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Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape


Alex Olteanu, Marco Portugal

Cool Mini or Not

No. of Players:

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G@mebox author Dorian Feuerbaum writes about the game:

After Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape was announced, my reaction was rather muted. This was mainly due to the disappointing first game for me and a slowly creeping fatigue towards dungeon crawlers. Over the course of an entire campaign, the mechanics felt kind of worn out to me.

That's when authors Alex Olteanu and Marco Portugal thought to themselves, "Why don't we include almost all mechanics into the new game?". As a unique selling point, that sounded very interesting to me for a dungeon crawler. But before we delve deeper, let's explore the specifics.

Massive Darkness 2: Hellscape by CMON is a medium heavy dungeon crawler for 1 to 6 players and lasts 60 minutes per game - although we are rather talking about 90 minutes for 3 players or more. The game was illustrated by Édouard Guiton. Around the classic dungeon crawler framework we find small elements from push-your-luck, rondell or even resource management. Each character utilizes one of the mechanisms and gives the characters an individual feel. With custom skills and equipment, each game feels different and offers quite a bit of variance in the 10 available scenarios. The publisher has even made free scenarios available for download.

[Massive Darkness 2]

Click on image to enlarge!

Besides the individual material for each hero class, in the box we can find 18 dice, over 250 cards for items and monsters, 62 enemy miniatures, 8 double-sided tiles, a pouch and quite a few markers. The quality of the components is excellent, which also applies to the detailed miniatures.

So, the basic requirements are alright, how does the game play? Each round proceeds according to the following structure:

1. hero phase

2. enemy phase

3. level up phase

4. darkness phase

In the hero phase we have three action points to move and interact with the environment, attack enemies, trade equipment with teammates and equip it, heal health and/or mana, and trigger special actions on cards. On shadow and sometimes light fields (clearly visible on the tiles) we have more options, matching the theme of the game and the story.

After all heroes are activated, the enemies attack and/or move. We spend earned experience points afterwards and thus get new abilities as well as life and mana points. However, the monsters in the dungeon also become stronger as soon as we reach level 3 or 5.

The shadow phase introduces new monsters and treasures. It does not directly serve as a timer, but some missions have a corresponding trigger.

This sounds simple enough and it really is. Of course, there are some subtleties, but it creates a nice flow without having to look up too much in the rulebook.

[Massive Darkness 2]

Click on image to enlarge!

But other dungeon crawlers can do that too. The aforementioned game mechanics are the highlight. Each class plays totally different. For example, the mage uses an action wheel, which means he can only use his abilities or spells in one order at a time. Mana allows him to turn the wheel further than normal. The rogue, on the other hand, draws action tokens from a small bag, which give more movement points, attack dice etc. and also open up the possibility of performing more than three actions in one round. The Ranger must draw cards from a deck, but should not collect too many arrow symbols, otherwise his attack will bring many negative effects. If he draws exactly 7 arrow symbols, he gets all the special buffs on the cards instead of the normal ones.

Just to try out all the heroes, we wanted to play the next scenario immediately, which offer more than "defeat all the monsters".

Speaking of monsters, in Massive Darkness 2 we fight hordes of monsters, whose number per horde is determined by the number of players, plus one for the leader. Only after defeating the minons of the horde can we fight the leader. This also feels somehow different from other dungeon crawlers. If the normal hordes aren't enough, you can also take on large roaming monsters, which bring their own rules and shouldn't be taken lightly. But even this is not the last challenge, because there are still bosses that want to be fought, but attack directly after a hero's actions and follow additional rules.

The fighting itself is done with various dice. Depending on which hero class is played the luck factor is sometimes bigger or smaller. Since we like to play with dice and cards in combat systems, this aspect did not affect us negatively.

A short detour to the artwork. Visually, the game is appealing, but it doesn't meet our personal taste. The artstyle, especially of the heroes, seems a bit "flat" to us. However, this is definitely not a real point of criticism.

[Massive Darkness 2]

Click on image to enlarge!

If after completing all scenarios and trying out all heroes the thirst for Massive Darkness is not quenched, there is now an assortment of expansions available. Since all scenarios are stand-alone and the heroes start at level 1 again, the campaign "Heavenfall" could be a good addition. Now you can carry over your progress into the next adventure and even level up to level 10; including new level cards for the monsters. If you want more heroes or monsters instead, there is enough material for the next shopping tour as well.

So, it should come as no surprise that Massive Darkness 2 was able to excite us.

You will be just as enthusiastic if these points apply to you:

  • High gameplay variety and great flow
  • Extensive material incl. great miniatures
  • Rather simple rules for the genre

Of course, you should like dungeon crawlers in general, but Massive Darkness 2 would certainly not be a bad entry into the genre. However, the game is not without its criticisms:

  • Starting with 4 players, the game does drag on (best with two players).
  • Rather high assembly and disassembly time for a relatively short playing time per scenario
  • High price, although for a lot of content in the box

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