As 2018 begins, the Nintendo Switch continues to build its library of ports with the recent release of Darkest Dungeon, along with and its two official DLCs The Crimson Court and Shieldbreaker. This is the second mobile port for the game, as the Darkest Dungeon: Tablet Edition was released this past August. Does the Nintendo Switch port bring any unique improvements or features; or even create new issues with the game? Let's find out.
Now, I haven't played the Tablet Edition, but I have played Darkest Dungeon on Steam for a decent amount of time. You're able to create and name three individual save files, each allowing you to decide which DLCs or difficulty you'd prefer. Radiant Mode and gameplay customization options are also all carried over to the Switch port, allowing you to adjust the game to suit your needs and playstyle.
While this is all up to personal preference, I felt that Radiant Mode is a natural fit for the Switch and the overall best option for playing on the go. Red Hook developed this mode as a response to the complaints of very long grinds to reach Darkest Dungeon's endgame. It nearly halves the required time down from 80+ hours to just over 40. Selecting Radiant Mode provided a sense of constant progress even when I could only invest a short amount of playtime on the go. Naturally, there is nothing stopping you from selecting the original mode, or even the more difficult Stygian mode, if you so choose.
One issue that jumps out at you immediately concerns the resolution and interface of Darkest Dungeon. It seems that these are virtually unchanged from the PC version, and merely shrunk down to fit on the portable screen. The resolution of the game is 720p when portable, using the widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio of its PC counterpart. There are no alterations to the in-game text or blurbs to make them larger or zoomed in, making even the intro textbox almost impossible to read.
With crucial decisions like picking the right skill and the right target needing to be precise, I was not confident using the touchscreen controls at all, even if I could get past smudging my Switch screen with fingerprints. The joycon controls are a fine substitute, becoming intuitive once you get past the initial introduction. I had a bit of confusion with conflicting instructions at some points, like in the example above. I was just told that to access the map controls, I had to hold the ZR shoulder button. Which I did when trying to move my party to the destination room, but as it turns out for this one map function, I simply had to flick the right analog stick in the direction I want them to go without holding any shoulder buttons.
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However, there are issues with several UI options not even being available with the joycon controls. In the above for example, the quick building icon list on the left cannot be brought up using the joycon shortcuts. They will only appear if you tap an option using the touchscreen. Likewise, I found no way to bring up the heirloom conversion options at the bottom of the screen using the joycon controls when inside any of the buildings. It could only be brought up by tapping it with the touchscreen, or by completely exiting the building to go back to the main town screen, and then it can be selected by the joycons.
Switching between both the touchscreen and joycon controls is not ideal at the best of times, requiring a lot of back and forth. However, it becomes worse when it actually carries some risk to your game itself. While testing the controls, I had found a repeatable crash that could happen if you decide to change up your controls mid-way on some options. The most common example of this occurring is shown below.
If you use the touchscreen to select a 'Sort by' option, you will be brought to the screen above. However, if you try to use any joycon button to select or exit the options, the game will crash completely, and you will be booted back to the Switch's main menu. Outside of this instance, Darkest Dungeon has not crashed for me at any other point except for this, but take it as a warning against mixing the two control options for now. Hopefully, Red Hook Studios will look into this soon, as being restricted to just one control scheme currently does not provide all the options players can use.
Performance-wise, I found no issues or slowdowns while playing the game in portable mode. It is considerably less draining on the Switch's battery compared to open 3D world games such as Skyrim or Super Mario Odyssey. As I was not interested in playing Darkest Dungeon on the big screen, I did not test how the game performs while docked as the main draw for me was to play Darkest Dungeons on the go. In my opinion, the main draw of the Switch port of the game is how well it works as a portable yet challenging game that you can pick-up and play whenever you want. With the Switch's native suspend mode and mid-battle autosaving, it means you can exit and come back to the game at pretty much any point in time with no worries about loss progression.
However, I find it hard to recommend it over the Tablet Edition iPad port if you already own it, considering the few improvements or additions the Switch port brings. There are the native Switch features such as the screenshot and video capture functions, and the ability to play docked on a TV is still available. However, these Switch exclusive features do not feel very crucial to me save for the precise joycon controls. The Switch version does have the advantage of having all the official DLCs immediately available for you to purchase, while the Tablet Edition currently does not have either DLCs as of writing.
The biggest deciding factor for most people will probably be the difference in asking price of the Tablet Edition in comparison to the Switch version. The tablet version costs USD$4.99 compared to the USD$24.99 asking price of the Switch version, and that is not including the cost of any additional DLCs. With the main improvement of the Switch version being its control scheme, I find it hard to recommend the Switch version over the tablet version if it comes down to the price difference. If you are only interested in the original Darkest Dungeon experience with no DLC content and own an iPad, then the Tablet Edition may well be enough for you.
Darkest Dungeon was played on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer.