A Templar, a forgotten temple and a mission. Will your faith be strong enough to overcome the challenge? Find out in our Dark Devotion review.
Well, so far it has been quite a nice year for indies. While it is true that Katana Zero left me a little bit on the slightly disappointing side of things, the year still goes on. And after a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2017, we no longer have to wait for more. Hope you have a nice torch with you because we are in for a pitch-black experience. This is our Dark Devotion review.
Legends of the Hidden Temple
The child of Hibernian Workshop will remind some people of a certain style that I hate bringing to the table:
Spyro Dark Souls. Yeah, I know, the joke is really dead at this point, but what else can I say? You die easily, you have to manage your stamina gauge, find different types of weapons and armor, and you have a central HUB. However, there are some points that make Dark Devotion different from the usual FromSoftware clone. Here, we don’t level up, but instead, unlock small upgrades for our Templar. Bonus speed, more chance to deal critical damage, and the usuals. But if you really want to upgrade your character, you better explore as your life depends on it.
Runes are the most valuable thing you’ll find in Dark Devotion. These permanent upgrades in stamina, damage and critical chance will make our journey less annoying. How do we get said runes? By searching every nook and cranny of the map, that’s how. And while it is true that by the time I’m writing these lines discovered runes are not marked on said map, there are some other issues concerning this feature. And in order to properly illustrate that problem, I have to address the chaotic nature of the areas that you’ll explore on this game.
M.C. Escher would be proud
Now don’t get me wrong: I understand the appeal of metroidvanias, as good if not better than everybody. And as much as you can’t see it, soulslike titles are, in essence, part of this genre. However, the big important thing to take into account is the structure of the levels you visit in said game. As Dark Devotion is a 2D title, the lay of the land should be something clear in terms of design and position. In titles like Super Metroid, there are remarkable features in each area to make traveling them easier on repeated runs. A creepy face on a wall, a tunnel that leads to a previous area,… Any of those things may help players situate themselves better (aside from taking a look at the map). Sadly, that same stuff is not present on Dark Devotion.
Aside from the fact that this game is REALLY dark (which at times said darkness leads to quite unfair deaths by leaps of faith leading to spikes or voids), levels are displayed without any logic on the map. There was an instance in which I fell to an area that I didn’t want to go to only to take a look at my map and see that I had no idea where I was. I had a door in front of me that would lead to the next level of that area, but it was really confusing at first. Was I going up or down? This issue happened to me more than a couple of times, and that’s because you are only told in what area you are, but not EXACTLY where you are. It’s kind of the same issue I had with Feudal Alloy.
One bar, tons of weapons
Another important aspect that I would like to discuss is the problem of stamina management. Nowadays, it seems like every single action RPG needs to have a stamina bar. And I do like stamina bars: they offer a different and more methodical approach to combat. However, this can also be a double-edged sword in certain types of games. And I think you can tell by now my concern with stamina in Dark Devotion.
In this game, we can unlock (at times in a reasonable way, others by complete chance) sets of armors and weapons to use. Spears, greatswords, gauntlets, the usual. And by defeating bosses, we can also unlock their own weapons, which is quite a nice reward. Yet the big issue with weapons is that almost every single type of weapon drains the same amount of stamina, and that’s quite the problem. Imagine that you are using a great axe. Not only you have to take into account the slow wind-up animation, but also how you are probably not going to be able to do more than one hit. That is if the bosses allow you to because another concerning aspect of Dark Devotion is the erratic behavior of bosses.
To me, boss battles in Soulslike titles shouldn’t be a display of unfair hitboxes and moves. Granted, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy bosses that have a good array of attacks. But in order to make those bosses feel fair, their animations have to be clearly visible. When you get hit by an attack that you couldn’t see coming at all, you are going to say tons of words, and none of them will be “amazing”. Add this to the really slow-paced combat and you can only do a 2-attack combo and you are in for a treat.
Light at the end
So far you must be thinking that I hate Dark Devotion, but that’s far from the truth. In fact, I had quite a good time with the game! While the already mentioned issues are aspects that I don’t really enjoy that much, the overall experience was pretty fun. The combat, albeit flawed, feels really enjoyable. The feedback of every hit you deal is great, with good sound and visual effects following every strike. it’s pretty hard to go wrong when you can wield a giant sword that throws flames against your foes.
The areas and people you meet within the Temple walls are also pretty interesting. Deities, people wielding crow scythes and creepy creatures haunt every single area of this large and eerie formation. As I said earlier, exploring will give you some rewards, but going back to already visited locations may surprise you with something or someone waiting for you there. And while it is true that you have to get Lady Luck by your side in order to get nice drops from chests and enemies, this offers a nice amount of replayability. I finished the game without realizing that I missed 4 bosses on my way to the final area of the game. Heck, I even found a completely new area that was even darker and tenser than the previous ones I already saw.