Dark Devotion is every side-scrolling, dungeon spelunking, monster destroyer’s dream. The game is set in an ancient dungeon filled to the brim with brooding enemies, traps, spells, and unmistakable lore. Your character is a Templar tasked with eviscerating monsters and traversing deeper into the mysterious temple. Dark Devotion sends you back in time with rich, nostalgia-inducing 2D graphics and a dash of platformer-type mechanics. Experiencing the visuals in this game is almost a reward in itself. NPCs blend in with the background seamlessly, allowing you to decide if you truly need to interact or if your journey should continue on without assistance or dialogue.
Dark Devotion’s ancient dungeon
I loaded the game onto my Nintendo Switch and prepared for the battles ahead. After testing the controls and talking to all of the NPCs, it’s time to head down, not knowing what’s truly in store for our female protagonist.
There’s a tiny tutorial to basically show you how to swap weapon sets, fire your bow, and swing your trusty sword. Once you’ve completed the tutorial, it’s time to march straight into the abyss. Upon entering, you see your fellow Templars, beaten and weary, offering perilous words of warning. After hearing their pleas of concern, the path onward leads through thick green smoke. “I’m sure that can’t hurt, right?” Turns out, however, green smoke is actually pretty poisonous and you have to pray at a purification altar to get rid of the poison’s effects.
It’s at this alter you’re introduced to ‘Faith Points’, a currency the player gets by both taking and dealing damage. These points are used in a variety of ways to help your character progress. There are many different alters in the game that require Faith Points. Most notably are healing altars, purification altars, and weapon or armor altars. Faith Points are also used to open doors and chests that can grant helpful items. Magical books use Faith Points to cast powerful spells to attack or defend with.
My first brush of death—it was brutal
Here I was thinking, “Man, I’m so good. This game is too easy.” I kill the first boss with seemingly no problems and rush to the next encounter. I walk into the next room and see a huge dark knight with a sword as tall as my Templar. I’m thinking, “Oh buddy, another boss already! Alrighty then, let’s dance!”. All these thoughts were squashed by one swift attack. my jaw almost touching the floor as my character crumples to the ground. Dead. All I could think was, “Wait, could I have dodged that?” The screen fades and a bright light envelops me as I’m teleported into a safe haven deep within the temple walls. Reality sets in and I realize—that whole first “easy” area was definitely the tutorial.
Dark Devotion’s safe haven
After respawning, I quickly notice my nice armor, shield, and my super-sweet sword didn’t make it back from our death. Being naive, I think, “Ok, here’s where we get the new items and overpowered weapons.” I begin to explore the immediate area, talking to all of the nearby NPCs, looking for my fresh new digs. I find a statue and multiple other skill trees that indicate that the further we play, the stronger we get. After searching for a few minutes I find a behemoth of a blacksmith hammering away on an anvil. After talking to him my worst fears are confirmed, and I’m handed an old rusty sword and wooden shield. “Oh crap.” A newfound realization smacked me like a ton of bricks. “I’m not getting new weapons, am I?”
Spawn die spawn die spawn die
After a few minutes of looking around I decide it’s time to stop stalling. The dungeon is calling and only I can answer. With my trusty rusted sword and wooden shield, I fight my way through enemies while learning new tricks along the way.
There are no save points, but there is a Dark Souls-style checkpoint in the form of teleportation altars. With these altars, even if you die, you can teleport to the last lit altar and continue from there. Of course, that means keeping an eye out for the next altar or running the risk of doubling your journey. Soon I had almost all of the enemy attack patterns down and, if careful, I should be able to progress without taking too much damage. However, anytime a new enemy was thrown into the mix, I died. A lot. With traps, new enemies and dangerous ledges, my deaths were adding up quickly.
The gargantuan monster with one arm
Eventually, I made it to a huge door with a giant skull on top. Every fiber in me knew a boss was waiting. I walk in and see a huge monster holding a massive mace in one hand with his other arm chained in place. I decide to attack and think, “What can he really do with only one arm?” The beast gets in a few good blows but soon enough I memorize the pattern and start chipping away at his health.
Soon the monster is at half health and I’m ready to deliver the final set of necessary blows. The next thing I know, he rips his own arm off and rushes me. The attack patterns completely change and soon enough, you guessed it, I’m dead. It took me a few more playthroughs than I’d like to admit, but I thoroughly vanquished Hezek. He was even nice enough to leave me a parting gift in the way of his huge mace.
Weapons, abilities, and God’s Blessings
After every death in Dark Devotion, most of your weapons, armor, and items are lost. Certain weapons like Hezek’s mace can be remade after spawning back in the safe area. A really nice addition to the game is ‘God’s Blessings’. If you die too many times without progressing you’ll get random boosts to your character. In my case, I got a bubble that protects me for one attack and comes back over time if I’m not taking damage. While this game is rather unforgiving and gets insanely more difficult the further you dive in, it’s nice to know that you can still progress even if you hit some sticking points.
My final thoughts on Dark Devotion
I come from an FPS background with the bulk of my playtime dedicated to grinding ranked modes in games like Rainbow Six: Siege and Apex Legends. For me, this game was difficult. The game punishes you for rash decisions and poor strategy. However, if you humble yourself to learn enemy attack patterns, you’ll be rewarded with another few moments of life—that is, until you meet the next devious inhabitant looking to end you.
This constant cycle of learned progression has officially cemented Dark Devotion a permanent spot on my Switch’s home screen. Anyone who likes side scrollers or rogue-like games will definitely appreciate Dark Devotion’s unforgiving combat system. For players who haven’t played a lot of this style game, or if you’re a seasoned vet, I highly recommend trying Dark Devotion out. And don’t worry if you’re not good, dying is just apart of the journey.
Dark Devotion is out now on the Nintendo Switch
High Ping Gaming received a copy of this game for review. No other monetary compensation was exchanged and all opinions are solely that of the author.