Let’s get straight to the point; Darkest Dungeon is maddeningly difficult. If you’re struggling with the early game and need some tips, tricks, and valuable beginner’s advice, then look no further. We’ll explain how to gather and equip your first Darkest Dungeon hero party.
Life is cheap in Darkest Dungeon, and if you want to grow your merry band of mercenaries into a seasoned fighting force, that means cutting the chaff and focusing on strengths. Here you’ll find party formation instructions, which classes are best at certain roles, when to upgrade heroes, and how to provision for small, medium, or large dungeon quests. There’s plenty to cover, so let’s dive into Hamlet management first and foremost.
Check out The Escapist Darkest Dungeon review to see how this early-access adventure turned out following the official wide release on Steam.
Beginner’s Survival Guide
In Darkest Dungeon, heroes aren’t exactly the supremely powerful protagonists you’re used to from a typical RPG. Instead, these hirelings are a means to an end, a resource to help improve the hamlet and grab wealth.
In the Hamlet: The Basics of Team Management
As you play, negative attributes will accrue on your heroes until it’s simply not worth keeping them around. Heroes are expendable, so you’re going to want as many of them available at the Stage Couch as possible.
As heroes gain stress and negative quirks, go ahead and dump them to replace low level heroes with other randomly generated heroes at the Stage Couch. Let nature remove the weak heroes so the strong can rise to the top!
If you can manage to keep heroes alive past Level 1 into Level 2 or 3, then it can be worthwhile to remove quirks. Level 0-1? Dump and replace.
Quirks can be removed through hamlet services, but often that just isn’t cost effective. It can cost 1000s of gold to fix a particular character. Dismiss, and after upgrading the Stage Couch, it’s very likely new recruit from your favorite class will appear.
Stage Couch Tip:
- Upgrade the Stage Couch as early as you can. Put resources in ‘Barrack’ and ‘Stage Couch Network’ to increase the pool of available heroes between each dungeon excursion.
A strong team covers all your bases, and there are many awesome party formations that’ll help you crush almost any type of foe. But every great party follows a similar pattern.
Every team of heroes consists of four characters lined up from front to back. 1st position on the right, with 4rth on the left. Here are some tips for which classes you’ll want in each position.
Note: These are basic recommendations for beginners. There are many classes to try with their own powerful skills. The classes listed below are only generally recommended at these positions, sometimes it’s a better idea to move Man-At-Arms to the 2nd position, or the Plague Doctor to the 4rth position, etc.
1st Position – Which Classes to Use
- Man-At-Arms: A tank with limited attack power but amazing buffs. His skills also suit the 2nd row, allowing him to back-up a front line Hellion or Crusader.
- Hellion: Another tanky class that can hit hard and survive a few rounds.
- Crusader: An all-arounder with stress relieving capabilities.
2nd Position – Which Classes to Use
- Highway Man: The bread and butter of a good power. His Point Blank shot can devastate the enemy front line (1st & 2nd positions) and still hit the back rows with Grape Shot.
- Bounty Hunter: Soft but strong fighter. Can pull back row enemies closer with his grappling hook. Good for ruining enemy formations and can buff his attack power. Good for 3rd position, as well.
3rd Position – Which Classes to Use
- Vestal: A useful back-row support player with a combat healing skill that’s invaluable early on.
- Plague Doctor: A more specialized class that focuses on stunning or poisoning back row enemies.
4rth Position – Which Classes to Use
- Arbalest: Amazing support that can snipe the back rows. One of the few direct damage dealers that’s best in the back of your party formation early on.
- Hound Master: This versatile hero can fill most positions (except the 1st) with ease, but if you’re looking for more attack power, the Hound Master is a great inclusion for the back row.
Exploring Dungeons: Provisions & Survival Tips
Once you have a party of heroes ready, it’s time to start dungeon diving.
Tip: Beware curios! Anything you can interact with has a chance to cause stress or negative quirks. The lower the brightness level, the higher the chance you’ll find treasure instead of a negative quirk.
Depending on the size of the dungeon you enter, you can expect:
- Small Dungeon: 6-8 Rooms, No Camping
- Medium Dungeon: 10+ Rooms, Camping
- Large Dungeon: 15+ Rooms, Camping
Camping allows you to restore health or remove stress, but it can only be done once in a dungeon. Save that for late in your journey, especially to prepare for a boss fight.
Here’s what we recommend you pack in provisions before entering each dungeon length. Remember, any unused provisions left in your inventory after completing a quest will be resold to the store.
- Small Dungeon: 8 Food, 6 Torches, 1 Shovel / Optional: 1 Antivenom, 1 Bandages, 1 Holy Water, 1 Herbs
- Medium Dungeon: 16 Food, 10 Torches, 2 Shovels, 2 Antivenoms, 3 Bandages / Optional: 2 Holy Waters, 2 Herbs
- Large Dungeon: 24 Food, 16 Torches, 4 Shovels, 4 Antivenoms, 5 Bandages / Optional: 3 Holy Waters, 2 Herbs
Shovels will break down barriers without taking damage, and holy water can purify curios to avoid stress.
Your lightness level is very important. When the light bar drops below 60%, your party will gain stress continuously. Light torches to improve the level of light, increase chances of scouting, lower ambushes, and improve your chances of catching enemy encounters by surprise.
A surprised enemy encounter will lose formation and allow you the chance to attack first. If you are ambushed, the opposite occurs — your party loses formation, positions will randomly switch, and every enemy can attack before you react.
Don’t forget to camp! Heroes have unique camping skills they can use to heal, incur buffs or remove stress. Certain heroes like the Jester are hard to use but come with great camping skills. Always be aware what camping skills you’re bringing into a medium or large quest!
Now that you’re prepared with a party and provisions, it’s time to take on the terrors hidden in Darkest Dungeon. Have you got a particular strategy that’s destroying every evil abomination? Let us know all about it in the comments!
Kevin Thielenhaus is a freelance writer for The Escapist. Find him on Twitter here.