Take the most casual of glances at a couple of screenshots or some gameplay footage of Krafton’s Mistover and it’s not hard to see where it gets the vast majority of its inspiration. Following very closely in the footsteps of 2016’s sublime Darkest Dungeon, this is a dungeon-crawling RPG that has all the most important pieces in place but still comes off feeling lacklustre due to some bland, repetitive combat and a handful of gameplay mechanics that, when stacked together, make the whole thing feel overly punitive and unrewarding.

Mistover tells the story of the Kingdom of Arta, brought to its knees by a deadly, creature-filled mist spread from a mysterious vortex that locals have taken to calling the Pillar of Despair. After a period of wanton decay and destruction the mist suddenly retreats whereupon bands of adventurers, known as the Expedition Corps, take to plunging headlong into the void in search of answers, adventure and glory. After being found and rescued from the Pillar you are convinced to join the Corps in search of answers that can save Arta from certain doom, should the death fog happen to emerge once more.

Gameplay is split into top-down dungeon-crawling through procedurally generated arenas and turn-based battles with Espers, the enemies who’ll you’ll stumble across at random as you make your way around each area in search of loot and other artefacts with which to level-up and strengthen your goth band of warriors. You can choose from the likes of Ronin, werewolves, witches, paladins, wizards and all-manner of anime/gothic horror inspired characters to fill your party, each of whom comes with a little backstory, a handful of class-specific attacks and some randomly-generated abilities. This random aspect does help keep things fresh but it also ensures that when you lose a recruit you can rarely replace them like-for-like, which oftentimes results in you struggling to regain any sort of balance you may have struck within your party.

Moving around dungeons consumes both food and luminosity – that is the light which illuminates your way through each area – and both of these aspects need constant micro-management if you’re to be successful; you’ll need to ensure you pack plenty of rations and light seeds before each expedition you undertake. Dungeons do have light flowers which can be lit up at the expense of a little HP to help somewhat, and you’ll often find spoiled food in piles of rubbish you can rummage through for loot, but it’s still a constant headache that you’ll need to keep on top of; a risk/reward system that, taken by itself, works well enough, but there are a number of other elements layered on top that make the whole thing feel a bit too suffocating.

You see, alongside the need to constantly manage your food and luminosity, you’re also pitted against a doomsday clock, permadeath mechanics, the procedurally-generated nature of dungeons and combat that can feel unfair due to the RNG nature of proceedings. The doomsday clock counts down quickly or slowly depending on how well you’ve cleared your current dungeon, taking into account how many light flowers you’ve illuminated, chests you’ve looted and enemies you’ve dispatched. It can also be brought to a halt entirely (in normal mode) if you’re performing well enough, but it’s hard to manage this with any real consistency due to the random nature of the combat and the unpredictable abilities your team is working with – as well as the fact that enemies take far too long to die, with even the weakest foes often absorbing multiple attacks from your entire squad before capitulating.

As a result of all of this, Mistover tends to feel like a real grind every time you hit upon a battle against enemies. Sure, Darkest Dungeon was tough as hell and grindy a lot of the time, but that game’s various systems – all of which have been cribbed from extensively here – pulled together much more coherently than much of what’s going on in Mistover. Its combat also managed to feel fun and fair, no matter how hard it blasted you, and its dungeons oozed atmosphere. Everything here just feels bland and forced in comparison. Combat most often feels exasperating, attacks feel weak, there's no way to speed up or turn off battle animations and there's never any real sense of forward momentum or control.

Exploring the various dungeons outside of the combat is by far the strongest element of the game, then, but this too feels like its been over-thought; there’s just far too many things going on at once. Every dungeon is teeming with enemies – you can hide from them in bushes but it's only delaying the inevitable – there are traps and obstacles everywhere, the loot you find is generally underwhelming and that’s all before you remember that your food and luminosity is running low. It just all feels far too much like hard work.

That’s not to say everything about Mistover is negative. The combat system injects some originality with its position-based system of play; battles taking place on grids that you can move your combatants around – at the expense of a turn – to utilise various attacks, team up to throw down combos and push or pull enemies out of position to hinder their attempts to throttle you. It's a good idea and it's well-implemented here, but it just doesn't bring enough to the table to overcome the other problems we've already listed.

The art-style too, although heavily indebted to Red Hook Studios' game, is strong in its own right, and the various townsfolk you encounter and recruits that make up your squad look great. The town of Arta, the game’s hub area – heavily reminiscent of Darkest Dungeons' gothic hamlet – has a bunch of places to trade-in gear, evaluate items, level-up your skills and chat to locals to fill in some backstory and, if you do find yourself enjoying the solid but unspectacular dungeon-crawling and combat, there’s plenty to keep you busy here in terms of fitting your recruits out with new gear you’ve looted, evaluating items, and taking on new assignments for more rewards.

Everything you'd expect to be included in a game of this type certainly is, but in the end, it's just padding around core combat and dungeon-crawling that simply doesn't feel like very much fun. It's a solidly-made game that's over-encumbered itself with punitive gameplay mechanics that don't gel very well and suck the joy out of almost every aspect of proceedings.

Conclusion

Mistover follows too closely in the footsteps of a game that overshadows it in every possible way. Its combat is unspectacular and its dungeon-crawling suffers from a lack of atmosphere and a bunch of harsh gameplay systems that ensure you never really feel like you're relaxing into a rhythm, getting any sort of foothold or extracting any real or lasting joy from proceedings. If you're going to studiously pay homage to a game as expertly-crafted as Darkest Dungeon you'd best bring your A-game, and, unfortunately, in this instance, developer Krafton has failed to do that.