Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access Getting Started Guide: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Played

In this Darkest Dungeon 2 BEST TIPS! Getting Started Guide: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Played, I’m going to dive into the most essential tips and tricks so you can survive more runs and progress faster. I’ll be discussing the importance of proper positioning, choosing certain locations, and Loathing and Stress Management, to name a few.

Darkest Dungeon 2 is a Roguelite, turn-based RPG developed and published by Red Hook Studios. The game focuses on four heroes as they make their way towards the dreaded mountain to put a stop to the apocalypse. Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access is already available on PC via the Epic Games Store.

Darkest Dungeon 2 Getting Started Guide: Things I Wish I Knew Before I Played

In Darkest Dungeon 2, you’ll be exploring multiple paths to get to your ultimate destination as well as fighting abominations and cultists who are all trying to prevent you from getting there. Unlike in the previous installment, you’ll be driving a stagecoach as you explore perilous roads. Oftentimes, creatures will stop you in your tracks, thereby initiating Road Battles, or simply wait until you reach locations or checkpoints to try to defeat you there.

Resistance Encounter Combat in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Darkest Dungeon 2 is filled with RNG so you have to be patient with every encounter. The more you play, the more items and Heroes you unlock as you level up your profile. This is the rogue-lite aspect of the game that supposedly makes it manageable and gives you a sense of progression between attempts to reach the ominous mountain. Let’s begin with the tips and tricks you can start with when traveling in the horrific world.

Positioning Matters

At the start of every run, you’ll have to optimally position your four chosen heroes to maximize their capabilities. Unlike in Darkest Dungeon 1, you can no longer stack copies of the same characters so you can’t have a party composed of all Plague Doctors, for example. Some Skills get locked out if you’re character is in the wrong position, so you have to check them one by one to be sure.

Positioning Matters in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Additionally, Movement Skills such as the Highwayman’s Duelist’s Advance, the Man-at-Arms’ Hold the Line, and the Hellion’s Toe to Toe should always be prepared. They’re highly essential since enemies have the ability to ambush you and shuffle your party’s position when your flame is below 40. Regular enemies can also push or pull your heroes to disrupt their positioning. You can prepare up to five skills at a time even if you’re on the road so you don’t need to wait to get to the Inn to do so.

Constantly Run Over Objects

When you’re driving the stagecoach, you’ll notice random items laying on the ground. These can be bundles of leaves or burning books depending on your path. Running over them will provide you with items that you can use in combat or at an Inn, which is valuable given how challenging the encounters are.

Running Over Objects on the Ground in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

You may use Combat Items such as the Healing Salve to moderately heal you while fighting, but you need to slot them first. When you do use them, remember to activate this Free Action first, so that you can attack afterwards.

Scout Watchtowers, Shrines of Reflection, and Assistance Encounters

Shrines of Reflection and Assistance Encounters are checkpoints in the map that you should go to, and these are not included in random encounters like Road Battles. Before you seek out these places, it’s best to look out for Watchtowers. Watchtowers provide you with considerable information about the paths and locations you’re planning to take. It reveals parts of the map to help you make informed decisions especially when your heroes are already suffering from high stress and constant hostility brought about by strong feelings of bitterness in the group. For instance, green lines denote safer routes whereas blue ones are dangerous and are therefore filled with more loot.

Safe Routes in the Map in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Once you’ve scouted succeeding areas, you can then begin to seek out essential checkpoints. Shrines of Reflection is where you unlock the backstories of your heroes. However, this is limited to one hero per visit, which means that you have a chance to unlock one of their eleven skills as well. But not all of these encounter types are conversation-driven.

You have to win to acquire the skill, otherwise, you need to wait for the next opportunity. For example, with the Plague Doctor, you have to successfully disprove her professor. Should you be able to do this, the skill you receive is unlocked for all future runs. It won’t necessarily make the game any easier but you’ll gain access to extra combat options. Additionally, these shrines may also provide a Mastery Point from time to time that’s useful to upgrade any skill.

Shrine of Reflection Disproving the Professor in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Next, you ought to strive to pass by Assistance Encounters to raise your flame’s value every chance you get. Similar to Darkest Dungeon 1, waning light results in increased challenging encounters as enemies receive distinct benefits such as better critical hit percentages and advantage in combat. On the other hand, if you maintain this at 41 and above, your party also receives buffs like increased Speed to improve your chances of going first as well as additional resistance to special damage types. When the flame is reduced to 0, you’ll be ambushed by cultists, making encounters much more terrifying and harder to survive from.

Assistance Encounters in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Prepare for Lairs

One of the riskiest points of interest in Darkest Dungeon 2 are the Lairs. These involve highly tough encounters but can yield greater rewards. Lairs consist of three increasingly difficult fights, the last of which contain a stronger set of enemies. After every fight, you can choose to flee with the rewards you’ve obtained or continue fighting for even more treasure. If you do decide to take on this challenge, be sure to have enough HP and good stress levels in order to survive later encounters. Having good trinkets, upgraded skills and positive Affinities will also help out greatly against these gauntlets of creatures. Don’t be afraid to bow out after the 1st or second wave if you are not confident you can beat the third, as it is usually much harder, though has the best rewards.

Lair Rewards in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Manage Loathing and Stress

On the upper left-hand corner of your screen, there’s a new Loathing Mechanic that you’ll have to take note of. It may be tempting to avoid most Resistance Encounters to survive every run but doing so will result in higher Loathing, making succeeding fights more difficult as enemies gain advantage in combat. Additionally, it decreases the chances of accumulating Mastery Points, which you desperately need since these are very scarce at the beginning. As long as your HP is above half and your relationships with other heroes are not mostly negative, then consider seeking out combat encounters enough to keep your Loathing manageable.

