Title: Dark Devotion
Developer: Hibernian Workshop
Publisher: The Arcade Crew
Genre: Action, Adventure, Hard-core, RPG
Audience: Mature 17+ Blood and Gore, Intense Violence
Release Date: Out Now – 25/04/19
Price: £17.49 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
In Dark Devotion, you play as a Templar knight, who has decided to delve into the labyrinth of tunnels and dungeons to help rid the world of an unspeakable evil. Your journey begins as you start the prologue, where a rather handy tutorial helps the player know the key features of the game yet firmly establishes that it will not ‘hold your hand’ as you make your way through the story. Hacking my way through some rather mindless enemies, I felt that this would be a game that has not quite lived up to its Dark Souls reputation.
These feelings died rather quickly once I’d started the main story, just like my character did, over and over again, at the first enemy encounter. It was then I realised that Dark Devotion had led me so softly in the prologue into a false sense of security before tearing me apart at the first real hurdle. Not a game for the faint of heart. It is this sheer brutality that drew me back for more and more punishment. It is this style of gaming that has recently made waves within the community, a throwback to earlier generations of gamers where small successes feel like great rewards. Defeating a single enemy in Dark Devotion feels like an achievement.
Developed by Hibernian Workshop, a rather new game development company, and published by The Arcade Crew, Dark Devotion seems a rather fitting release for the indie/arcade community on PC and will arrive onto PS4 and Switch sometime this year. As a 2D action/adventure game, DD draws inspiration from everybody’s favourite hard-core game, Dark Souls, but it also has some great standalone features that are not seen often in similar hard-core titles.
Within the game, Hibernian Workshop has chosen pixel art visuals that are widespread in indie 2D games such as Domina and Mana Shark. However, DD’s setting, a very dark and dreary dungeon, means that the art tends to lose any vibrancy and is often very saturated, this is usually a bad thing but I feel that it adequately reflects the game’s character and when there is light it is far more effective because it is predominately dark and bland. A limit within the pixel art style is that aesthetics tend to be lower on the list and this is true in DD, gamers who want visuals to blow their socks off won’t find this in DD, but as it’s an arcade game, lower quality visuals are not as much of a priority.
Armour and weapons visually are hard to get excited about because they look clunky on the main character, but the scenery and monsters are often well detailed. The biggest contrast here is the opening scenes and main title page, which are well polished and look great, so when I started the game, the drop in visuals was perhaps more noticeable. All in all, the visuals are limited, and at times they can look great or rather poor, but as mentioned DD’s art style and the limitations of this art style are understandable and the gameplay more than makes up for it.
The audio aspects in DD were an area I found added to the overall atmosphere, eerie noises and an ominous backing track were nice additions to the game, but sometimes they were either out of time or just seemed a tad bugged. This is something that tended to ruin the overall immersion, but it was nothing that, in my opinion, is too glaring. The sound effects are mostly on, and the enemy’s groans and cries fit nicely into the world. I particularly enjoyed the opening music and the opening scene dialogue; however, once in the game, a text-based dialogue is used. Overall, the audio is adequate, and they add what they need to but not much more.
As an adventure and hard-core game, Dark Devotion is gritty and wastes no time jumping straight into the thick of the action. Limited dialogue and instructions, ensure that players need to navigate their way through The Temple in their way and in their own time. Offering up a somewhat limited story and nothing about the lore of the world, I found that DD is one of those games you just except for what it is and try to beat it. Easier said than done when you consider some of the features the developers included. Death in DD is not just dying and being teleported back to an earlier checkpoint or save, and death means losing all your gathered equipment and having to journey back through The Temple from the very beginning.
Now, this is a somewhat controversial feature, why do you have to restart? Well, it is not a popular choice, but it does give you that feeling that carelessness is something that is not tolerated within DD, every decision and every action could lead to starting all over again. While the Developers have included blueprints to help you start your journey again with better equipment, it still does not take the sting out of dying. As mentioned, this is not a game for the faint hearted, enemies and traps are frequent, and although you could theoretically ‘rush’ through the dungeon, this often leads to a fatal mistake sending you right back to where you started.
In terms of replayability, DD pretty much is all about replayability. Die, start over, die, start over, the pattern continues until a player has put some time into exploring and developed slower gameplay. Replayability, in my opinion, is good but truthfully the further you delve into The Temple then the further you are sent back. This feature means many players may become disillusioned and could lead to many players clicking off before really getting stuck in, unfortunately, because the further you go is where the game starts to open up, enemies have a greater variety, and gear starts to become a better quality meaning you can stay alive longer.
The gameplay is solid and is exactly what is intended, a slow approach using tactics, rolling and repeatedly attacking until the enemy is slain. The hard-core element is pitched perfectly and is not adjusted too high, meaning players can succeed but need to understand both their environment and their enemy. Replayability is key in this game and is again pitched correctly. For me, death, to start with, was not too much, as I was just a few minutes away, yet as I progressed I felt that death became more and more of a severe and time-consuming issue. It depends on how much time you have and how much you enjoy the game. I do believe that as the first release for Hibernian Workshop the game is a solid release and for a targeted audience of hard-core gamers, the game does not disappoint.
Dark Devotion can be a long and laborious game, there are great elements to it, and if you want a game that is more of a casual pick up and play with a hint of Dark Souls thrown in, then this may be a game you want to try. The art style lends itself well, and although it can be hard to see NPCs and traps due to the lighting, this is forgiven as the Developers intended it. I found myself playing for some hours just to try and push deeper and deeper into The Temple. However, the string of defeats and irritating mistakes I made led me to resent the starting all over again. As a first release for the Developers, this is a good game and hopefully helps them to release more titles in the future. I would recommend this game to those who enjoy 2D adventure games, but to those who want a lighter and less brutal game, this may not be the best choice for you. That being said, I will probably give DD a few more goes in the future just to see if I can conquer The Temple.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase Dark Devotion on Steam at the following link: