App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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After many months of speculation and hinting from Red Hook Studios, Darkest Dungeon: Tablet Edition finally came out. It's a dungeon-crawler that tests your heroes' physical abilities and mental stability in quest after quest as you try to stem the tide of eldritch horrors erupting across your family's estate. In this mobile form, Darkest Dungeon: Tablet Edition provides more or less the same experience as the original PC version, albeit with some slight problems using menus with touch controls.
Darkest Dungeon is basically a mix between a management game and a dungeon-crawler. You play as the heir to a gothic mansion that just so happens to be infested with otherworldly, Lovecraftian monsters, and you decide that the best way to spend your time is by recruiting heroes to fight them for you. Although the idea of fighting monsters might sound straightforward enough, the horror of seeing and fighting these creatures takes a toll on your heroes, to the point that they can go mad.
The mental anguish that your adventurers experience adds a layer of difficulty to Darkest Dungeon such that keeping heroes alive and mentally stable becomes extremely difficult, even on the game's easiest setting. As you complete quests though, you'll be able to upgrade parts of your estate, like the Sanitarium, to help you better tend to your heroes between fights.
The definition of insanity
Most of Darkest Dungeon follows a very predictable loop. You send heroes out on quests to get gold, heirlooms, and trinkets so you can spend them on upgrading your estate, your heroes, or simply curing the problems your heroes develop while questing. There are quests of varying lengths and dungeons with different sets of enemy types, but otherwise, the action is pretty much this repetitive cycle.
Every time you gear up for a quest, you can choose up to four heroes (with unique class types like Houndmaster, Leper, or Jester) and provision them with torches, shovels, food, and other necessary survival items before going on your way. In every quest, you'll be wandering between procedurally generated rooms and fighting foes while trying to stay alive and sane. Again, this may sound easy enough, but Darkest Dungeon seems finely tuned to make literally every aspect of the game feel like a struggle. Heroes will die, others will develop odd obsessions or compulsive behaviors, and you'll need to decide how to deal with these issues as they inevitably arise.
Unwieldy and unpredictable
As a port of a PC game, Darkest Dungeon: Tablet Edition only really suffers when it comes to its menus. Using touch, it can be hard to view tooltips and descriptions of abilities without accidentally activating them or covering the descriptions with your fingers. If you're using a smaller tablet, reading some of the menu items could be pretty difficult too, as the menu text can be quite small.
Aside from that, the mobile version of Darkest Dungeon is a great re-creation of the original game, which is to say it is technically sound and looks really great, but is otherwise a kind of middling dungeon-crawler that smashes together a bunch of systems to create its challenge and fun. In doing this, Darkest Dungeon ends up feeling like you're fighting against a random number generator than any actual difficulty curve or intentionally-designed experience.
The bottom line
If you played and liked Darkest Dungeon on PC, picking up the tablet edition is a no-brainer. For five bucks, you can take your dungeon-crawling on-the-go, and even continue adventures you've started on the PC by exporting your save file via Dropbox. That said, Darkest Dungeon certainly isn't for everyone. It feels like a game that wants to beat you down by throwing its systems at you. This can be fun to a point, but it also makes the game feel pretty oppressive and downright random. Considering the game is about fighting off eldritch horrors, this makes a certain amount of sense, but it also makes for a less fun game experience.