Loathing Mechanic in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Like in Darkest Dungeon 1, the Stress System continues to play a big part in the game but this time around, it’s scaled from 1 to 10 instead of from 1 to 100. When you’re traveling and engaging in fights, it’s essential to hoard all of the stress relief Inn and Combat Items you can find such as the Laudanum. These are far more precious than other items due to how limited your options are to alleviate the stress experienced by the party.

When a hero reaches a stress level of 10, they’ll experience a meltdown, which is extremely dangerous as it greatly reduces your current HP while destroying any good Affinity you have with others and increasing negative relationships even more. This is tough to manage since you won’t be able to help them outside of combat unless you’re in the inn.

Meltdown at Stress Level 10 in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

You should spend your first Mastery Point on either the Plague Doctor’s Ounce of Prevention Skill, or the Man-At-Arm’s Bolster Skill because these will allow you to clear 1 Stress from each party member every few turns. You will need to use these Skills nearly every time they are off cooldown to keep your Stress under control. These two upgrades alone can be the difference between failure and success early on, and I cannot stress that enough…pun intended.

Manage Inventory Items

The stagecoach has a limited number of inventory slots. Unfortunately, you can’t safely gather gold since there’s no way to sell unnecessary items to merchants and at the Inn just yet. Loot that’s highly valuable and should be prioritized if you have zero space left include Stitching Kits, Dart Boards, and Boxing Gloves. Specifically, Stitching Kits restore 25% of HP whereas Dart Boards and Boxing Gloves lessen the hero’s stress level by 1. You can then discard the rest if you’re lacking inventory space. When you reach the inn, remember to upgrade your stagecoach’s slots by equipping Storage Trunks to prevent this in the future.

Upgrading the Stagecoach in the Inn in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Meanwhile, Gold or Relics and Baubles are additional currencies that allow you to purchase restorative items and powerful trinkets, respectively. You can acquire them from winning in fights.

Spend Mastery Points Wisely

Allocating Mastery Points is the only way to enhance your skills. Unfortunately, these are immensely limited early on because they’re shared across all heroes. At the start, you’ll have to narrow down important skills since you can only upgrade one at a time for all heroes. What’s more is this progress won’t carry over in succeeding runs either.

Plague Doctor's Noxious Blast Skill in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

After upgrading Ounce of Prevention and/or Bolster, it’s a good idea to focus on the single most useful skill you are using for each character, before making a second pass and upgrading each character again. I’ll cover what some of these are in the next section.

Which Skills To Upgrade First

If you’re running a party comprised of the 4 starting Heroes, you’ll want to upgrade their Ounce of Prevention, Bolster, Poison Dart and Duelist’s Advance first. I’ve already covered why the first two, but Poison Dart can be used to remove backline enemies, and these can be the most deadly. Upgrading this Skill doubles it’s Poison Damage every round, and you can stack this with each throw, making it lethal.

Man-at-Arms' Bolster Skill in Darkest Dungeon 2

Duelist’s Advance is a melee attack that will move your Highwayman forward, but will also allow him to counter attack the next 3 attacks he receives. He will still take damage, but he will return fire. This makes him deal incredible damage, and you can combo this ability with Point Blank Shot later on to move him backwards while usually killing the front-most enemy, allowing him to use Duelist’s Advance every other turn, alternating between these Skills.

Prioritize Targeting Backline Enemies

Backline enemies usually debuff, cause Stress, deal AoE Damage, and change the positioning of Heroes so they’re high-priority targets. Frontline creatures, on the other hand, are sometimes tanky and aren’t usually as menacing as their backline counterparts. For example, the Immolatist activates Flaming Lasso to inflict AoE Damage against Heroes in the 3rd and 4th ranks whereas its Flayer Associates only deals single-target damage with their Advance Lunge Skill.

Targeting Backline Enemies First in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

Before attacking, you should also make it a habit to check enemies and their respective resistances by hovering over them. You wouldn’t want to inflict Blight on a creature that has a high Blight Resistance, which would then lead to wasting a precious turn in combat. It could even mean life or death.

Always Deal Damage Over Time

Finishing encounters as soon as you can is the only way to survive longer in this game. Having drawn-out fights would be to your disadvantage since you continually leave your heroes vulnerable to attacks that’ll stress them out and cause friction with others. To do this, always deal DOT conditions regardless of whether or not they’re already experiencing Death’s Door in order to reduce their HP. Examples of these conditions are Blight, Bleeding and Burning.

Dealing Damage Over Time in Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access

You have to be familiar with their corresponding tokens so as to counter them should one of your heroes get afflicted. Dodge is removed with the Highwayman’s Tracking Shot, Horror is cured by the Man-at-Arms’ improved Bolster, and Blight and Bleeding are removed using the Plague Doctor’s Battlefield Remedy Skill.

Mastering these tips and tricks will help you to better understand the game’s concepts while surviving runs and unlocking different heroes. Remember that Darkest Dungeon 2 has a lot of RNG so it’s about making the most out of bad situations. Oh, and always focus fire when you can. Deleting enemies is the key to survival, and overconfidence is a slow and insidious killer.

If you enjoyed this Darkest Dungeon 2 Early Access Getting Started Guide, be sure to check out our gameplay preview Darkest Dungeon 2 Gameplay & Features Preview (Early Access Release). What did you think of this Getting Started Guide? Will you be playing Darkest Dungeon 2 anytime soon? Let us know in the comments below!


Writer at Fextralife. I enjoy playing RPGs, narrative-driven games, and platformers. Outside of gaming, I like watching meaningful movies and reading sci-fi and dystopian books.

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