Darkest Dungeon Art Ripoffs

What’s up with THAT? The art in Darkest Dungeon is fine. Good, even, if heavily derived from the work of Mike Mignola. But it’s weird that there are games which are just fully lifting the Darkest Dungeon style wayyyy more heavily than DD lifted MM. Here are two. The inspiration just jumps off the screen into your face and needs no description, but I’m adding a couple words to describe it anyway because I’m bored.

The Life And Suffering of Emily Brontë: character design, eyeless faces, two-color lithograph look
Urtuk: The Desolationing: chararacter design. Also, items actually look like they are a direct copy-and-paste of Darkest Dungeon’s “trinkets,” though I’m sure that can’t be the case, they definitely look that way.

Two questions: What other games are ripping off Darkest Dungeon’s art direction?

And… WHY do you think that is? As I said, the Darkest Dungeon art is fine. But it’s not… amazing, right? And it’s also incredibly, distinctively “Darkest Dungeon.”


This isn’t new - everything from sound design and mechanics to art and straight up gameplay has been used from popular titles since the beginning of video games. Sure, some games might ape Darkest Dungeon’s dark/cartoon tone, but it’s no different than games that are “Souls like” or any of then dozen battle arena shooters out there.

Maybe not to you, but plenty of people love that art. And art is very subjective, so it does make sense you might be bemused by the idea of this particular game being used for such heavy inspiration, but it’s a popular look just at the moment.

You’re right! I will edit my post to remove the part where I said it was new.

Oh, weird. I didn’t do that!

I’m just noticing a specific phenomenon and curious about other examples with this game. But, we agree, this isn’t new!

They’re not. And the art style in Darkest Dungeon is by no means unique or novel. In the specific case of Urtuk, it fits the game really well, and the game isn’t in any way a “Darkest Dungeon ripoff”, not even in the art style.

It’s like saying that modern pop music is a ripoff of rock music because it uses VI-IV-I-V. No, it just so happens that that chord structure fits well with lyrics and expectations. And the art style in Darkest Dungeon and Urtuk fits the kind of “vibe” they want to create. That’s all.

It’s not hard to see why a low-budget indy game would use paper-doll 2d animations over illustrated backgrounds, since it’s a low cost way to get something that looks pretty good.

It’s not hard to see why a bunch of Millennial indy game developers would be drawn to an art style that was quite popular in the late 1990s.

It’s not hard to see why a game dev would choose an art style that conveys their game has a tone similar to a game that was wildly successful and has sold over 2 million copies.

Now if you want a head-scratcher, ask yourself why so many indy games intentionally use text and UI elements that look like they’re from some TRS-80 game circa 1982. As someone who remembers those days, something I definitely never say to myself is, “You know what I miss about the old days? The fact that UIs were incredibly ugly and text was almost impossible to read.”

Don’t get me started about Nox Archaist! It looks even WORSE than a (well-designed) Apple II game from the era! Crap, now I’M STARTED!!!

don’t know what you are talking about. It is more than fine, it is great. It reminds me of comics I read in my youth about pirates, horror or other stuff. From a time when not every comic looked like it was made in photoshop, but with actual ink. But I could not point a finger, what it is ripping off. Hellboy looks at parts like it.

Also, add this to great music, great voice work and a pretty great dungeon crawler.

I think the point was to draw more out of this conversation because the phenomenon isn’t isolated, and therefore a specific thread seems out of place; not bad, just odd. Art and gameplay inspires other art and gameplay in a fairly endless continuum. Not art related, but somewhere the inventor of Tic Tac Toe is rolling over in their grave and grumpy about how they can’t stake claim to all the match 3 games dotting the proverbial landscape, lol. So why did this particular set of source and inspirations stand out to you?

Perhaps because I’ve played a lot of Darkest Dungeon, and the art of the two games I mentioned seems extremely derivative of Darkest Dungeon to me. Compare the items in Urtuk to the trinkets in Darkest Dungeon! Why Darkest Dungeon?!?!? (In spite of having played it a ton, I actually think it’s a bad game, since there’s no failure condition unless you play the tacked-on, poorly-thought-out Extremo-Hard difficulty. And if you DO play that difficulty, better be playing with spoilers! But I got addicted to it for a while.)

If this thread is the oddest thing you’ll see all day, congrats on your incredibly normal day!

I think Darkest Dungeon is one of the best looking games of the last ten years. It’s polished, it’s tonally evocative, AND it was within reach of what was basically a two-person team.

Even if you disagree, understand that it’s not just “art” that’s on display in Darkest Dungeon. It’s a whole suite of technical solutions to make something look really slick using tools and techniques a small team has access to. There are lots of ways to do puppet rigging, or lighting of illustrated sprites, or animated transitions that look lousy… Darkest Dungeon pointed the way for developers who don’t quite have the experience or the time that Red Hook had to discover those techniques on their own or to invent their own unique solutions. They want their game to look polished and evocative… they get a lot of what they need from reverse engineering what’s going on in a game like Darkest Dungeon.

I will definitely revise my statement that Darkest Dungeon’s art is merely fine. I agree that the whole effect is far better than the sum of its parts, and everything works together incredibly well, and the design, incorporating all visual aspects including but not limited to the art, is excellent.

(Compare that to Curious Expedition 2, where the art is totally good but the animation is… b-b-b-b-barf)

I just looked at your example games and… I don’t even think they’re that much like Darkest Dungeon! The two-color ink comics style has deeper roots than an indie RPG from 5 years ago. Maybe the popularity of DD helped the team decide to go with that style, but I think there could be a lot of other reasons they took it up, including just what the lead artist’s personal style is.

Interesting! Am I… the only person who thinks these games look like Darkest Dungeon???

I can definitely see the similarities but I’m very much with Nightgaunt here: I too think Darkest Dungeon is one of the best looking games out there. Its presentation is exquisite and so perfectly in tune with the setting, tone and style of the game.

Okay, sorry, NOW I’ve looked at the VIDEOS of both games, and I can see it in Urtuk for sure. All the screenshots were zoomed-out shots of the tactical battles! But, yeah, the movement of the characters and the ink style definitely is DD-inspired.

you forgot Deep Sky Derelicts, which is also clearly inspired by the same source.

Absolutely with Deep Sky Derelicts!!!

Just wait till you find out about pixel art.

I wouldn’t go as far as to call Deep Sky Derelicts a ripoff, but its inspiration in Darkest Dungeon is very prominent in many areas, not just the art. Though I wouldn’t call it a ripoff, if someone did, I would understand why.

The same is not true in the case of Urtuk. And I can’t comment on the other one since I don’t know the game.

Maybe I’m being too narrowly focused here, but I think Urtuk looks distinctly different than Darkest Dungeon. A core part of DD’s art style is posing. The actual rigged animations are pretty minor and clearly just a way to get from super-awesome pose to super-awesome pose. Urtuk put a lot of effort into their rigged animations and don’t seem that focused on posing at all. This makes DD feel like you’re playing in a comic book, whereas Urtuk feels like a video game. Though Urtuk does have a pretty similar core style, the animation looks pretty different.

I think this style’s popularity happened as much for technical reasons like @Nightgaunt said. A tool like Spine is a good example. It’s gotten way easier to take a carefully illustrated static 2D image, rig it and then animate it in the last 5 years. You can go straight from concept art to game and have it look pretty good. You don’t need to build a style that’s easy to draw dozens of times to create 2D animations. It’s like how Flash games all had a similar vibe back in the day.