The team at Red Hook Studios has blessed us with the first DLC for 2016’s gothic Kickstarter success, Darkest Dungeon. If you haven’t played the oppressively difficult core game, you can read Robert’s PC review here or Jerry’s opinion on the PS Vita release here. The Crimson Court DLC adds a sinister new campaign that takes place during the early years of the Hamlet, complete with blood sucking, powdered-wig-wearing courtesans and esquires. If you’ve ever wondered what Marie Antoinette would’ve looked like as a blood thirsty insect-human, this is about as close as you will get.
When activated, The Crimson Court can be accessed through one of your previously saved games, or you can start a brand new campaign. This DLC unlocks a new location to explore called The Courtyard, providing gorgeous, narrated cutscenes and hours of challenging gameplay. Once the site of elaborate parties and racy behavior, The Courtyard is now a festering swampland, littered with cartons of wine and infested with insects. There are grotesque bosses to defeat and huge maps to explore. Your torches are no longer useful at staving off stress in The Courtyard, but they do provide an accuracy buff in combat. This helps to create a bit of variation in dungeon crawling, which is welcomed after the hours and hours of continual grinding done in the base game.
The Crimson Court also brings us a new hero called the Flagellant. He’s a religious extremist whose combat skills revolve around bleeding and suffering, buffs and debuffs. The Flagellant refuses to travel with others of his kind, and he won’t share a party with an Abomination either. His base equipment consists of a flail and his bare, lacerated torso, both of which can be upgraded in town. Unlike the other classes, the Flagellant can only succumb to a single affliction, Rapturous, and it’s exclusive to him. The affliction decreases his dodge drastically, but increases his damage and causes him to attack himself and his own party at random. It’s great that the DLC offers a new healing class, as it gives fans some more variety while plundering The Courtyard, but he doesn’t seem as special as The Crimson Court enemies.
As you clear dungeons and return to the Hamlet, The Crimson Court allows you to purchase Districts. These are additional buildings that become part of your village and add bonuses to your entire estate. Some of these buildings provide interest on saved gold, increase loot chance with torchlight, and increase idle stress relief in town. These are wonderful additions, but ungodly expensive. It fits the Darkest Dungeon theme of hardcore difficulty, but it seems like it would take hundreds of hours to unlock them all. Each of the 12 Districts requires a blueprint, which only drop from bosses: not mini-bosses, just bosses. Once you’ve acquired a blueprint, it can cost up to 300 crests or 110 deeds, in addition to a hefty pile of gold, to build a useful District.
To add to the difficulty, heroes can acquire a curse called the Crimson Curse. It acts as a disease, but the cure is only found by working your way through The Courtyard storyline. Afflicted heroes begin to crave blood, and their stats change as the disease progresses. Sometimes they won’t allow themselves to be healed and in other cases, they attack other party members. Once your toughest heroes become infected, it feels hopeless to try to push your way through the swamps of The Courtyard.
Overall, The Crimson Court stays true to the Darkest Dungeon base game. It’s unreasonably difficult but gruesome and thematic. If you liked Darkest Dungeon as it was, you’ll enjoy the DLC. The Districts help to provide some new goals, and the bloody, rococo Courtyard enemies are something to behold. If you were one of the many fans hoping this expansion would help to rebalance the game or decrease the amount of mindless grinding needed to complete the campaign, you’ll be disappointed with the epic maps and hardcore bosses.
Darkest Dungeon: The Crimson Court is available on PC, OS X, Linux, PS4 and PS Vita. The base game was just released on iOS 9+, and there are plans to release The Crimson Court for tablets soon.
A PC review copy of Darkest Dungeon: The Crimson Court was provided by Red Hook Studios for the purpose of this review