Darkest Dungeon is a brutal and unforgiving game, so we’ve compiled a few tips to help new adventurers survive the stressful dungeons that make up the game.

Anyone who has stepped foot within the Darkest Dungeon knows that the decrepit halls have a tendency to reduce even the most heartened party members to stressed shadows of their former selves. While the roguelike dungeon-crawler offers a phenomenal gameplay experience, it’s no secret that Darkest Dungeon is a title which was designed to be difficult. The opening game message warns players that there will be times when entire parties are wiped out, and that running away is often a viable strategy. We have to agree – discretion is the better part of valor, especially when the alternative is death.

However, that doesn’t mean that new players should be put through the ringer when they first start out. We’ve compiled a list of six big tips we think will help Darkest Dungeon players reduce their hero’s stress, maximize their income, and have an easier time in general as they quest their way to to the final boss.

Players, light up your torches and sit down for a spell – it’s time to invest in some knowledge.

Roster Management: Be A Heartless Boss

Darkest Dungeon Roster Management

Much like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, it’s easy to get attached to heroes that you name after friends or watch them survive multiple dungeons. However, keeping heroes fit as a fiddle is an expensive task, and it’s easy to forget that heroes are naught but cannon fodder serving the player: they are replaceable at no cost, and for low rank heroes, this can often be the best option.

If a new hero develops bad traits or too much stress after their first foray into a dungeon, it’s probably better to simply fire the mournful survivor rather than spend the money destressing them, especially in the early game. Positive trait heroes are a different story, but filling roster spots with damaged goods will only hurt the player in the long run – gamers should keep the metaphorical scissors handy at all times, because more often than not it’s time to cut the chord on a hapless hero’s employment.

Upon starting a new game, players should also immediately begin investing in the Stage Coach so that more heroes pour in week after week. This makes it easier to replace party members in the early game, and is a crucial investment when dealing with the stress management of the small starting roster. The starting Stage Coach only brings in two new heroes a week, and that’s simply not enough to safely get things going in a quality roster.

Short Quests: What To Bring

Darkest Dungeon Short Quests

A short quest means there will be no camping involved, and usually feature simple objectives like clearing out 90% of rooms, defeating each room battle, or slaughtering every nightmarish creature that happens to be roaming the halls. These quests pay less than the larger, more dangerous tasks, but can often be packed full of dangerous surprises. In the early game, they are especially dangerous as players will be struggling with currency while ranking up.

In any short quest, we’ve found that it’s optimal to bring 8 torches and 8 food, as any more tend to be wasted, and wasted expenses means less money for improvements that can help your heroes survive or heal at a later date. A shovel is oftentimes crucial to keeping stress down on the off-chance of an obstacle, and bandages are always a must. If the player is going somewhere like the Weald, we highly recommend bringing 2 or 3 antivenoms as well, since most of the enemies there have a tendency to inflict Blight, which can build up massive damage in the long run. Anything else is a luxury, and an expense that can ultimately be spared if cash is tight – remember, heroes are expendable. The bottom line of cash flow is not.

Remember, discretion is the better part of valor, too: if a mission is just to explore 90% of the rooms, players can succeed in that and immediately leave. Exploring the last 10% of the rooms is always optional, and may grant some extra loot – but if the party is the worse for wear, it’s best to end a short quest as soon as possible.

Trinkets: Mostly Useless

Darkest Dungeon Trinkets

Trinkets are an equipable item that heroes can wear a maximum of two of, but, for the most part, are not particularly useful. The definition of a trinket says it all: “a small ornament or item of jewelry that is of little value.”

The trinkets of Darkest Dungeon grant advantages, but almost always have significant downsides to balance things out. Finding out which trinkets are worth it after the pros and cons depends on party style and combat strategies, but the vast majority of trinkets can be sold for extra gold, which is especially crucial early-game. If a hero has a dodge of zero, stock them up with trinkets that grant advantages but hurt their dodge – but keep them away from trinkets that might hurt their speed or maximum health. For the most part, trinket management should be simple: sell most of what comes in, and keep the rare good item.

Take Out Stressful Enemies First

Darkest Dungeon Stress

Health can always be returned by the consumption of food, the spells of other heroes, or the successful completion of a quest. Aside from food – which is comparably cheap – these cost nothing and won’t hurt the bottom line. Curing stress, however, is an expensive endeavor.

Thus, it’s often best to defeat stress-inducing enemies before tackling some of the damage dealers. For example, the Cultist Acolytes in The Ruins often use ‘Stressful Incantation’, and are always in the back two rows of an enemy party. Blitzing through the front attackers gives them plenty of turns to stress out your heroes, which puts the entire party at massive risk should any of them develop negative afflictions. By using attacks that damage the back row first, players will find themselves saving a fortune by not having to reduce stress as frequently.

Of course, if a party is highly damaged, the situation may require you take out damage-inducing enemies first, but the general rule should be to minimize the stress.

Damage Prevention Is Key

Darkest Dungeon Damage Prevention

While stress is enemy number one, damage is the most obvious route for harm to take. The longer players find themselves in dungeons, the more at risk parties are to slowly losing more and more health until the majority of the party is clinging to life along the edge of Death’s Door. Many heroes have abilities that can damage multiple enemies, but we’ve found the best strategy is to focus on a single enemy at a time and get them out of the equation at a fast pace, rather than doling out the damage evenly.

Likewise, if one enemy has already spent their turn, players should focus fire on an enemy that hasn’t gone yet and attempt to eliminate them before they can even strike. Heroes like the Hellion also have great stunning abilities, and these can be used to drastically reduce the amount of hits your players will have to take. These go a long way in keeping everyone happy and healthy, but the ultimate process for doing this smoothly can only be attained through trial and error.

Torches: Use Them

Darkest Dungeon Torches

It’s a simple concept: torches bring light. In Darkest Dungeon, light is a party’s best friend for the majority of the game. Keeping the torch meter more than 3/4 will grant several advantages to the player, like the ability to surprise enemies – which mean the player’s entire party each gets to take a turn first, allowing them to eliminate enemies or heal up before they have a chance of taking damage. As players enter a room with more than 3/4 brightness, they also have an increased chance of scouting ahead, which helps plan movement and reduce trap damage. Walking around in the dark also makes heroes gain stress very frequently, and those who were paying attention know that stress is the most expensive burden the game will throw at players.

With the above tips, players should be able to drastically increase their rate of survival within the dangerous shadows of Darkest Dungeon. The game certainly isn’t a cakewalk, and players will find themselves learning much more through a trial by fire as they quest to the Darkest Dungeon itself. We hope these tips help new players minimize the amount of problems that build up in the long run, and wish you the best of luck – you’ll need it!

Darkest Dungeon is currently available for PC and Mac, and will come to PS4 later this year.