Hello fair travelers. With Darkest Dungeon 2 finally out in Early Access on Epic Games Store, we here at TechRaptor have been tucking into the game, discovering its secrets and getting a grasp on its dark and twisted mechanics. After spending some time with the game, we have developed some good strategies for you to get started. This is our Beginner's Guide for Darkest Dungeon 2.
Darkest Dungeon 2 Beginner's Guide – The Basics
The first thing that will surprise you if you're coming from the first Darkest Dungeon to the sequel is that the game more closely resembles a run-based roguelite than a micromanagement sim this time around. Every time you start the game you'll recruit four adventurers, get some randomly generated supplies, and then you try to see how far you can get your carriage before your entire adventuring party is wiped out. At the end of each run, your Hope rank will increase based on how far you traveled, how many battles you won, and how much treasure you got. As your Hope increases, new more powerful items will be added to the loot pool giving you a bit more of a fighting chance in future runs.
First we'll start with recruits. You'll begin the game with four characters. These are the Man-at-Arms, the Highwayman, the Grave Robber, and the Plague Doctor. The more you play Darkest Dungeon 2, the more characters you will unlock, which will give you more options.
But to start, you'll want to recruit these starting four adventurers by clicking and moving their portraits to the four slots at the bottom of the screen. The Man-at-Arms should go on the far right slot. This is the front rank. The Man-at-Arms has armor and a shield and is great as a dedicated tank. The Highwayman and Grave Robber should take either of the two center slots. Both of them have ranged weapons which will be super helpful when hitting distant or hidden foes. Finally, put the Plague Doctor in back row, represented by the leftmost slot. He has healing abilities as well as poisonous bombs which is crucial in Darkest Dungeon 2.
As a matter of fact, pay attention to the roles each character has as you unlock them and try to keep them in their respective roles as much as possible. There is some wiggle room. The Plague Doctor does have a nasty cut attack that inflicts the bleed status effect when he's up close for example, but these are meant more as acts of desperation and novelty than a dedicated strategy.
Darkest Dungeon 2 Beginner's Guide – Travel and Resource Management
As mentioned before, Darkest Dungeon 2 is more of a road trip experience through a dark and depressing fantasy world. The original Oregon Trail if it was designed by HP Lovecraft, if you will. As such, you will want every single tiny advantage you can get in this game. Even the smallest addition to stats and resources adds up quickly.
To wit, there are two major resources you have to keep in mind long-term. The first is the flame on your carriage. Much like the first Darkest Dungeon, the lower the flame burns, the tougher enemies you'll face. You can increase this flame through certain contextual actions, either by winning battles or giving supplies to starving travelers in “The Desperate Few” encounters. For your first early runs you'll want to keep this as bright as you can.
The second overarching meter to watch is Loathing. This is measured in the upper left corner of the screen. As you get further into the game, this bar will increase, giving ongoing bonuses to all monster encounters you come across. Pay attention when you get to forks in the road, some encounters will state that victory will reduce Loathing. If you can, go for this after the third area or so, it will help take the pressure off.
On the smaller end of things are the spoils you'll pick up from encounters. These will include resources, marked by colored markers in your carriage's inventory. You'll need these to trade with various characters you'll meet along the way. Hold on to these victory spoils for as long as you can.
A more mid-term item to keep an eye on are Inn items. Inns are basically checkpoints between runs, a brief respite from the horrors you'll have to put up with. These items you can use on your party members to grant them even more ongoing bonuses and stat buffs. These aren't as high a priority as victory spoils, but you will want to use as many of these as you can once you reach an inn. Trust me, you'll need it.
Next are trinkets and combat items. The minute you get any of these, equip your party with them. The trinkets are important since they'll give buffs to your party. Once again, something as simple as “+2 to Speed,” or “10% Plague Resistance” sounds minor but it can mean a world of difference when you're in the thick of it. Right-click the party member's portrait at the bottom of the screen and you'll pull up the menu. A left click of the bag icon in the corner will pull up your inventory. Click and drag the trinket you want and you're good.
And while you're there, equip some combat items. These are a godsend when you get to tougher battles. This is because in addition to your character's four skills, using the item shows up as a fifth option. Using an item doesn't cost a character's turn, meaning you can still attack while getting the items benefits. With combat that heavily favors the action economy, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by having these items equipped.
Your bread and butter for combat items will include healing salve, which is just a health potion. Bandages heal a little less but gets rid of the bleed effect, something you'll want to stop immediately. Anti-venom does the same but removes the blight status effect. Then you have powerful single-use items like smoke bombs, ichor bombs, and combat stimulants.
Darkest Dungeon 2 Beginner's Guide – Combat and Stress
Combat in Darkest Dungeon 2 is quite complex beneath the surface. But if you need a cheat sheet, it's turn-based with an emphasis on placement and ongoing persistent status effects. Just about every attack or ability either debuffs or grants some sort of status effect. More importantly, these abilities stack. If you lay on multiple bleed effects for example, the damage will go up.
Each party member has different attacks that can only be used while in certain positions. Also each ability only has certain range. If you want to hit that artillery enemy way in the back, you'll need to use the right attack.
My personal strategy is to keep attacking the frontlines with the Man-at-Arms and the Highwayman while the Grave Robber and Plague Doctor pepper the back row with poison darts and plague bombs. Eventually, the poison will catch up with them or the assault will break through.
Of course, since Darkest Dungeon 2 is a dark-fantasy experience where hope itself is smothered in its bed, your adventurer's will have to deal with Stress. This is represented by a small meter of white squares below their health bars. As your journey continues this will increase. This can happen either through enemy attacks, getting angry with fellow party members, or by their interactions in the world.
When this bar fully maxes out, and it is a matter of when not if, this party member will suffer a meltdown. This means their health will drop down to almost nothing, suffer some debuffs, and raise everyone else's stress. You'll want to keep an eye on this, especially if it's happening to your dedicated tank, and keep some healing abilities on hand.
Darkest Dungeon 2 Beginner's Guide – Locations of Interest
Finally, we'll end this Beginner's Guide with a few brief areas of note while traveling through the blighted world of Darkest Dungeon 2 so you know a bit more of what to watch out for.
It's exactly what it sounds like. Going to a Field Hospital will let you trade spoils to heal your party. Additionally, if you pay a little extra, you can have certain negative qualities (marked by blue text) removed in order to prevent interpersonal squabbles.
Shrines of Reflection
These are abandoned chapels. Send one of your party members inside and you'll learn a bit more about their backstory and unlock additional combat skills for you to use. This will help you get more combat diversity out of your party members
The Desperate Few
These are traveling bands of people. Speak to them using one of your party members and you can either trade some items with them for food as well as a boost to your carriage flame, or berate them and take their stuff.
These are difficult gauntlet challenges full of difficult enemies. Unless your party is well-equipped and has some decent health and low stress, it's best not to mess with these challenges. You can choose to escape in between fights in the gauntlet, and for early game I suggest doing two fights at most before escaping.
There is still a ton to explore and unravel in Darkest Dungeon 2. If this guide didn't cover some of your questions or concerns, we have more dedicated guides available below. However, if you need a primer for what awaits you in this nasty little game, you have some cliff notes now. Hang in there, and remember that this game, much like its predecessor, isn't about winning but making the most out of a bad situation.