Screenshot from MyFullGames
The holidays are a time for joy, festivities, eggnog addictions and other fun things, but my thoughts are not on any of these. Instead, my mind has become fixated on plunging into dark dungeons filled with deadly monsters and other players who are more than happy to kill me for my loot. That’s right, I’m talking about Dark and Darker.
Dark and Darker is the first-person dungeon crawler from developer and publisher Ironmace Games. It combines PvP, PvE, Battle Royale, and extreme survival to create a fantasy version of Escape from Tarkov that feels like a classic Dungeons & Dragons game, another one of my favorite pastimes. What is really impressive is that the game is running through alpha playtesting, but it has already garnered 50,000 followers on Steam and the same number of featured players and views on Twitch.
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I see why it is so popular. The game is extremely challenging but an absolute blast. It offers six classes, all of which feel distinct enough that you want to try them all. I like to play as the Cleric and the Ranger, modeling them after my D&D characters. This makes Dark and Darker feel much more immersive to me, as I can imagine my characters going into dungeons and hoping to come out alive (quite often, they don’t).
Despite my repeated deaths and failures in Dark and Darker, I’ve become addicted to exploring its dark corridors, fighting the undead, and trying to escape the ever-invading swarm of death. My pounding heartbeat matches each step that takes me deeper into the dungeons. Monsters and traps are around every corner, making every encounter deadly and possibly fatal; then there are the other players.
For the most part, it’s been every player for himself. I tend to play by the “only attack if attacked first” code, so I often die, whether it’s having my head smashed by a brawler or being shot by a mage’s fireball. But to my pride, I managed to defeat two wizards who ambushed me while fighting a skeletal wizard. With skill and, in all honesty, luck, I was able to dodge their spells and fill them with arrows. But my joy was short-lived; Minutes later, my greed got the best of me and I was killed moments before going through an escape portal after returning to loot two treasure chests.
Then, on the other hand, I had an amazing interaction in my next game. I switched to rogue, and the game decided I needed a debuff, and therefore spawned me with no gear except my loincloth. Within moments, I ran into two rogues fighting some zombies and decided to dive in and help them with nothing more than my fists. After finishing off the undead, we shared a tense moment before the three of us repeatedly crouched, signifying our friendship and forming the three rogues’ fellowship.
I wasn’t much help to them, really, becoming little more than a glorified torchbearer. I found a hooded lantern that allowed me to light traps or items to loot. And so we ventured out, them fighting the good fight and me occasionally hitting things with my fists or a torch. Unfortunately, our journey came to an abrupt end when I bravely but foolishly decided to help out in the fight against a swarm of zombies. My loincloth provided little protection when I accidentally stepped in front of my new friend’s dagger. Even though I died, I will treasure this brief but fun experience and look forward to the next bonds of friendship I form in Dark and Darker.
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These interactions are why I love this game, and I’m not alone. With over 50,000 players playing the alpha test, it’s clear that the game has become a hit. It provides slow and methodical gameplay where each choice is a matter of life and death. Finding players means making a split-second decision to join, fold or trade. It ticks the boxes for hardcore gamers and provides what may be the penultimate D&D dungeon crawling experience, I mean, it even has knockoffs!
Dark and Darker is scheduled to release in Q4 2023, giving Ironmace Games plenty of time to polish and refine the core gameplay loop and expand on it. However, even in its alpha state, the Dark and Darker is a lot of fun, regardless of whether you make it out alive. This is why I am heartbroken that the alpha playtest ended on December 26th. While I was hoping to be able to play it during my break, I’ll just have to reflect on my happy times in the dungeon and wait for the playtest to return.
2023 is already full of amazing upcoming titles, but Dark and Darker, in just a short period of time, earned a place among my most wanted titles. I’m not alone if the number of players wishlisting Dark and Darker is any indication. Part of me hopes Ironmace Games has a surprise announcement to extend playtesting beyond the holidays, but I’m afraid all I’ll find on my wish list this year will be coal.
For more information on Dark and Darker, check out the Dark and Darker play trial end date (and how to sign up) and all classes in Dark and Darker, explained in MyFullGames.