Darkest Dungeon decided the color of madness was electric blue. It’s an interesting choice, probably not the one I would have made, but then again, this is the same group that brought you mosquito vampires, so I defer to Red Hook on all matters of eldritch horror. That said, for the first time, madness comes, not from the homestead itself, but from… THE STARS!
Was that ominous enough? It’s hard to do this sometimes without the requisite sound effects or screen shake. But yes, The Color of Madness comes in the form of an electric blue comet that crashes into the manor’s farmstead, much to the detriment of the Miller and his Farmhands. Set up as another dungeon on the map, it can be integrated into an ongoing campaign you may be running, or set as available from the beginning of a new adventure.
The Farmstead itself differs from every other type of dungeon that’s broken through the depths of the evil ancestral home. For starters, there’s little to no exploration required, which, after the maze-like corridors of the Courtyard, feels refreshingly different. Transported to an area in front of the comet destroyed silo and by opening a completely out of place circular stone door, your party of stressed out dungeon dwellers are thrown immediately into combat. Your torchlight is replaced by a blue glow of the comet’s crystalline pieces, and the top right hand portion of the screen is home to a new progress bar that is filled as you destroy the poor souls who have been transformed by the blue star rock.
And destroy them you must as combat is, relatively speaking, the only thing the comet brings. The first venture into the Farmstead is a steady controlled experience, offering you a taste of the danger that awaits. Your second trip pits you against the first of the Farmstead’s bosses, the Miller, before finally opening up to the comet’s true danger, and Endless Horde Mode.
Now, as much as I love Darkest Dungeon’s combat, engaging in it endlessly without the dungeon exploration bit is the fastest way to absolute madness. There’s a wonderful vileness to the game’s choice of enemy as it fills in the ranks of those you’ve brought low. During the endless mode, the comet is free to swap between types of enemies, though in my experience, you only run into one type at a time. After killing a certain number of monsters, denoted by a hash mark on the kill meter, you are transported “through time and space” to a room with a curio. Unlike the benevolence tinged by evil the majority of the curios bestow, nearly all of the Farmstead curios are positive effects, serving to heal one or even all members of your party, or gifting you with The Color of Madness’s new form of currency, the comet shard.
As bright blue as the comet itself, the shards open up some new avenues of spending within the Homestead. Both the Trinket Cart and Hero Wagon have alternate forms; the first becomes a jeweler who sells some real incredible trinkets, while the latter grants access to high level heroes, completely built out with skills and equipment, as well as a host of positive and negative quirks.
While the rewards, especially the trinkets are some of the best in the game, the Endless Combat of the Farmstead is just not what I come to Darkest Dungeon for. I believe the game works best when it builds tension through the exploration of the various dungeons, with each small ripple of nervousness and fear accentuated by the random and room battles. That’s not to say there’s no worth to The Color of Madness, as some are sure to come away from this with an ever-growing number of enemies killed in a single run. Unlike the other sections, which I constantly find myself drawn back to, I might end up using the Farmstead as some kind of end cap, a quick fix of fights to try out a particular group composition, or maybe even just to see what crazy horrors the Ancestor thinks I deserve.
Regardless, the Darkest Dungeon is still just that, dark, terrifying, and endlessly aggravating in the best possible way. While the Thing that came from the stars doesn’t quite reach the horrifying peaks of the Shambler, or the *shudder* body horror of those damned mosquito vampires, any reason to revisit the homestead and check in on the poor, unfortunate souls who answered the call is good one.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!