Long read: Who is qualified to make a world?

In search of the magic of maps.

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Darkest Dungeon is getting an arena-based PvP mode in its new Butcher's Circus DLC

And it's out next month on PC.

Developer Red Hook Studios' brilliant but punishing Lovecraft-inspired strategy RPG, Darkest Dungeon, is getting a brand-new chunk of DLC next month. It's called The Butcher's Circus and, rather unexpectedly, adds PvP arena battles to the previously single-player game.

Up until now, Darkest Dungeon, which initially launched in 2016, has remained a staunchly solo pursuit, tasking players with delving ever-deeper into the antediluvian corners of an ancient hamlet and its surrounding environs - seeking treasure, avoiding traps, and battling cosmic horrors in time-honoured turn-based fashion.

Its unquestionable allure was found in the sheer thrill of besting its cliff-like difficulty curve, which delighted in sending party members to the brink of madness, imbuing them with (usually) negative quirks and making already tough challenges even harder - in turn forcing a stressfully satisfying balancing act between deeper exploration and hero preservation.

Behold the Butcher's Circus!

All of which is to say that a PvP mode is about the last thing I would have expected to see in Darkest Dungeon, but here we are, well outside of April Fool's Day. According to Red Hook, The Butcher's Circus - which is the game's fifth bit of DLC, following on from The Crimson Court, Shield Breaker, Color of Madness, and Musketeer - will introduce PvP arena battles "against your friends and enemies alike".

There'll be a brand-new location in the hamlet once the DLC is installed, taking the form of the titular Butcher's Circus, "a weathered and bloodstained pavilion tent" that serves as the venue for gladiatorial PvP combat. Here, players battle one other using teams of four heroes (don't worry, your hard-levelled campaign heroes remain separate) in a bid to climb the ranks.

Special new trinkets can be used to gain a strategic edge, and success in battle unlocks banner components, enabling players to assemble their own duelist heraldry.

There's no launch date aside from "May" just yet (and no word of a console release) but you can keep watch for further details via The Butcher's Circus' Steam page. Now all we need is a juicy update on the long-awaited, and previously announced, Darkest Dungeon 2 - a project that Red Hook co-founder Chris Bourassa today confirmed is still going "full steam ahead".

UPDATE: Since this article was originally published, Red Hook co-founder Chris Bourassa has confirmed that Darkest Dungeon's Butcher's Circus DLC will, in fact, be free when it launches next month on PC, so I've amended the story accordingly.