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Darkest Dungeon 2 Starter Guide: How To Survive Your First Few Runs

Darkest Dungeon 2 goes back to the unforgiving and brutal turn-based combat gameplay of the first game, but shakes it up a bit. For one, part 2 is now a traditional roguelike title with the usual progression: one run to survive, then restart it if your entire team dies.

The game is currently in Early Access so some things may change later down the line. This starter guide should at least get you going and at least fail less runs than usual. Hopefully.

You Will Fail Your First Run

This is a guarantee, as Darkest Dungeon 2 is built to make you fail. At first, anyway. For each failed run, your torch capacity (which adds more enemy advantage the lower it gets through your journey) and item options expand further and further. So don’t get too attached with your first run; Darkest Dungeon 2 is built purposely as a roguelike with multiple replay value.

Focus On Reducing Stress

The most treasured resource you need to manage within your party is Stress. You need to actively reduce it if you want to make it through the game just fine.

Just a key point: characters with the highest strength stat that’s 50% or higher have a chance to negatively react to combat events. One early item that can help reduce Stress is Laudanum. Get that whenever you come across it. The Plague Doctor and his Ounce of Prevention ability, once upgraded, can reduce a point of Stress. Buff that ability up at the inn as soon as you can.

A note about health: healing is not quite a problem in Darkest Dungeon 2 because your party members can now heal HP automatically and in increments as you travel forward on the cart. Persistent damage debuffs also do not carry over to map travel when you exit combat; phew!

If your character’s stress goes over the roof by taking damage, suffering status effects, and even bickering with your companions, your character will trigger a Meltdown effect, where he/she suffers a huge health loss while also damaging the party relationship. That’s bad. Prioritize stress-relieving abilities when you start out your run.

Aim For Positive Relationships

Relationships in Darkest Dungeon 2 are everything. If you let your Stress level snowball, you lose relationship benefits and your party dynamic will be screwed up. Combat turns and RNG will be affected by each party member’s relationship with one another. You clearly want the positive bits to max out between two heroes; the keywords you want are Amorous, Respectful, and/or Inseparable. Having these means random buffs, combat assists, and heals.

The opposite spectrum terms are Resentful, Tumultuous, Suspicious, and Hateful. This means Stress gain will increase and all sorts of debuffs turning up, not to mention inactive turns out of spite. You will need to use consumables that improve party affinity and lowers stress levels in the next inn should these reach their negative peak.

Breakable Objects = Possible Loot

Ram stuff with your cart when you’re on the road. Sometimes the debris or rubble you knock down drop combat and inn items; very useful in a game that isn’t that generous with items.

On that note, you may want to leave a slot or two empty in your inventory. You will usually have a max capacity for item-carrying, so don’t horde items. If your inventory slot is full, you won’t get the free stuff from your cart-ramming spree.

Use your items when you can; make sure all your party members are fully equipped with combat items before a fight. However, discarding items can yield a bit of Hope; another good currency to have while in a run.

Build A Complimentary Party

Ideally, your Darkest Dungeon 2 4-party member setup should have a Tank, 2 Damage Dealers, and a Healer. Also, make sure at least one or two of your party members can target each enemy position.

Darkest Dungeon 2’s combat system is position-based; some of your party members cannot target enemies at the back position, so if you have a party that doesn’t target anyone at the back, these enemy types can fight scot-free and can end your run pretty quick.

On that note, having Damage Over Time (DOT) abilities (that afflict Burn, Bleed, and Blight) can make enemies with high HP get whittled down over time if you pile on your direct damage. Your Graverobber and Plague Doctor have Blight abilities that are helpful in your early runs; these can help weaken heavy hitters while your Man-At-Arms can just block and buff up your party’s defenses.

Plus, DOT abilities can KO enemies with Death’s Door triggers, which is the down-but-not-out condition that prolong enemy lifespans.

Keep Track Of Loathing

Darkest Dungeon 2’s difficulty is affected by two factors: the torch on your cart and Loathing. If the torch is at its brightest, your party gets combat bonuses. If it’s pretty dim, enemies get more buffs. When it’s put out, you get assaulted by the Cult, and that’s usually a tough fight to get through.

How fast does a torch dim in Darkest Dungeon 2? Well, that’s dependent on the other meter in the game: Loathing. Loathing increases when you reach the inn at the end of each world. It’s usually kept at bay by clearing enemy combat challenges marked on the map (Resistance, Lair, and Cultist encounters). Completing all three rounds of the final Guardian challenge of each map will lower Loathing significantly.

Long story short, high Loathing and a super-dim torch equal super hard combat in Darkest Dungeon 2.

Visit Shrines Of Reflection

If you see an opportunity to pick a path to visit a Shrine of Reflection, pick that. This not only gives a member of your party a new ability, but also reveals his/her backstory. Unlocking these abilities will give you more combat flexibility, though you should keep in mind that some of these stories will have a playable combat puzzle bit that can be challenging.

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