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Darkest Dungeon II Review

A Sequel that takes the series in some exciting new directions, although not always for the best.


Derek Swinhart

Jul 10, 2023

Darkest Dungeon was difficult, time-consuming, and stressful. It accomplished what it set out to do and then some, but it wasn’t perfect.

In some ways, it feels like Darkest Dungeon II seeks to offer a companion to the original, a little more forgiving and immediate than its predecessor. It makes some incredible strides in the process, but sometimes it feels like something was also lost.

Where a typical sequel is usually an upgrade and refinement of the original, Darkest Dungeon II’s overall structure is wildly different. While Darkest Dungeon II still brings its unique style and flavor to rogue-lites, it focuses on runs instead of management.

Image: Red Hook Studios

The original game had you managing a large crew of dungeon delvers and an entire hamlet, periodically sending groups out on adventures; Darkest Dungeon II is based around runs more akin to games like Dead Cells, Hades, and other more immediately satisfying rogue-lites.

At times, Darkest Dungeon II can be one of the most visually impressive and polished rogue-lites, with incredible combat and split-second decisions. Still, at other times it strains against the confines of its new design, and you can’t help but miss some of the mechanics of yore.

Darkest Dungeon II is one of the most visually impressive and polished rogue-lites.

Darkest Dungeon II sees most of our original “cast” return; it follows a new Lovecraftian victim, The Academic. He narrates the game as The Ancestor did before, and he is also voiced by the incredible Wayne June, who offers his verbose color commentary throughout the game as he did in the original.

Image: Red Hook Studios

Darkest Dungeon II has lost nothing in the personality department, the new 3D visuals suit the tone perfectly, and the attention to detail is astounding. Every attack has unique animations for every element, from prepping to pulling them off.

Character and enemy designs are second to none, and combat’s overall look and feel are far more polished and punchier than ever before. Darkest Dungeon II’s art direction is up there with the greats, and its new 3D visuals rival any current turn-based title.

Every element of Darkest Dungeon II serves to thicken the already dense atmosphere. June’s voiceover is as oppressive as before; the music is somber but willing to pick things up during livelier fights.

Every class is dripping with personality, enemies are disgusting, and the new 3D visuals add a new layer to exploring this wretched world. If all you want is more of the world of the original but in higher fidelity, this game delivers in spades.

It isn’t all roses, though; Darkest Dungeon II forgoes the original game’s design entirely. While this is not inherently bad, it will immediately put fans of the original on the back foot.

Image: Red Hook Studios

It is a structurally new thing to grapple with, but it also is fundamentally different in nearly every way from the original. Runs only last a few hours at most, you pick your four characters at the start, and they are your permanent crew throughout the run (barring some exceptional circumstances). Your crew rides a stagecoach that rolls through biomes following different lanes.

Similarly to many other rogue-lites, you pick lanes based on limited information and hope you survive. Numerous events, activities, and nightmares along the winding road make this game much more immediate than the original.

Where Darkest Dungeon focused on building a relationship with characters and investing in multiple party compositions designed for specific scenarios, its sequel focuses on experimenting with party makeup, snappy combat, and stylish storytelling. None of these are inherently worse, and in fact, based on personal preference Darkest Dungeon II may be precisely what the doctor ordered.

Darkest Dungeon II may be precisely what the doctor ordered.

That is the major issue with this sequel. Do you prefer the more methodical approach of the original? Or the flashier, more immediate pace of the sequel?

Image: Red Hook Studios

In this case, we get two great games in the same universe that offer similar yet exclusive experiences. One does not override the other, and if you tire of the sequel, you can return to the original.

While I can understand the frustration of not getting perfect refinement of the original, I always will lean towards new ideas and experimentation. If Red Hook felt the need to take things in another direction again with a third title, I would gladly be for it.

Darkest Dungeon II isn’t the exact iterative sequel that you commonly see; it is more along the lines of something like Dawn of War II, a sequel that was so good that you didn’t even realize it was what you needed until much later. As time goes on, Darkest Dungeon II will continue to grow and show that it is a worthy sequel to one of the most unique and engaging titles in the genre.



One-of-a-kind, world-class visuals and animation

Amazing atmosphere

Voicework is top-notch

Snappy, addicting, and satisfying combat

Addicting rogue-lite run-based structure


No greater management outside of spending permanent currency

Characters are more static and not permanent investment

Heavy RNG elements can feel unfair

New genre change may not be for everyone

Some classes have been removed or changed significantly


Reviewer played the game on Microsoft Windows.

Darkest Dungeon 2 is available now on Microsoft Windows


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Derek Swinhart

Derek has worked in games journalism and PC gaming hardware and has a depth and breadth of experience across many genres. He plays almost everything but has a particular fondness for challenging games like the -Souls series and real-time strategy titles.


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Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

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Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

Small Running Title

Small Running Title

Avenir Light is a clean and stylish font favored by designers. It's easy on the eyes and a great go-to font for titles, paragraphs & more.

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