There are games that are hard to play and then there are those that are intentionally frustrating. This game tries to break down your spirit each time you drop into the depths of the temple. Dark Devotion is a 2D platformer style game that gives you hints of Dark Souls in its sadistic tendencies. It is not nearly as difficult as Dark Souls, but it makes up for it with some extremely frustrating mechanics throughout its design. I suppose that is the point.
The Dark Genre
This game is a solid entry into what has developed as a “Souls”-like genre. Being a 2D game versus 3D gives it a completely different feel and I found myself going back to it again and again. I still can’t put my finger on what keeps drawing me in.
If you are looking for an in-depth story, you won’t find it here. After the initial scraps of storytelling at the beginning of the game, you never really interacted with it again. It becomes a straightforward hack and slash to the finish. In classic platformer style, you will need to maneuver through the temple avoiding traps in order to eradicate the enemies that you encounter.
No Retreat – Always Moving Forward
After completing the introductory material, which is a combination tutorial and storytelling piece, you will work out of the Filthblood Shelter. This is your home base of sorts and will allow you to upgrade weapons, gain new quests, and increase certain skills. Here is where one of the intentional design frustrations come into play. Once you venture out into the Ancient Dungeon (the dungeon crawling aspect of the game) you cannot return here unless you die.
This creates endless runs into the dungeon. It is a huge departure from the normal get quest/finish a quest cycle that most games use. You may finish a quest well before losing to a foe that would send you back to the shelter to collect. Unless of course, you take an intentional step into a spiked floor tile.
Where Did My Item’s Go?
The next big frustration hits you where it really hurts – your items. As you defeat foes in the dungeon, they will drop items that can upgrade your gear. Better weapons, armor, and consumables are all available. The problem is that none of these items persist through death. When you lose to an enemy, you lose everything. You are transported back to the shelter with nothing but the rags on your back. Of course, the nice large gentleman at the anvil will give you some new base gear each time, but all the nice upgraded stuff you previously collected is now rotting in the dungeon.
Skills to Create Thrills
The one thing that does persist through death is your skills that you can level up. These bonuses start off small but the accumulative effect is quite impressive. As you unlock these, they stay with you throughout the rest of the game. However, in order to unlock these, you must find a certain item that is finite and only located in specific places throughout the dungeon. Once you have acquired it, it will no longer be in that location. So you will need to discover all of the hiding places in order to unlock all of the available skills. This can be tedious toward the end of the grind.
Inside the Ancient Dungeon
The graphics are really not what you would expect from today’s games. It gives you the impression of a throwback game or vintage platformer – maybe this was intentional as well. The controls are very smooth and the gameplay is actually very engaging. I found the boss fights to be challenging and enjoyed the overall simplistic combat system. Commands are straightforward and easy to understand even if they are not always easy to implement. The sound quality is excellent as well. It creates an immersive environment that puts you a little on edge.
Into the Dark Once More
Overall this game had a lot of things going against it, with lower-tier graphics, an almost non-existent story, and mechanics designed to drive you mad – yet I still kept playing. I’m not sure what it is about this game that makes me want to boot it up time after time. Maybe its the part of me that does not like to give up. Maybe the satisfaction of completing something designed to frustrate the average player is what drives people to conquer games like this. Maybe there is something inside gamers that does not want the darkness to prevail.