Massive Darkness is a kickstarter from Cmon which arrived in August 2017, and goes up against dungeon crawlers such as Castle Ravenloft, Descent 2nd Edition, Warhammer Quest, Silver Tower and Sword & Sorcery in what has become a highly competitive genre. This game comes with huge model content and was a huge success in terms of backing numbers, but all dungeon adventure games offer slight variations in play style, and so how did this game stack up.
Dungeon crawlers usually have either a random room generation, such as Warhammer Quest and Castle Ravenloft or a more pre-made scenario storylines of Descent 2nd Edition and Sword & Sorcery. Massive Darkness follows the pre-set scenario approach, with monster types randomly generated and carrying treasures with them which they drop when defeated. Minion models in this game form a kind of hit point alternative and so lots will be placed out in groups to mow down quickly. Monster intelligence is a fairly basic approach, targeting the hero with most experience, but the game does offer a unique shadow zone idea where heroes can cloak unseen and stay protected from sight, while also receiving a bonus skill, but it was not implemented as well as it could have been.
As ever with Cmon games, the miniatures are the main feature and this game has loads of them, and they are generally excellent, especially the roaming monsters, although a two weapon pose is very overused within the mobs. The tiles are nice enough but not really as good looking as many other dungeon games and the artwork is slightly quirky but nice with it. There are plastic player boards which hold your active cards and are used to track health and experience, but i am not overly fond of them, and any new skills are recorded on tick sheet pads rather having nice cards, which is a shame for a kickstarter game. Overall component wise this is good enough, but a slightly mixed bag, although it looks good on the table and models can be painted.
In terms of gameplay this is a relatively light dungeon crawler, and enemies do have different attributes and skills boosted by items carried. The game board is set out before your start and sadly there is no real story telling or interesting encounters during the game so it is all largely combat and treasure focused. It does scale pretty well for the hero numbers, with variable mob numbers and health points, which may help it get played with different sized groups, and it can work as a solo experience.
Why i chose not to keep it ….
Massive Darkness has a few gameplay issues and questionable balancing, as during the early game you can find unbeatable monsters and with the late game becoming a walkover. Treasure is abundant with chests everywhere and enemies carrying even more and your character will improve quickly, but nothing feels particularly hard to earn, and you can even transmute treasures you do not want into ones you do, which i really disliked. The campaign mode provided is tacked on and doesn’t really work, as you tend to start future scenarios overpowered, or prevented from using certain items you own. Once you obtain equipment and skills, the game combat becomes bogged down in an exercise in adding and subtracting numerous modifiers each round from many different places (dice, player card, treasure, skills sheet, plus innate powers and shadow effects). With everything considered, this game is decent enough for one off scenarios where you can level a hero in one sitting, however it is just not as good a game design as Descent, Silver Tower or Warhammer Quest.