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Darkest Dungeon Crimson Court – The Switch Island Review

The Crimson Court’s curse arrives in your hamlet like a plague of old. It doesn’t wait for the sick to recover, for the crops to be harvested, or the pregnant to give birth. Instead, the curse hits one and then two, and gradually spreads its malignancy. Except, this being a videogame and not a 17th Century village, at least you can choose: If you were suffering before, perhaps don’t load the DLC. After all, this being Darkest Dungeon and not Kirby, you can’t turn it off; the infection is permanent for each play-through…

Darkest Dungeon is now one of my favourite games of all time. I’ve played fifty plus hours so far and I can’t get enough of it. The game is a gruelling creep through pitiless halls, burning your resources one by one, barely keeping your heroes alive (or sane) long enough to snatch up some gold and trinkets, before you pull them back out to The Hamlet, to tend their wounds, get some light and spiritual recuperation. It’s an intoxicating mix. I gave the main game a score of 9.5/10 and I stand by that score. But I did I put-off adding the DLC for a long time because I was worried about spoiling the game. But eventually, wanting to change up the experience slightly (and there was a sale running), I took the plunge. 

The first change you’ll probably notice is a new dungeon has opened up called the Courtyard. The Courtyard is where the infestation has landed, in the form of strange new enemies, some of which are curse-carrying insects. Here’s where some (or all) of your heroes will probably first catch the curse. I say probably because the curse isn’t limited to the Courtyard. It gradually spreads outwards until other dungeons become infested and you’ll have to infrequently fight the insects in them too. There’s nowhere to run.  

It’s safe to say the curse changes things up. And it makes a hard game harder. Darkest Dungeon is no cake walk and will make mincemeat out of your best and brightest, and Crimson Court adds a new ramp to the slaughterhouse by weakening your heroes and making them unpredictable. It also asks that you manage a new item, blood, on which more soon. There are three levels of change for a hero with the curse – they start out in ‘passive’ and decline to ‘craving’ and then ‘wasting’. As they slide from stage to stage, their stats alter radically and they perform random actions that can cause disruption to team mates or to the delicate order of your team. Once in ‘wasting’ state you get 61 rounds to feed them blood or they will die.

Before you fully lament, there is a treatment. The treatment consists of blood. Blood can be harvested mainly from playing through the Courtyard. It can be picked up from a few other locations, but if you want to stock up your supply the Courtyard is your best bet. Giving a hero blood when they’re in ‘wasting’ state will return them to ‘passive’, but if they’re in ‘craving’ state the blood will move them into ‘bloodlust’, which gives them a stats boost. Once in ‘bloodlust’, if you give them blood again they…well, I’ll let you find that out. Also, have fun trying to find more permanent cures for the curse (other than death); it’s not easy.

The blood isn’t quite like other items in the game like, say, food. The cursed heroes unfortunately still require blood even when they’re sitting out a dungeon crawl. You might be able to enter a dungeon with every last torch or food morsel, but not blood. If you do, it’s a risk one or more heroes will perish. 

If that wasn’t enough extra worry for you, fear not, there’s more. The Fanatic is a new boss for this DLC that wanders between all the dungeons and encounters you randomly when you have cursed heroes, especially if you have several in your team. He is an unrelentingly difficult foe to beat and has wasted several of my best heroes. He’s on a crusade to rid the world of the curse by burning the infected to death. I wish you luck if you encounter him.

Luckily to counter the Fanatic and the other horrors pouring forth from the Courtyard, you gain a suitably deranged new hero class to wield: the flagellant. When not punishing himself, he’s a useful and interesting new hero class, and conveniently enough is extra useful against the Fanatic and the Courtyard.

The DLC also adds the ability to buy extra districts for the Hamlet. They aren’t visible like the other areas and shops, but they definitely provide an extra helping hand should you have enough raw material left over to afford them. One particularly useful one gives you two extra vials of blood per day for fighting the curse.

I’m sure there’s plenty more packed in here I haven’t mentioned. But you’ll find it. The upshot is, if the masochism of Darkest Dungeon appeals to you, and if you crave never being over powered, then I heartily recommend the Crimson Court. A warning though: this DLC adds extra complexity and difficulty, and it isn’t separated off; once loaded it exists as an overlay to the original game, so I would suggest adding it later like I did, after you’ve ‘mastered’ the main content. This doesn’t stop you buying it now though because you can choose to turn it on (not off, mind). But, enough blather…back to the pit!

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