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    ←Previous Post -- Next Post→ Week Sixty-Three -- The Belly of the Beast The interminable stone halls are but an antechamber. The creature is vast beyond measure and must be battled from within. Step over the threshold, and let the terrible truth worm its way into your mind. The best way to describe this mission is to just show you the provisions screen and let you take it all in from there. I know we haven’t done a lot of Long-length dungeons, so if you don’t remember, those gave you two campfire logs to play with. This scenario, the one “Exhausting”-length dungeon in the entire game, gives you four. Does it deserve such a commendation? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, it is designed to be such a marathon. The map is huge, with fights seen nowhere else in the game, and each one will inflict a massive amount of blight damage that we just have to grind through. That’s why we’re packing so many antivenoms and that’s why we’re bringing Paracelsus along even though she’s still only at resolve level four. Having Battlefield Medicine as an option is worth the extra stress damage she’s going to take. The entire party, actually, is designed around one core quality: We want to be able to hit the back row as hard as possible. Boudica the Hellion naturally follows from this, given her Iron Swan ability, and each of the other three, Damian, Hakima, and the aforementioned Paracelsus each have a similarly hard-hitting move. This is the most beast-heavy of the Darkest Dungeon runs, so Elmer also gets a bonus while attacking them, and Damian can act as a backup healer in a pinch. Now, the four campfire logs do provide another interesting mechanical quirk of the run: they take up space. Like the Hands of Glory from the quest before, this run crimps the space available in your pack. I would have loved to bring some holy water, for example, but settled on the extra food to make sure everyone was healed up between fights. I also experienced a slight consequence of not being able to fight my way all the way to the Viscount on our two attempts -- I had to devote a slot to blood to compensate for Damian’s curse. There is one advantage on our side, though: knowledge. The game wants this run to be a marathon, but if you know what you’re doing, you can turn it into a sprint. Let’s look at the map for a second: Our goal is that curio location in the middle of the map. On the surface, it’s not that hard to navigate the labrinthine map and reach the locus beacon in only five fights. The game isn’t going to make it that easy, but we’ll get to that when we get to that. The first fight is just some hounds, anyway. These showed up in the last dungeon as part of one of the Templar fights. They’re threatening, with a few different annoying attacks, but they were in that fight as fodder, basically, to diversify the different Templar encounters. The same is true here. They can barely pull Paracelsus out of position before they get cut, whipped, and bit down. It certainly helps that, with the excess of campfire logs, we’ve already got our buffs set up. And here is the thing I’ve been alluding to for several posts now. The Mammoth Cyst and White Cell Stalk fights. The Mammoth Cyst is Darkest Dungeon’s version of a Beholder, with a bevy of different attacks, all of them devastating, and two actions per round to spend using them. If it blights you, it’s doing it for eight (8!) a turn. When it’s dealing normal damage, it’s attacking for seventeen, and it’s hitting two heroes as it’s doing so. It’s got 25 PROT, so it ignores a quarter of all damage dealt to it, and it can heal itself. When I say this dungeon is a grind, it’s really this fight that is a grind, and there are several on the map. And saying all this still discounts the real problem of the fight, which is the White Cell Stalk. The White Cell Stalk, in comparison to its Mammoth counterpart, is pretty easy to kill. It only has 25 health, one action a turn, and no PROT. It has a unique move, however, called Teleport, which does exactly what it says it does -- it teleports the party out of the fight, to a random point in the dungeon. Sometimes, it will even teleport you to another fight! This is where the grind sets in, you see? Every round, the likelihood of the White Cell Stalk teleporting you away, negating all progress and probably setting your heroes up for another series of fights and hunger checks, only goes up. It’s easy to kill the White Cell Stalk, but the Mammoth Cyst will just summon another one as soon as it gets another action. The one saving grace of the fight is the White Cell will never cast Teleport on its first turn, so you always have time to deal with it. Still, the fight is daunting. There are a few solutions. The first one is to pray. After all, if you’re teleported to a random point in the dungeon, it’s entirely possible you get teleported to a room closer to your destination. I mean, you don’t have great odds and have to deal with the rest of the dungeon in the meantime, but I’ve seen it done. Better, though, is the same solution we’ve been using for any fight with an enemy with multiple attacks per round -- you just have to DoT them out. This is another benefit of our party composition. Each hero can inflict damage over time. What’s the giant ball the size of a cabin going to do, dodge out of the way? There are three fights left on the optimal route through this dungeon. The first is another filler one. Remember, these fights are meant to wear you down as you make your way back to the Mammoth fights that block the way. Still, we haven’t seen an Antibody yet, nor has a Polyp appeared onscreen, so let’s just show it off real quick. Polyps are annoying for the same reasons Hounds are, while the Antibody at the front plays a support role similar to the White Cell Stalk. This one can’t cast Teleport, though, so it’s a bit safer to take out the other enemies first. The real fights are just ahead, though. Oh, you thought we were done with Templars? We didn’t even bring any of those protective relics, but you thought we were done? I mean, this is a watered-down version of those boss fights. It only has one action per round and it can’t cast that backbreaking Revelation attack, but it can still do all the other attacks we were worried about Templars doing. The most stressful part about this fight to me personally was how Boudica could never seem to land a hit on the thing. She’s wearing an accuracy-boosting Focus Ring. I just thought one accuracy trinket was enough. Still, we fought through enough of these in the last dungeon, a watered-down version isn’t going to scare us too hard. Let’s just move on to the final fight, the thing guarding the Locus Beacon: Ah. No matter what you do, you are going to have to fight at least two Mammoth Cysts and run the risk of being sent away and having to grind back. One thing I didn’t mention before was how the game will give you the decency to remember your progress. You don’t have to fight through all 158 of the Cysts HP every time you come crawling back. Still, you’d like to get it all done in one go. The sprint strategy worked, though. We were in a good enough position after keeping our fights to a minimum to manage these two grinds effectively. Boudica got put on Death’s Door at one point, but it wasn’t ever worrisome. She never got a Deathblow check before Paracelsus healed her back up above zero. That leaves just one more dungeon left to complete the game, and the fourth Darkest Dungeon fight is more one long boss fight than an actual slog like the ones that have come before. That being said, there is a small yet urgent matter that I’d like to take care of first… See you next week for that. -r ←Previous Post -- Next Post→
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