Darkest Dungeon 2: Ranking The Cultists!
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
We looked at the original Darkest Dungeon in 2017
and later the Crimson Court
DLC, but earlier this year in 2023, its long-awaited sequel released! As with the first game, many of its monsters are sorted into themes and factions, and while not all of them are weird enough for us to look over, more than one of them are worthy of an article all their own, so let's begin with the cultist
The Cultists are inhuman entities from the "void between realities," said to worship a mysterious iron crown that supposedly appears somewhere in the iconography of every single human religion throughout history. As the world fell to a great cataclysm, the Cultists emerged from their great cathedral and spread a corruption called The Stain.
The Deacon is one of the larger and more powerful cultists, but it's first on our list because it has the most "ordinary" design; an imposing black-robed humanoid with a silvery metallic helmet and a huge executioner's axe. The face of the helmet is kind of a stylized skull, with three simple vertical slots for the "teeth," and it has a sort of spiky metal halo encircling the top with a pair of tentacle-like metal horns down the sides of the face. It's overall very cool looking, mind you, and what we can see of the actual wearer consists of gunky reddish-purple hands with a ring of webbed tentacles in place of legs, like a giant Vampire Squid! You know these guys are great when I have to rank this as our "least interesting."
The Cardinal is similar to the Deacon, but its helmet is a lot stranger; the "skull" is upside-down with multiple tentacle-horns emerging from its sides. Instead of wielding a weapon, its exposed left arm is much bigger and beefier, with a cool fleshy comb or frill along the edge of the forearm. The tentacled feet are otherwise the same.
Probably the most badass looking of the non-boss cultists, the Evangelist isn't nearly as bulky and ponderous as the previous two, having sleeker, thinner humanoid upper torso and even floating in the air. The head is a simpler metal skull helmet, with three long spines holding up its crescent halo and a leathery collar stylishly hiding the mouth area, the rim of the collar resembling a pair of thin metallic tentacles curling around the face! Just a gorgeous outfit! It's dual-wielding a pair of long, straight machete-like swords, and from the waist down, it consists of billowing layers of those webbed tentacles, kind of like a spooky gothic dress.
Just a little guy! The Cherub is a lumpy, blobby humanoid with little stunted baby legs and a fat babylike body, but a relatively large corpselike head and an asymmetrical selection of arms; two small human arms and one tentacle on the right, a full size adult guy kind of arm in a web of tentacles on the left. The spiky metal halo is also embedded directly in its flesh, it's wrapped in tattered black cloth and it carries a scroll as well as a spiky amulet. The Cherub is an evasive enemy with status attacks, but very low HP. Like I said, just a little guy! Don't bully a little guy!
Clearly the cutest and most endearing of the cultists, the Altar is a humble support unit consisting JUST of four or five short, fleshy tentacles, like a meaty starfish, with assorted shiny black eyes scattered over its surface, a few segmented purple tubes sprouting out of it, and a cluster of half-melted candles atop its "head," on a jagged black and silver cloth. Just as its name implies, it's used by the cult as a living, mobile altar, and it's just adorable for it. Just another little guy with a little job to do! That's all!! Without the rest of the cultists, would an altar still be dangerous, or could you keep it in your house and put whatever you want on top, like a mobile end table? Or a butler. Like a little squishy butler.
Really love this one! It's another on the smaller side, though not as much as the Cherubs, and hangs back behind other Cultists assisting them with the effects of its "singing." It walks on the familiar umbrella of tentacles we've already seen, but its upper body is mostly a bulbous red tumor covered in pipelike fleshy tubes, and its bony arms are actually fused by their fingers and palms to a smaller cyst it squeezes in order to sort of "play" itself like giant bagpipes. Creatively unpleasant, but also fairly whimsical! The design is completed by another simplified skull-shaped mask, and another worn upside-down. Does it even have a face underneath that at all? I don't get the impression it would! It really says something about the uniqueness of this creature that I'd rank it higher than an echinoderm with a candle hat.
It's usually one of those weaker, more minor cutie patoots that appeal to me the most in any given batch of creatures, but in this case, the biggest and nastiest cultist really is the coolest looking of the bunch. Its big, broad body is almost sort of crab-shaped, but with yet another upside-down metal skull mask on the front. This is, in my opinion, the best looking mask in the cult, its perfectly circular eyeholes a little more haunting than the angry scowls of its brethren. Two swordlike metal spines extend diagonally from its cheekbones, while its "upper jaw" is stretched into a long, flat metal rectangle which, along with the spines, intersects another of those crescents. I am doing a bad job of this description. I'm sorry, screen reader visitors, that I probably haven't communicated how cool and odd this thing's mask looks, but its upside-down stare looks pretty killer in the middle of the giant crablike flesh-beast.
Two little humanoid arms sprout to either side of the "mask," each with three tooth-like growths jutting from the sides of the spindly forearms. The monster rests on a much, much larger humanoid arm sprouting from its left side, and it's one of those lovely ghoulish limbs where you can see clear through the radius and ulna. Always a fan of those! The opposite of the "crab" just has a cluster of large, stubby and very fat octopus tentacles, really nice and squirmy.
The stand-out gimmick to this whole design, however, is the "second body" on "top," unless the whole monster is supposed to be upside-down, and that's basically the stomach? Whatever it is, it's torn wide open with rows of exposed ribs to either side and a thick spinal column in the center, which connects like some sort of life support hose to the chest of a headless, human torso, arms hauntingly outstretched in worship of its unseen deity.
I should also mention that if you haven't seen footage
of this game, it's possible some of you thought you were looking at 2-d
artwork here, like the previous game, but nope! These have been 3-d
models! Seriously! If you're reading this more than a couple of years
since I put it up you're probably thinking "yeah? So?" But trust me,
it's pretty impressive back here in 2023 that the 3-d objects in a game
can look this much like stylized drawings, and a few years further back
it was unthinkable!
The Cultists tie in to this game's absolutely SICK AS HELL boss monsters, but those are going to warrant a review all their own.
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