Darkest Dungeon gets toggle for heart attacks and corpses


Darkest Dungeon studio Red Hook has operated one of the most successful Early Access campaigns to date. The notoriously pain-inducing RPG established a huge following right from the beginning, so every time the studio implements changes – the game's still in Early Access, after all – they come under harsh scrutiny.

Such was the case with two recent updates: May's Friends & Frenzy patch and July's Corpses and Hounds patch. These introduced heart attacks and corpses respectively, and not everyone is happy about them. Heart attacks happen when a character becomes too stressful, while corpses are... corpses, except they don't vanish into thin air as video game corpses are wont to do. Instead they stick around, allowing enemies to stay in formation until the obstructing corpses are destroyed.

The game is difficult enough, but these mechanics made it harder. A lot of people are pleased about that, but many, many more are not. Such was the outcry that Red Hook has decided to allow users to toggle both features on or off, though leaving both 'on' is the "official vision" for Darkest Dungeon.

"We believe that corpses and heart attacks are important mechanics for the game, not only for the reasons initially discussed in the Corpse & Hound design notes but reinforced by our observations since," the studio wrote in a Steam post. " However, today we are introducing a set of gameplay options (accessed via the normal Options menu) which allows you to turn them off."

"Just as we were willing to experiment by adding these features, we are willing to experiment with ways to allow you to shape the DD experience a bit to your liking," the announcement continued. "As many of you know, we have been reluctant to add difficulty related options until now because focusing on our intended version of the game has been our number one priority and our experiments and changes during Early Access have all been in support of iterating on that. But it would be foolish for us to not consider the fact that the Darkest Dungeon community is now big enough to include diverse groups, some of which would like to play the game differently than we might have envisioned. Although we’ve always been unapologetic about how important it is that Darkest Dungeon is punishing, unforgiving, and sometimes not even “fair”...at the end of the day we want those of you who own it to have fun and that can’t be forgotten."

So there you have it: Early Access democracy in action. Does it negatively affect the studio's vision, though? That's still a topic up for debate in the Steam forums, but what do you think?

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.