Red Hook Studios is making Darkest Dungeon 2, a follow-up to the wonderfully grim turn-based roguelike that was our favorite RPG of 2016.
The studio isn't announcing many details beyond the game's existence and the teaser above, but did speak to us exclusively, saying that although Darkest Dungeon's combat system will be returning in a recognizable but "tuned-up" form, the studio is focused on creating a "completely different" structure for its metagame. Darkest Dungeon 2 will initially release in Early Access.
The teaser video above features six familiar character classes—the Grave Robber, Leper, Man-at-Arms, Plague Doctor, Highwayman, and Hellion—standing before a mountain range, indicating that Darkest Dungeon 2's setting could take your party over dangerous, snowy passes. The video is voiced by Wayne June—Red Hook confirmed to me that the voice of Darkest Dungeon will make a return along with the rest of its original audio contributors: composer Stuart Chatwood and SFX-crafters Power Up.
PC Gamer: What's interesting to you about making a direct sequel to Darkest Dungeon?
Tyler Sigman and Chris Bourassa, Red Hook Studios: We love our dysfunctional cast of characters, our atmosphere, and our world. Horror is a fantastic space to explore interesting and unconventional ideas, and we have a lot more story we want to tell. Mechanically, we also think we have some valuable nuggets (e.g. combat) and there is more there that we’d like to explore and build on. Above all, we are committed to crafting Darkest Dungeon 2 to be its own experience; it will have its own creative and thematic identity.
What gameplay and other changes are you able to talk to us about at this time?
We’re playing this pretty close to the chest! Our combat system is making a return, but we’re giving it a significant tune-up—mechanically, and in terms of presentation. Most significantly, however, we are working with a completely different metagame structure. Darkest Dungeon 2 is a game about enduring a gruelling journey, not cleaning up your backyard.
What's one of the major learnings you're bringing into the development of Darkest Dungeon 2?
We created a lot of Darkest Dungeon with only five people on the team. It took its toll on us physically and mentally, just like an epic Warrens clearing run. We can afford to be a bit more sensible this time around, and have been growing staff to match scope more reliably and realistically. However, the small team agility and creativity is still key, and we look to keep that. Ultimately, a game is only as good as the team you have making it. We put a lot of value on finding the right people and giving them an environment to be motivated creatively. We think it’s easier to do that while remaining somewhat small.
Darkest Dungeon's corrupted setting is an inseparable part of its appeal. Will the sequel be focused on the Estate and its surroundings, or a new location?
In Darkest Dungeon 2, we’re giving players a glimpse of the supernatural apocalypse twisting and distorting the world beyond the estate... and that’s all we’re going to say about that for now.
How many people is Red Hook Studios right now, and is that size something you'd like to maintain throughout this project, or change as you continue development? How would you describe the culture of the studio?
We have grown to 14 at this point, and anticipate adding another half-dozen more in the coming 18 months. Cultural fit is extremely important to us, and we aren’t in a rush to grow. We enjoy each other’s company, share drinks and play games together, but above all, we value hard work and passion. Open, ego-less discussion and brainstorming are an important part of our process—our goal as a team is to find the best possible choice, and we enjoy challenging each other and playing devil’s advocate in pursuit of that end.
What development structure do you expect to take? Will Early Access be a good fit for this project?
It’s no secret that we are big fans of the Early Access model, but we also are advocates for only doing Early Access if it makes sense for the specific game. Although there are some massive differences in structure between DD1 and DD2, the sequel is still very appropriate for an Early Access type approach.
The ability to get something into fans’ hands faster, kick the tires of the systems, and give those fans the opportunity to help shape the finishing of the game are both really important to us. Early Access is also really great for being able to alter your production plan depending on reception—a big reception can be a clear signal to invest even more in the project and pull in some of the wishlist items (there are always wishlist items) and turn them into reality.
You can sign up to Red Hook Studios' mailing list to get notified first for updates about Darkest Dungeon 2. The original Darkest Dungeon is also available at its lowest-ever price on Steam right now: $6.24 / £4.74, or 75% off.