First Looks: Dark Devotion

Dark Devotion goes live on Kickstarter on September 8th, and it’s being made by 3 guys who just recently met face-to-face at a game convention somewhere in France. They’ve been working on it for two years, and I recently got my hands on the demo before it goes live for kickstarter, and this is my experience.

My adventure started with an introduction movie, similar to Dark Souls 2, which, I assumed was a huge influence for this game, but learned in fact the game was inspired by Shadowcrypt. After that basic introduction, I am left inside a nasty building with little but a sword and shield, my wits left at the door as the darkness of the corridor took all but the light within my soul away from me.

Honestly, for the next 5-10 minutes I basically got my ass kicked by the guy in the first room over and over, because I am BAD at video games. Like, super bad, but, then I realized, the lore alone isn’t the only thing that relates this game to Dark Souls, it’s the combat system.

Certainly, you’re on a 2D battlefield in this game, and movement is limited by the lack of a third dimension, but… that really doesn’t matter when the ideal moves are similar enough to draw comparison. I would say this game fits the Dark Souls style better than say, Hollow Knight, which, does a similar “any combat situation could kill you” theme, but with a much more mobile and agile character.

There are 4 different paths to take during the demo, and according to one of the developers, I took the dungeon path. The neat thing about the game is that once you achieve certain goals, you end up able to pick up where you left off, provided you had enough faith to say your prayers, eat your vitamins, and take a nap next to a statue that likely isn’t going to protect you once you walk into the next room and face a guy who wants to take your face off with his hands that are covered in nails, rusty hooks, scrap metal, and whatever else he could find to gut you with. The game at it’s heart is a roguelite, the improvements to your character’s stats and things make progress possible long term even though you are reborn with nothing but some handwraps and a tattered shirt when you reload.

The presentation in this game is incredible. Although you can see the individual details in gifs and character designs distributed by the developers, it’s really hard to explain what makes this game look and feel so atmospheric until you’ve had the controller in your hand. It’s the little touches, like a beam of light coming down on you from on high, the one voice in the darkness showing your faith gives you an opportunity to continue where so many others have failed. The audio fills the silence that surrounds you, and, even though you’ll find the enemies following a strict pattern, (and thus, attack using the same move repeatedly if you keep at a certain range) the sound effects aren’t annoying, it’s actually really refreshing to not hate attack sound effects in a game with such a small team.

I know I’m a big baby because I do not do horror games, (…but hit me up if you want me to review yours!)  this game actually made me nervous about entering the next room, or walking into a dark corridor. There aren’t many games in the 2D realm that can make me anticipate something jumping at me the way this game can, and that’s really refreshing and fun.

From the design aspect, the neat thing about this game is there are tons of systems that one would find in other video games, the life bar is reminiscent of Legend of Zelda, the armor sits atop of it as a secondary life bar, but with a unique mechanic. If your armour is damaged, it will start rusting or rotting, lowering your ability scores and making combat more difficult. You can be affected by disease, curses, or illnesses, which also lower your stats. The enemies all are dangerous, ala Dark Souls, in that even the most basic enemy will be a threat to you no matter how far you’ve gone, or powerful your character is, and your most basic defense is your knowledge in defeating them.

It’s actually really incredible the amount of competent design work put into the game when you look at the experience of the team. Their programmer, Louis, has put in plenty of time teaching himself coding and game design, but their other members, Alex and Arthur, have never worked in games before. Alex producing stylized graphics similar to plenty of games in the genre, and I would say comparable to Savage: The Shard of Gosen, although much darker and more serious. (Note: Savage is one of my favourite games that I’ve reviewed, I’m not talking down about it’s graphics. They are incredible, but in more of a lighter adventure fantasy than this game.) Meanwhile, Arthur is a biology major doing sound design, and you would just naturally assume both are classically trained in how well everything comes together. Amateurs, the lot of them, and they are producing a game that is comparable to other games in the genre with unique mechanics with a wonderful claustrophobic and desperate feeling ambiance that pushes the envelope for dark, gritty fantasy games.

The movement is not very fast. Lots of backpedaling and avoiding damage from enemies with superior attack ranges, but overall fairly easy to learn patterns that give you a confidence boost every time you defeat an enemy. The two “boss” characters I fought were relatively easy, with the amount of iframes in the dodge, but they felt epic regardless. Upon death, your character respawns with nothing, which helps give the world a sense of hopelessness, but the beam of light that shines down on you that represents your character’s faith informs you that anything is possible.

Overall, I am in complete shock that 3 autodidacts with an idea and a goal could come together with such clarity and focus. They are producing a game that is worthy of investing in, and I for one cannot wait for the full game to come out so I can slink back into that desolate temple.

 

Once this game goes live on Kickstarter, I’ll have the link here.

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Developed by: Hibernian Workshop

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