Dark Devotion

Developed By: Hibernian Workshop
Published By: The Arcade Crew
Category: Action-Adventure (Souls-like)
Release Date: 10.24.2019


The Souls-like category has rapidly expanded due to the amazing success of the Dark Souls series. It turns out people really like being punished repeatedly in video games to the point of frustration, screaming, crying, etc. With all of this said you have a gameplay style that has become iconic to the gaming world, and we are lucky enough to have a ton of examples and fresh takes on the newly minted genre in its short time in existence. Dark Devotion is one such title coming out of the indie space and offers a 2D side-scrolling alternative to the basic action-adventure formula. Much like games like Salt & Sanctuary it adds all of the difficulty and slow, plodding action, but goes for a more pixelated graphical style. Does this one hold up to the competition that has been created up until this point? Well — prepare to die.

You are a Templar and it is your duty to put your neck on the line for your god. Devotion and sacrifice are the name of the game in your order, and the bigger the sacrifice the closer you get to said god. You are travelling through an old, decrepit temple and you must get to the very bowels of this gothic beast where you will discovery things beyond your wild dreams. You are on a pilgrimage, of sorts, and this dark tale spins into a black hole of enemies that are all of a path to stop you in your tracks. The religious tones presented in this story are very similar to another recent Switch release, Blasphemous, that also creates a spin on the Dark Souls formula. As Blasphemous goes headfirst into the weird first offered by the Souls games, Dark Devotion takes a step back with a story path and characters that are definitely more imaginable than the things you will see in Anor Londo or Lost Izalith. The deep lore that is customary to Souls-likes is lost on this title as well, as nothing with deep complexity will blow your mind from just reading a weapon description. You just have a pretty straightforward action game with adventure and platforming traits.

Platforming is a feature of this title as you could imagine would be necessary with the 2D prospective. It definitely isn’t a strong suit, but to be fair that isn’t why you’re here. The jumping is clunky and heavy; similar to a Mega Man in that fashion. This matches well with the slow pace and sturdy combat in the game, but it never feels good to think you have cleared an obstacle and instead you land in a pit of spikes or you think you made a jump and instead fell down to the beginning of where you began climbing. Regardless of all of subpar platforming it is hard to complain about when the point of these titles is to die and fail a lot, so it kind of comes with the territory. Plus, once you get the hang of the airtime and distances it does become easier and things feel less petty.

Combat is fun, but rigid. Much like the games we keep mentioning, you have rolls, dodges, and attacks that strike with a force. You feel like a heavily armored knight when playing this title and that feels good. You have tons of weapons to choose from and that allows for a lot of customization to gameplay style as you have heavy weapons that deal way more damage, but are slow, while you also have smaller weapons that deal strikes much more quickly. You also have a bow and arrow that allows for some distance attacks, but the ammunition is few and far between, so you don’t want to just start spamming arrows across the level. Beyond that you have items you can use in combat, and everything else is pretty straightforward. There isn’t a lot of innovation here, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

As you defeat enemies and progress you gather orbs of light that you spend at prayer alters for various things. You might need 20 orbs in order to open a door or to regain health, and these orbs are crucial to moving on. Thus, you must be able to improve with combat in your time, and this is part of the semi-roguelike setup of the life-death cycle. Each time you die you return to the original camp where you can start over with the weapons you have saved and start your journey once more.

You can also use prayer for blessing or to cure curses or illnesses. The game takes a page out of Darkest Dungeon’s book a bit in this way with a fairly complex system of negative and positive attributes that afflict you from time to time.

The art style is very detailed, and the pixel environments really paint a beautiful picture. The darkness of the game hinders that a bit and travelling through dark caverns and tunnels doesn’t allow for a ton of creativity, but nonetheless the game finds a way to impress with the scattered bits of crazy good artwork.

Overall, Dark Devotion offers a good foray into a religious cult of sorts that has some serious stances on faith. The gameplay is fun, difficult, but quite fair for being a Souls-like. I never died in this one and felt totally upset, as the bosses, enemies, and environments are pretty straightforward. But it is because of this that the game feels like its missing its own (dark) soul. The game is wonky and clunky and doesn’t do a good job outside of its combat, and the story leaves a lot to be desired. For a game trying to go deep into religious conventions it feels like they didn’t do a good job melding the weird with the religious ideology. I left this title wanting more from it, and even though the building blocks are all there it doesn’t feel like they took the chances that are necessary to set a game like this apart from the pack.



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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*