it is a pretty significant part of the game.

Stress damage is a bit more permanent than HP damage — it isn't automatically replenished after leaving a dungeon, and costs gold to heal at one of the Hamlet's facilities. Allowing the stress threshold to pass 100 can result in an affliction, severely reducing the character's combat performance and potentially causing them to act erratically or waste turns. If it hits 200, the character will suffer a heart attack and enter Death's Door, potentially killing them. Trinkets, curios, and some skills (such as the Jester's Inspiring Tune) can be used to help assuage the build-up of stress over the course of a dungeon.

4 Be Wise With Your Gold

Darkest Dungeon Provision Shop In-Game Screenshot

You're not going to have much money in the early game so it's best to not buy everything you see. Don't try to level up each and every hero you have and don't go out of your way to buy new skills. Early on, it's better to upgrade the ones you already have.

When spending gold on treating your party, save it for the best members. If you recruit new heroes that already have the skills you're looking for, it saves money and allows you to further upgrade them to fit their designated role.

3 Know Who To Target

Darkest Dungeon Men-At-Arms Class

Prioritize enemies who deal stress damage instead of those that deal damage to your HP. It sounds weird, but stress is something that has effects long after the battle is over. Usually, enemies on the backline will be the ones traumatizing and inflicting heavy stress damage on your heroes.

Getting heroes who can do some good backline damage is important while building your squad because of how important stress damage is. By extension, bringing stress healers could also be beneficial if you struggle with this frequently. If you can stun, feel free to do so on the heavy hitters.

2 Know Your Curios

Darkest Dungeon The Hero Reads A Most Unsettling Passage

Curios are interactable items found throughout the dungeons. Ranging from treasure chests to Eldritch relics, they can have various effects when interacted with — some good, some bad, and it's generally a roll of the dice concerning what impact they'll have on the character interacting with them. However, using particular supply items on them can guarantee a positive outcome that will have a tangible impact on your odds of a successful run.

Using a Skeleton Key on an Heirloom chest, for example, will circumvent potential traps and provide additional loot. Using Medicinal Herbs on a Moonshine Barrel (found in the warrens) will provide your hero with a potent 30% damage buff until the next time you camp. The list of curios and supply item interactions is quite extensive, so there's no shame in checking how it will react or what the probability of getting a random status effect is before activation.

1 Mind Your Movement Skills

Having your party's order shuffled during battle can have catastrophic effects. This can happen in a couple of different ways — primarily either by being "Surprised" at the beginning of the battle (randomly shuffles your party's positions) or an enemy utilizing an attack with a "Move" effect. Characters can wind up in positions that lock their most useful skills, and vulnerable party members can wind up precariously perched on the front lines. Whatever the cause, moving your characters using the default option can cost valuable HP and sanity as the enemy continuously assaults you while you're wasting turns.

However, many characters come with hard counters to this problem — the Highwayman's Duelist's Advance, for example, pushes him forward by one spot, lands a solid hit, and gives him "Riposte" status to counter-attack further strikes. The Graverobber's Shadowfade pushes her back by two slots while putting her into stealth, upping her dodge, and buffing her critical chance and damage considerably for the follow-up attacks. These skills can be stacked across the party to set up "Dancing Teams" for more advanced tactics, but for now, focus on the headache they can spare you in dire straits.

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