More blessing than curse, this DLC comes up with tough new ways to drive your team mad.
The Crimson Court isn’t an essential add-on for Darkest Dungeon, but it does give this grim RPG an infusion of new ideas in both battles and at the town level that freshen things up and make you rethink your approach to problems if things have become routine for you. And, of course, more of that awesomely dire narration.
The most pervasive new crisis you have to deal with is The Crimson Curse, a common and near-permanent affliction that turns your party members into junkies for vials of blood. Early on, becoming infected by the horrific giant mosquito-borne illness seemed debilitating due to rare supply of blood, which could only be obtained through random drops by fighting the new enemy faction; without it they eventually go into a withdrawal state and could potentially die. But in reality, at least playing on Radiant mode, the Curse’s bark was worse than its bite. It actually gives a “Bloodlust” stat buff for a time after consuming a vial, and even when you’re in withdrawal most of the stat penalties aren’t enough to slow a team down much (though it does make them prone to rejecting healing or buffs as though they were irrational). It quickly became a manageable addiction.
The new Flagellant class keeps on giving.
That’s thanks to the new Districts, which let you pour a mountain of resources into new buildings (which are sadly shown on a separate screen instead of appearing in your hamlet) that give bonuses like buffs to specific classes’ abilities or a steady supply of a given type of item. They’re expensive, but one of the cheaper ones creates a supply of blood every week. Once I’d built that, it instantly relieved all the pressure of feeding my team’s addiction except for the inventory slot needed to carry a bunch of blood around. I’ve only lost one person to Crimson Curse symptoms, and that was because I was intentionally starving him of blood to gain a stat bonus from an item.
A new class, however, keeps on giving. In keeping with the whole blood theme, the Flagellant is great at both bleeding and making others bleed. The trick to using him well is to keep him at low health and soaking up bleeding and blight effects from other party members with his Suffer ability, which increases his stats. He’s a great companion to the Occultist, who causes bleeding as he heals. Managing that balance is as complex a challenge as anything in Darkest Dungeon.
Crimson Court offers enough new content to come back, but isn’t an essential upgrade.
The new Courtyard area is just as unsettling as the original set, and infested with a whole new faction of disturbing, blood-sucking insect monsters (watching them become engorged after feeding is as gross as they come) and some tough new boss characters, such as the lurking Crocadillian. However, it’s not just more of the same in a new grotesque skin. For starters, there are huge maps that you pretty much have to retreat from and come back to, but are able to pick up where you left off, creating an epic-length quest. Plus, the entire concept of torches operates differently there, which makes sense – you’re there so long that you’d quickly run out of them by the normal rules, so here they just give you an accuracy buff and are useful for many of the insect nest curios. And, because entering the Courtyard requires an Invitation item that randomly drops in the other areas, you can’t just barge in the same way you do elsewhere – that means you have to keep your team in there as long as possible on each run. Given that, I’m a little disappointed that you’re not allowed to camp there and therefore can’t use any of those skills for a mid-run boost. But all of those unique rules make this area an interesting change of pace and challenge.
Lastly, there’s the Fanatic, who’s among the nastiest roaming bosses in the dungeon. His status as a random event that only attacks if you have an infected team member makes him rare and mostly an opt-in fight, though, so it rarely feels unfair. After an early encounter when I tempted fate and had my team wiped out as he snatched my teammates one by one, bound them in sacks, and roasted them over a fire (similar to the Hag’s cauldron), I learned the hard way that he’s best avoided.