Have a little faith.
Dark Devotion is all about faith; The faith our templar protagonist has in her god, the religion this world’s lore is built around, and the faith and persistence needed from the player themselves, as they die and die again in the pursuit of progress. I took a turn around the early levels of Dark Devotion, to see how long my faith could last. Here are my first impressions of this Dark Souls-like roguelite (now there’s a mouthful).
From the beginning, Dark Devotion is heavy with brooding atmosphere. When we first start, we are introduced to our templar character in her full regalia, but after a quick tutorial through an easy dungeon, all that lovely equipment is gone. Instead we awake scrambling from a kind of hub area, where fellow templars linger for conversation, skill trees appear for future development, and a blacksmith hammers incessantly. With the 2D graphics beautifully rendering the dark halls and the lamplit corners, every pixel is full of character. But I have no idea what I’m doing.
At this early stage the skill-trees look like a foreign language, and while the way to the dungeon is clear, the lore of the world isn’t. The blacksmith, friendly though he might be, can only provide me with a basic sword and shield for my limited inventory. I don’t feel very prepared, but off I go, only somewhat prepared for the Dark Souls-style combat ahead of me.
Luckily, despite my confusion, combat is incredibly satisfying. Requiring constant dodging, slashing and awareness of your stamina metre, this is straight out of the Souls combat textbook. The enemies you encounter have different attack patterns to learn, and the landscapes they roam within ranges from spacious to a bit too spikey (spoiler: don’t fall on the spikes). Enemy placement within the dungeon mostly stays the same between each run, but the loot the enemies drop varies. Sometimes you’ll get a very handy weapon, or a health poultice and sometimes nothing at all. The limited space in your inventory gives decisions over loot higher stakes, making every pick-up a tactical choice.
However, it’s unwise to get too attached to any of these objects; after death, they’re gone. A few ill-timed swings and you back to the hub world, and back talking to the blacksmith again to pick up your basic equipment. This process of explore, learn, die, repeat made each battle have weight. This isn’t a dungeon to hack-and-slash you’re way through, this dungeon requires thought, patience and a bit of bravery.
My only criticism of such an early run into the game, is the jumbled nature of the hub world. With everything available to the player straight away, the skill trees are left totally unexplained. Further playtime will no doubt make these aspects of the game clearer, but for now, I found them more opaque than intriguing.
Dark Devotion seems to have plenty of aspects to keep its players forging on in the face of punishing combat, with a narrative that is as gloomy as its lighting. It’s a title that will be an absolutely joy to Dark Soul’s fans, just so long as they can work out all the intricate systems that I had yet to discover.
Dark Devotion is out now and you can find out more about it on its Steam page.
Kate has been gaming since she could control a mouse. In addition to having a penchant for indie games, Kate had a World of Warcraft account when she was far too young, and has a weakness for any game with ‘RPG’ in the description.