Can Darkest Dungeon 2 make Early Access worth it for me?

Darkest Dungeon 2 is coming to Early Access on the Epic Games Store on October 26, and I can’t wait to play it. But, despite my enthusiasm, I’ve been back and forth about whether to review it next week. Why? I’m still not sure if Early Access is for me.

Generally speaking, early access programs allow players to purchase a game while it is still in development. So, by definition, the game is not complete when you buy it, but on the other hand, you have the opportunity to play an exciting title before it is technically released. Early Access can also be a great option for developers to simultaneously fund their game and gauge interest in it. As a general indies fan, I have my eye on more than one Early Access title.

While it’s a good way to test a game first and support your favorite developers, there are good reasons to be wary of Early Access. There is no guarantee that the unfinished experience you pay for will be fully published. It can be a very disappointing experience to back a project only to have it never materialize, not to mention the hassle you may have getting a refund depending on the platform you are dealing with. There are also plenty of times your saves won’t budge when the full game is released, staring at you at Baldur’s Gate 3, which means you’ll be starting from scratch on launch day, even after spending all those hours in the early game. Others may find the shock of waking up to their favorite game feeling radically different as a real handicap to the experience.

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To prove my point, here’s what a typical Early Access routine looks like to me: Get sucked into the game, do it all, exalt all future features and possibilities, stay away from it, either because something else caught my eye or I’ve seen everything there is to see so far, and will never play it again. It’s like once I play an early access title, my brain crosses it off the list. Done. Full. Nothing else to see here.

Despite this, whenever a game goes up to Early Access, I struggle with my immediate desire to buy it before I do some honest self-reflection. Baldur’s Gate 3 is a great example of a game where I nullified my initial impulse, and Larian Studios Creative Director Swen Vinke helped me make that decision. He advised “the person who wants a finished and polished game; they should wait ”on the August 2020 title development presentation, appropriately named Panel From Hell both for the game’s settings and the technical difficulties of the stream. It made me realize that I wanted to look forward to the brilliant end result in this case.

Sometimes I think a game has finally broken the cycle, like when Valheim hit Early Access earlier this year. I immersed myself around 112 hours in the game and had a blast building a huge audience hall, defeating sea snakes for soup ingredients, battling bosses, and generally spending time playing with my Viking team online. But then, I made my way to the plains biome (Deathsquitos are no joke) and moved on to other things. When the last, and long-awaited, update for Hearth & Home came out at Gamescom, I was excited to get back in, but I didn’t sink a tenth of the time exploring the new content as I had with the original game.

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So now we arrive Darkest Dungeon 2 entering Early Access on the Epic Games Store next week. I’m going to play it because even though Dan Tack represents it in Game informerThe most anticipated games of 2021, it is not a title that you can bear to stop playing. Skipping it now means waiting months, or even years, if development gets tough, and losing the opportunity to experience it together with the community. I also need to see for myself what the sequel is changing and how its new structure works. Relying even more on its roguelike characteristics, a single game of Darkest Dungeon 2 will take approximately five hours. The idea is that you rerun the adventure many, many times, and I hope this loop is the key to unlocking Early Access for me. Perhaps, instead of reviewing once the initial content has finished, I can trick my brain into feeling that the full release is just one more run of a game that I enjoy. But will it work? I guess I’ll have to find out next week.