After installing Darkest Dongeon, I immediately selected the hardest difficulty mode available.
I told myself that I could complete this mode with my eyes closed, without looking at the wiki and the forums. I wanted a big challenge.
It didn’t end well.
I clicked all the curiosities without using items on them, thinking that the negative effects were just bad luck. After twenty hours of play, I came to understand that it was possible to use keys on curios to get more loot.
And what had to happen happened…
After 30 hours of misery, I finally hit the limit of 12 dead characters that automatically lose the game. It happened during my very first expedition inside the final dungeon. I had already accumulated 11 dead characters in the other dungeons.
This experience made me realize things about choosing the Stygian difficulty mode in Darkest Dungeon.
It is imperative to know the character classes and bosses if you want to stand a chance. Most bosses have mechanics that can eliminate your group if you are unprepared and do not bring the right characters. Most of my deaths came when I tried a boss for the first time.
You will not have a chance if you do not bother to choose characters that are well suited to the dongeons and work well with the rest of the group. For example, the Vestal seems to be a key character in many situations, you will probably have to recruit more than one during your game. Your chances of succeeding will be higher if you take a little time to prepare your next expedition after each of your expeditions. It is also critical to learn how to handle the stress level of your characters.
Despite all this, it remains possible to be unlucky and lose the game. RNG is unpredictable and often goes in the wrong direction. The wrong character is hit by several critical hits and becomes completely crazy, and then starts to hit your healer. And then you fail to escape, and most of your characters die of a horrible death. And there was nothing you could do to escape.
I still enjoyed my first part with the Stygian difficulty mode. I think the point I’m trying to make is simply that you should start with a Radiant or Darkness game, and keep Stygian for a second game.
The advantage of selecting Darkness for your first game is that it will have the same pace as a Stygian game. You will be a little better prepared.
While the advantage of selecting Radiant for your first game is that it will go much faster. You will still learn the characters and bosses, but there is a slight risk of unpleasant surprises on your next game as the Stygian ones are much slower.
That said, here are the differences between the three levels of difficulty available.
Radiant difficulty mode
“Radiant campaigns, while still challenging, are adjusted to be faster and more forgiving than normal. Suggested for your first Darkest Dungeon experience.”
This difficulty mode is a bit easier than the default mode. Here are the differences that will make your experience a little less painful.
- 20% less experience required for character levels.
- Reduced costs for improvements in the city.
- A slight dodge increase when the light is at maximum level.
- A slight stress recovery increase each week when the characters are left to themselves in the city.
Darkest difficulty mode
“Normal campaigns are the “original settings” for the game. While there is no time limit to win, the campaign will be longer and more challenging than Radiant mode.”
The default difficulty mode…
Stygian difficulty mode
“Stygian campaigns are not for the faint of heart. Expect no quarter, no forgiveness. You must conquer the evil within a time and hero death limit. Also, many gameplay settings are locked.”
This difficulty mode is MUCH more difficult than the default mode. Here are the differences that will make your experience more miserable.
- 20% increased damage and dodge for monsters and bosses.
- Increased costs for improvements in the city.
- Increased stress received by the characters.
- Time limit of 86 weeks (100 weeks with the Bloodmoon DLC).
- Death limit of 12 characters (16 characters with the DLC Bloodmoon).
My recommendation: choose Radiant or Darkest to learn in a first game, and choose Stygian in another game once you have experience to push yourself to the limit of what the game has to offer.