Dark Devotion is an odd one, that’s for sure. Taking cues from one popular game that I won’t mention, and putting a unique spin on things. But does it pan out?

Game Name: Dark Devotion
Platform(s):  PC
Publisher(s):  The Arcade Crew
Developer(s):  Hibernian Workshop
Release Date: April 25, 2019

As the game starts, you find yourself cast as Templar who is about to embark on a journey through a holy template that’s anything but holy. You also end up separated from your squad and after managing to find your bearings, you meant an unfortunate death. Of course, death isn’t the end and you awaken like nothing ever happened. Still wanting to see your original task fulfilled, you venture on through multiple locations which lay inside and under this temple. 

The areas you visit are pretty vast and at times you’ll find yourself going to many different locations. Each full of nasty characters that would see you fail at your on-hand task. The areas are huge and you’ll get confused and lost easily if you aren’t careful. The in-game map is helpful and shows you where you are, where you’ve been and places you’ve visited in the past. Even if it is hard to understand at times. 

Dark Devotion adds it’s own unique spin to the formula as well. Once you’ve passed through a doorway that leads to a different area, it closes behind you. There’s no going back, short of dying or carrying a specific item that will take you back to the game’s hub. To be honest, I’m not really thrilled about this decision as the levels have so many in’s and out’s that you are punished for choosing the wrong door. Compounded with the game’s checkpoint system that still doesn’t make much sense to me.

Stats and buffs are handled a bit differently than what I was used to. Instead of being able to level up by experience points, this game takes a different route. Here, you have two primary ways of accumulating stats. The first is the talent tree that’s comprised of tiers. These tiers have several different talents you can choose from, all of which can be acquired using experience points, and a final talent that only becomes available after defeating a specific boss. You can also purchase every talent per tier, but you can only use one of those talents at any given time, per tier. Giving you the ability to change up your active talents at any time. The nasty side of how this works is that after the first tier of talents. You’re forced to purchase at a number of talents before the next tier can be unlocked. I’m definitely not a fan on how the tier unlock system works.

Then there are the 4 main attributes; Stamina, Critical Chance, Damage and Faith. These are the ones that give your character the most benefit, and the ones you want. However, there’s no way to upgrade them outside of finding runes that are hidden throughout the levels. Meaning you’ll need to watch for them on your journey and there’s the chance that you’ll pass by some without even knowing it. Not to mention you have to interact with the rune, which is problematic if you have several enemies chasing you at the same time. There’s also another stat called Faith, which can open locked doors, hidden areas, and statues that will award blessings on you and more.

Combat is a mixed bag. At times it’s amazing, other times you’re playing keep away with the enemies who can one-shot you if you aren’t paying attention. Then there’s the little issue of being overrun fairly easily and short of dodge or blocking, things get hectic real fast. Attacking, dodging and even blocking can use a considerable amount of stamina. It’s definitely a dance at times, yet I managed to find my groove, eventually. However, the stamina usage is highly restrictive at times. Especially if you find yourself waiting at times for that stamina meter to slowly accumulate while you’re locked in combat.

He doesn’t look too pleased

Of course, you’ll die a lot as you try to progress through the game. Each time you expire, you’re transferred back to the hub, where you’ll get up and attempt to where you died before. However, before setting out, you need to visit the smithy who conveniently handles all your gear. Forgetting to do so will send you out into the world, with no way to defend or attack. What makes it worse is that the game doesn’t even attempt to stop you or tell you that you’re missing something. It’s like it has a sick sense of humor, sending you off to die.

On top of trying to beat the game, there’s also a quest system in place. Here, you’re tasked with a variety of tasks, that will reward you. Except the system has a quirk. In one instance I had received a quest to kill the end boss of a certain level. The only issue was that I had already dispatched of that boss before and I really didn’t want to go searching for it, nor beating it again. I had even had the weapon that was dropped after the kill. Surely that was enough to satisfy the quest requirements? Right? Well, no, it wasn’t. Instead, the game kept pointing me in the direction of the boss and that frustrated me. Perhaps gating the quests and how far I could progress without completing those quests would be been a better tactic.

There’s no denying that Dark Devotion is a beautiful looking game. Yes, it’s full of darks, browns, and greys, that’s the theme of the game. Yet, the pixel art in action is mesmerizing and has to be seen in action to really appreciate it. Everything is also animated exceptionally. From your character, down to the smallest enemy. As for the sounds, there’s not really much here that struck me as remarkable. The music gets the job done and the sound effects are solid. I get the vibe that Hibernian Workshop was going for, but it feels like something is missing.

You’ll see this screen often

Previously, my review mentioned an issue with my Xbox One controller while playing the game. Thankfully, this was addressed in an update. However, there is still the issue of not being able to bind keys or buttons. While the default layout for the controller works fine, I’d like a bit more freedom with my setup.  On top of that, the options available are slim pickings. The game uses your monitor’s resolution, with only a windowed mode available outside of that. There’s also no cloud saves. Why is this still an issue with could saves being so commonplace?

The main issue I have with the game is that it doesn’t tell you much of anything. Short of a basic control scheme, the game expects you to figure out everything on your own. I’m not referring to gameplay specifically, but how to actually play the game. Simple things that should be addressed like how to drop an item to pick up another (which is actually holding down the direction on the d-pad). Or that every time you die that you need to revisit the smithy. The opening tutorial doesn’t even get the player prepared for what’s in store. These are essential things that players need to know. A simple tooltip would suffice, for many of these issues. While I feel the tutorial n

It might seem like I’m too hard on Dark Devotion and that I’m not a fan of it. However, it’s actually the opposite. The gameplay can be enjoyable and there’s plenty here to like if you can get past the first few hours. I really want to see if Hibernian Workshop addresses the flaws I pointed out and makes the game available on other platforms.

Review Disclosure Statement: Review code for Dark Devotion was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Dark Devotion

Summary

Dark Devotion has a lot going for it. Sadly, the cons outweigh the pros and drop in several systems that really need to be fleshed out before the game can shine. Until that happens, this game will leave you frustrated and lost, which isn’t a good feeling.

Pros

  • The pixel art is amazing well done
  • Various amounts of enemies and challenging bosses
  • Huge and vast world to traverse, with lots to discover

 

Cons

  • Way too many cheap deaths
  • Not able to re-bind controls
  • Dying more a chore than it should be
  • Stamina usage and Talent tree need some work

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grid. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Available for podcasts upon request.