Combine dark souls, Castlevania and medieval religion and you’ll probably be somewhere close. Dark Devotion is a punishing side scrolling dungeon crawler that’ll have you coming back for more and more, even if it does test your patience and resolve.
You start the game simply with a sword and shield and not much instruction except how to parry and attack. The character is played using the joystick, as the d pad is for using items. You’re quickly introduced to zombie/skeleton enemies who you have to run through and kill, and most of the enemies follow this theme. The game is played by blocking and dodging the tough enemies (as well as attacking of course) which is all controlled with your stamina bar, when stamina runs out you can’t move, so watch that bar folks! The enemies come at you with swords, claws and bows to kill you (quite easily if you don’t avoid them) so you really just need to do your best to survive the crawling, slinking, decrepit baddies. I played and got used to the controls, whilst taking in the art style (a kind of painted pixel effect which looks gorgeous) whilst exploring the side scrolling, dark dungeons which felt claustrophobic. You’re taught about your faith meter which you have to spend to unlock doors, heal at statues and eventually to cast magic (measured with a counter in the bottom right). I quickly made my way to the boss and after defeating it, after a few attempts, I was killed by this other dude. The game then kind of resets and I realised that was the tutorial and I am now playing the actual game, with much worse equipment and less stamina. And this is where it got really difficult..
When you wake up after being killed you’re in a hub world, there are npcs who talk down to you mostly but there’s an old dude who gives random advice along the lines of ‘every action has a consequence’. There’s also a blacksmith/forger who gives you a sword and shield, as you go on you can eventually get more from him. Every time you die you come back to this hub world and I’m still not entirely sure how it works but depending on how far you get you can choose different items to start with (completing a simple mission for a scribe enabled me to start with healing items). Also you start with buffs such as +0.5 stamina, and a body shield, which also seem to increase on dungeon progression.
I stepped into this new dungeon being weaker than the tutorial level and I found the enemies now being able to push me around and kill me much easier than before. Not only this but there are now also traps such as ceiling spikes and hidden death pits, meaning I had to watch my footing and movement. After dying a fair few times I started to get the hang of it and realised I needed to be more aggressive with my attacking whilst also keeping a close eye on the stamina bar. I noticed when I attacked it momentarily stunned them so I started to use this to my advantage, trying to remember to roll away before my stamina depleted, which really didn’t take long at the beginning of the game. I started to realise you had to be tactical to make your way around these odd creatures attacking you, who could easily switch between slow and fast attacks. When this started all coming together it made me more confident in exploring the rooms I was in, I found that crouching enabled me to find items on dead bodies, praying to altars gave me new items and I started to find warp portals which acted as check points. I’ll touch on the items a little more, there is a vast array of pick ups available to help you on your journey. There are pick ups for weapons which simply swap, armour which can increase your health or armour (armour takes the hits before health), equipment – for which you have 4 slots and even magic. You need to choose the items you carry carefully to best suit your fight and this adds another layer of tactics to the game.
Eventually I managed to make it to the first proper boss, and by this point I was hooked. This boss was chained by one arm and had a long mace so I couldn’t get near, my first few attempts were pathetic. I then explored the rooms a bit more and found a spell which threw magical daggers, meaning I could attack from range, and when he came loose he was weak enough for me to finish him off, admittedly achieved with some well timed dodging.
The game is perhaps the tightest 2D side scroller I’ve played. You have to be spot on with your inputs and stamina bar lest you be decimated quickly. The dungeons are well designed and extremely explorable whilst being creepy, gothic and gory. I am 100% hooked and will be coming back for more and more until every boss has fallen to my faith.
I give it: