Reviews - Updated on April 10, 2022

For the French from Hibernian Workshop, Dark Devotion was the debut work, and for me, the first supported project on Kickstarter. The campaign ended successfully in the fall of 2017, and backers have been waiting ever since. The game was supposed to be released in the summer of 2018, but the creative process was delayed.

The developers call their creation a dark indie roguelike RPG. And they are not lying. From the game really breathes gloomy hopelessness. Death takes away almost all progress and equipment from the hero, leaving only learned skills. In fact, the details in Dark Devotion are dark, so let’s figure it out.

Cursed old temple

The main character of the game is a young templar who came to explore an ancient underground cathedral, where, of course, not everyone is happy about her. However, there are also enough friendly NPCs in the “pixelated” world of Dark Devotion. Strangers are not averse to telling their sad story and share their observations. From such phrases and notes abundantly scattered throughout the dark dungeon, we comprehend the local “lore” – fragmentary and, alas, not very interesting in general. I do not rule out that among the players there are those who read passages about the royal horse and were delighted with the plot, but Dark Devotion is definitely not about that. The same approach to storytelling was used in Dark Souls, a game with which the comparison in the review suggested itself.

A huge temple stands on the ruins of an ancient civilization, so the player has somewhere to go. The general map of the game is divided into several zones. Each of them has mini-“bosses” and the main enemy, defeating which opens the next area and a shortcut to it. To pass, you can choose different routes: for example, in the first world, go down into the sewers, deal with the Shredded Martyr there, and then go to the Executioner without meeting the other three “bosses”.

The first zone – the Ancient Dungeon – is perhaps the most detailed and diverse. It has several locations, many hidden places, and in general it is felt that the developers have invested in it to the maximum. And then either the enthusiasm began to fade, or the budget came to an end. If the Lair of Perverted Nature can still please with variety, then the Alabaster Citadel causes one disappointment – all palace walls, “fat” enemies and only two paths to the main “boss” (with the promised four).

But the saddest level is the last, fourth. This is just a front hall, the doors from which lead to the rooms to the “bosses”. Again, they promised us a fork in the amount of as many as five pieces. And here I even want not so much to reproach the Hibernian Workshop for cheating, but to complain about the fact that the finale of the game feels meager: it’s just “leaders” going one after another.

Dark Devotion game review

The map is not randomly generated – it is always the same. The location of unique weapons, armor, chests and NPCs does not change either. Random only consumables and equipment that fall out of ordinary enemies.

Downward movement

Even despite the sparse denouement, the world of Dark Devotion is large and full of secret rooms and forks. At the same time, the game cannot be called metroidvania – you can explore the world only by stepping forward, and the locations themselves are full of points of no return. When you enter a new room, the door closes behind you, and if you fall off a ledge, you can only return to it if there is a ladder leading to it. To take a different path, you will have to start the pilgrimage again. Sometimes it’s terribly annoying: you can accidentally fall on a falling floor, end up in the wrong location and thus ruin the whole passage for yourself if its goal is a certain “boss” or object. There is only one way out – to remember everything that you see.

In fact, the game does a good job of training memory and attention. Having hit traps a couple of times or landed on spikes (the latter kill instantly), willy-nilly, you begin to memorize the whole thing and make timely rolls. Admittedly, the game already at the beginning perfectly demonstrates what to expect from it: in the first room of the ancient dungeon, a careless player is instantly hit on the head with a spear, and after a couple of steps he will fall on the spikes if he does not look under his feet.

I suspect that many died at this place.

After death, having lost all equipment and consumables, our Templar finds himself in a shelter hub, from which paths lead to the visited areas of the game world. With the hero, only the purchased abilities and collected ancient knowledge remain, which slightly increase the characteristics. Weapons, armor and items must be crafted at the blacksmith. In order to create certain equipment, you will have to find a sample. Suitable, alas, not any thing, but only the one that glows green. And so you wander through the dungeons, find cool swords that take down enemies by 50-70 health points, but only a stupid dagger for eight damage is sent to the hub. Because he glowed and the others didn’t.

At first, it will be annoying: you died on the “boss” – you lost all valuable loot, on the next attempt go in rags and with a rusty gladius. It is worth, however, to fill up one of the first “bosses”, and the character will forever receive one of the best swords in the game. By the end, you pay less and less attention to the posthumous loss of equipment, because the most powerful spells and weapons fall out of the “bosses”.

But, you see, it would be too easy to go on a trip armed from head to toe. Therefore, you can only carry two sets of weapons and four types of consumables, and you can only equip half of this in the shelter. Given that one of the cells will almost certainly be occupied by a special amulet that prevents the revival of already killed “leaders”, this is criminally not enough. Here, after death, absolutely all enemies are resurrected, but as long as you wear the amulet, the defeated “bosses” are not terrible. The main thing is not to use it accidentally or not to drop it.

Dark Devotion game review

There are a lot of teleports scattered around the locations, but you can only activate one in order to move from the shelter later. And they can be destroyed for profit.

Dark beginnings

There are no jumps in Dark Devotion. At all. It is suggested to dodge enemy attacks with the help of rolls. You need to understand that a somersault, like swinging a weapon, spends stamina, and in order to survive, you need to use it wisely and memorize the attacks of opponents. The animation of one movement of the heroine can be canceled by another: for example, a long blow with a two-handed sword is interrupted by a roll. So if Dark Devotion fits the role of Dark Souls in 2D, then with a big stretch.

There is no normal health bar in the game either, just the number of hits a templar can take before her journey has to start all over again. Any enemy (absolutely any – from a weak skeleton to the final villain) takes down one unit with his blow. First, the emblems of the shields are consumed – this is armor, and then the red balls – health. The amount of both is determined by equipment: armor and trinkets, respectively. By the way, “first aid kits” in the game are used instantly and at any time, and the battle with each “boss” can be greatly facilitated if you do not teleport directly to it, but go through the entire zones, “vacuuming” them in search of healing things.

Perhaps one of the most interesting mechanics of the game is blessings and curses. Sometimes they are issued by accident, and sometimes for some action. Did the enemy hit health points, not armor? Receive a deep wound and reduced stamina regeneration. Have you applied several poultices in a row? Hold Anesthesia and minus 5% Critical Hit Chance. Put on an earring with damage? Congratulations! Now you have a dull buzz in your ear, and every enemy becomes an elite. But the most terrible, in my opinion, curse is the loss of things during a roll. You stand on a ledge, somersault from it to the platform below, and all nine “first aid kits”, carefully collected in the dungeon, are at an unattainable height.

Blessings are a similar story. So, for killing several enemies of the same type, you can get an increase in damage. For the successful passage of locations, higher powers can reward the templar with a divine bubble, which protects against one hit and is restored upon entering the room. Random fines and bonuses brighten up and diversify the passage.

After the death of enemies, the heroine receives faith points. It is spent on a lot of things: with the help of prayer, you can open passages and altars with valuable (or not so) items, and praying at special statues restores health, removes curses and gives blessings. In addition, this resource is consumed when casting spells. In addition to the usual faith in the game, there is a “corrupted” one, which is also issued for killing opponents. It can be spent in the hub to buy special skills.

One of the skills allows you to make a long roll, teleporting the heroine away from the enemy.

***

Even if the final locations were done carelessly, and some mechanics were invented by the developers solely for the sake of increasing the duration, playing Dark Devotion is still exciting. It is interesting to fight, explore the map and look for ways to get into secret rooms. Weapons, armor and abilities can be customized to suit your play style. For example, I went through almost all the “bosses” with a sword in one hand and a torch in the other, someone is more fun to play with Lady Crow’s giant two-handed katana, and someone will probably prefer a bow. You can pick up your armor to your liking, remember where they are, create your ideal assembly, decorate it with runes for increasing damage or healing, and complete the whole thing with a set of five skills that also greatly change the approach to battles.

Dark Devotion mixed elements of several genres, but at the same time presented a special look at them: this is not a metroidvania, because you can only move around the world forward, and not a “bagel”, because after the death of the hero, a descent into a familiar dungeon awaits. For those who have already completed Death’s Gambit and Salt and Sanctuary and missed the gloomy two-dimensional adventures, it is highly undesirable to miss it.

Pros: interesting combat system; nice graphics and animation; harmonious music; the game is officially translated into Russian.

Cons: the final locations are not as diverse as the beginning of the game; complexity seems overestimated due to artificial restrictions.

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