Since first releasing in early access two-and-a-half years ago, Darkest Dungeon has had a memorable journey. Development ran the gamut of reactions, from high praise to piercing criticism. Even after release Red Hook Studios regularly patches the game with alternations and additions. June marked the release of the game’s first paid DLC and expansion, The Crimson Court, pitting the morally-ambiguous caravan of characters against insect-vampires, zealous hunters, and blood curses. Now another DLC joins the fray in the form of the Shieldbreaker.
The Dancing Steps of War
The 17th character is a front liner with respectable dodge and damage values. My time testing her was fruitful. She is versatile in that most of her abilities move her either forward or backward. The Shieldbreaker is a blight character, certainly helpful when looking to wear down big skeletons’ or fish-folks’ HP, and can even disable enemy’s guards. Her own guard allows for negating two attacks. Furthermore, she is one of the few classes who has an attack that can hit otherwise untargetable mobs who bear the new stealth status at the beginning of combat. What she does lack is healing or stress healing potential, meaning the backlines will have to pick up the slack. Regardless, she is a safe pick for the most part, unless your composition needs burst damage instead of reliable damage over time.
The Battle Inside the Mind
Like the rest of the cast, the Shieldbreaker has her own history that plagues her. Some of it comes out through stress induced barks new journal entries. Other parts manifest more subtly, such as through her sprite’s missing hand and her snake-themed attacks. Her past haunts her in a more visceral way than does some of her compatriots. Even if you use an ability that prevents nighttime ambushes, camping plunges the party into a hazy desert nightmare against the newest monsters: evasive and coordinated snakes. During the battle, that gets increasingly difficult each time, the Shieldbreaker undergoes extreme stress that will almost certainly cause an affliction. A hard-fought victory nets exclusive trinkets and consumable “Aegis Shields” that give the character free guards in battle.
Red Hook struggles with balancing Darkest Dungeon. If you are still flustered by the divisive RNG or the grindy endgame, this DLC will not solve your concerns. If those recurring issues bother you not, then the new mechanics, monsters, and a fun new character may encourage you to start a new estate and provision an expedition back into the Darkest Dungeon.