Dark Quest 2 is a fun turn-based RPG set in a dark fantasy world. It doesn’t have the most original storyline, characters or setting, but fans of dungeon crawlers will love its tactical gameplay and increasing difficulty levels.
Dark Quest 2: Castle of Doom, is the follow up to 2015’s Dark Quest (obviously). It’s an isometric point and click dungeon crawler from Brain Seal Entertainment where you start as the base character, a barbarian, and the premise is that a Dark Wizard has invaded the local castle with his legions. It’s your job to clear out these and other nameless horrors from other dimensions alongside your fellow heroes.
The player characters, who are unlockable as you progress through the adventure, are The Knight, The Mage, The Archer and THE DARK MONK (muaaaahaahahaha). Each character has their own set of stats, the most intriguing of which is the sanity percentage which comes into play later on in the game; you must roll to check your sanity, and if you fail then you attack your own party members. This is a game that is full of neat little ideas like this.
The villains of the piece come in various shapes and sizes, from your basic goblin to the goblin witches that hurl balls of chaos magic, to the orc drummer whose battle dirge allows the bad guys in the room buffs such as an additional turn or a boost to movement.
You start the game with a basic tutorial that sets up the storyline, introducing you to the basic game mechanics of turn based action, such as how to traverse the dungeon and throw your axe. Strangely enough it didn’t show me how to use a potion to heal myself, that took trial and error and lots of death. Lots of it. A top tip for moving through the dungeons is to go to the settings and change the walking speed to something with a bit more oomph, as when you get a few characters unlocked, individually getting them to move about the place can take some of the fizz out of the game.
The main body of the action takes place in the aforementioned dungeon, with an isometric view of numerous rooms and their inhabitants. There is a useful mini-map to keep track of where you’ve been, although I found myself retracing my steps on numerous occasions, navigating by the corpses I left behind rather than the mini-map. And that’s what this comes down to; traversing maps and smashing up bad guys one hit at a time. That’s if you’re lucky enough to land a hit because even the most basic goblin seems to have Neo From The Matrix abilities, able to parry and dodge your incoming blows. Either that, or you just plain miss. Each dungeon can be played multiple times but has more traps and beasties as well as an increased difficulty.
There is a system included in Dark Quest 2 for advancing the skills of your characters by way of magic pots that you find from killing monsters. You can also find them scattered throughout the dungeon. These skills allow for things such as a bonus attack from the barbarian or a group heal from The Knight, and they do come in handy even if most of the skills are single use per mission. Should you lose a hero during the quest, the loss of that skill will be felt. I got my archer killed during a moment of stupidity and for the rest of the mission felt that I had lost a little bit of the advantage having to fight up close and personal all the time.
If you should all die you are returned to the village which is the hub screen for your adventurers – there you visit the gravedigger who, for a small fee, will resurrect your heroes. There’s more to see and do in the hub world than anywhere else in the game – you can buy and equip potions, visit the blacksmith to craft gear, sell gems that you have found to the merchant, visit the local brothel to buy powerful buffs for a single mission, and even stop by the tavern to rest and regain valuable hit points, all before heading back to the dungeon.
One of my problems with Dark Quest 2 however comes with the loot system. You basically have to visit the blacksmith to craft (purchase) magical items, weapons and armour, which can only be made once and can only be assigned to one or two of the characters. Why only once? If the item was available to use until you die, allowing you to remake it providing you have the gold, it would make make much more sense to me. Maybe I’m not getting the idea and it’s about strategic management of resources?
The actual adventuring though takes place in an isometric dungeon, and whilst combat starts out being fairly sedate, don’t let that fool you, as sooner rather than later you’ll find yourself needing to be much more tactical in your approach. The learning curve is deceptively steep and there’s no guarantee that completion of one run through will mean success on a second attempt. During combat you can view each enemy’s stats by highlighting the square they’re standing on, but to be honest at times these stats seem pretty arbitrary; as I mentioned before, the most basic goblin can mess up your day.
The co-op play is local and isn’t all that different to that of the single player, It’s not a difficult game by any stretch of the imagination and there is some fun to be had with a player 2 but after a while the question of “does it do anything else?” arises. The answer is not really; the dungeon doesn’t really change apart from room A might have a dead person that room B doesn’t have. It’s all a bit beige too, which is the real shame as I really wanted to love this game just a little bit more. Dark Quest 2 is not so much Warhammer as Choose Your Own Adventure.
At the end of the day though, did I enjoy this game? I’m not a the biggest fan of turn based games but this one does have its charms, taking me back to my Dungeons and Dragons youth and the nostalgia value of hand drawn 2D sprites taking me down memory lane to classics such as Golden Axe. Don’t expect anything modern or fancy, but after all the 2D graphics are what gives the game its charm.
Perhaps therefore it has made me want to rush out and play the first game? Well, again, the answer is no. Dark Quest 2 on Xbox One is fun but doesn’t have enough about it to keep my attention for the very long term. I will however go back on a dark and rainy day when I fancy another trip down memory lane.
All in all Dark Quest 2 is quite a niche game and one I’d say to fans of retro turn based RPGs to give a go. But you really need to be a fan of the genre to make this a worthwhile purchase.