Dark Devotion on PS4
Challenge can be a great driver for getting satisfaction from a gaming experience, but too much of it can drive the experience down overall. Such is the case with Dark Devotion: It is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging Souls-inspired indies to be released in recent memory, though not always in the ways that would make overcoming it more satisfying.
Developed by Hibernian Workshop, the game sees players take the role of a Templar delving into the dark and mysterious ruins of an ancient temple. Reaching the heart of the temple is the Templar’s eternal mission, and after years of training it is your turn to venture into its depths, battling through the horrors it holds all the way down.
As players progress further into the temple’s depths though, dark and sinister secrets come to light, revealing truths that those above would rather stay buried forever.
The set-up is simple and to the point, leaving the finer details for players to uncover through bits of dialogue, weapon descriptions and other elements Souls-like fans will be familiar with.
There are scant few cutscenes to be found, and more often than not important story revelations can range from hidden text tied to unlocked weapons or “blink and you’ll miss it” character interactions.
It’s for the best though, as Dark Devotion’s main draw is its gameplay. A hybrid of The binding of Isaac, Metroidvania and Souls-like, the game sets players loose on a series of 2D, interconnected areas to explore and fight their way through.
Some are straight-forward, funneling you through them without much side content or hidden treasures to speak of. Others, meanwhile, are littered with side paths, secrets, equipment and items, some of which even lead to secret bosses or hidden challenges you’d never find without putting in the extra effort.
This is all done while a haunting and melodic soundtrack plays out in the background. Soft and meloncholy, it lends a sense of gloom, terror, sanctuary, and plenty more to each area, varying enough with each new location to set itself apart as the perfect accompaniment to the title’s tone.
It’s everything fans of Metroidvania titles love about the genre, and they’ll feel right at home scouring the game to find all of its secrets for hours on end.
Or at least, they will as long as they don’t mind putting up with the ruthlessly challenging gameplay.
As mentioned above, Dark Devotion takes heavy inspirations from Souls-like titles and The Binding of Isaac, incorporating some of each titles’ difficulty elements.
Enemies hit like a truck, and learning their patterns and behaviors is integral to overcoming them without dying; because, if players do die, they’ll lose all of their equipment and upgrades, returning to the starting area to begin nearly from scratch.
This is further complicated by the fact that buffs and debuffs can be attached to the player almost entirely at random, helping or hindering them based on unclear and obscure parameters.
There are work-arounds to this that players can earn as they progress – namely special weapons and armor that can be remade at anytime, and buffs that are applied as soon as the player respawns – but this only applies to certain items and character upgrades.
More often than not, a special piece of armor, rare weapon or buff that took forever to get can be lost in an instant, with no way of getting them back aside from going through the area all over again.
Even if players choose to stick to weapons and blessings that can be remade, there’s still the drawback of some repetitious design elements. Every time players die, they’ll be sent back to a hub location where they’ll need to re-equip their character with weapons, armor and blessings.
This can become a chore during death-filled attempts at a new boss, especially when most bosses have an instant kill move that players couldn’t have known about without dying to it first.
It all culminates in an experience that, while gratifying to overcome, can feel far more impacted by RNG and luck than skill, bringing down the sense of accomplishment with hours of frustration and stacked odds.
Few titles deserve the moniker of “punishing” the way Dark Devotion does. Nary a second in the game will be without the threat of death and struggle, and more often than not, players will be left fighting tooth and nail to progress even one step further into its world.
It can be downright crushing, and more than a few people will probably be turned off by it. For those who stick with it though, or go into the experience fully prepared for a challenging experience, there are elements seeing and getting lost in.
Score: 3/5 – Fair
- Great Metroidvania level design
- Music captures the feel of the world perfectly
- Provides a good sense of accomplishment when you succeed
- RNG mechanics make the difficulty feel stacked
- Constantly re-equipping character at hub world gets repetitive
If you’re a hardcore fan of challenging experiences that use RNG against you, go for it. If not, this might be too rough around the edges for you to enjoy.
Dark Devotion is developed by Hibernian Workshop.
Dark Devotion was released on PC on Apr. 25, 2019. The PS4 and Nintendo Switch versions were released on Oct. 24, 2019.
For more information on how we review games, check out Twinfinite’s review policy here.