DARK DEVOTION / DEVELOPER: HIBERNIAN WORKSHOP / PUBLISHER: THE ARCADE CREW / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, SWITCH (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The debut game from French developers Hibernian Workshop, Dark Devotion is a 2D roguelite RPG dungeon-crawler with an emphasis on careful, considered combat. Imagine a slower, brooding version of Dead Cells with a bit of Dark Souls mixed in, and you're thinking along the right lines.
Dark Devotion's story is similar to the recent Blasphemous, with themes of religion and repentance, although it's much less heavy-handed here. Playing as a Templar who finds herself in a huge labyrinthine dungeon filled with monsters, traps and some seriously unwelcoming bosses. the reason for your arrival is never made clear. Things are left purposely ambiguous throughout the game - you'll gather scraps of information as you progress, but the story mostly takes a back seat, allowing you to focus on exploration and combat.
Your adventure will take you through several distinct areas of the dungeon. There are many different routes you can take, but it's very much a one-way journey - each door locks behind you, pushing you further into the shadows, to face the horrors that lie in wait. When you die, you're sent back to the main hub area to start all over again - all doors are open again, allowing you to take a different path on your next run.
Along the way, you'll pick up countless weapons and items (all with unique stats, and many of which will become available at the blacksmith's forge), blessings, curses and illnesses, as well as finding hidden areas and permanent stat boosts. All of the items you find are lost upon death, but your experience points are banked until you decide to cash them in, buying upgrades before kitting yourself up at the blacksmith before venturing out into the depths once more.
There's a lot going on, and it can be quite tricky to get to grips with everything at first glance. We haven't even had chance to mention the Faith meter, which doubles as a mana pool for spellcasting and currency for praying at altars and opening various chests and doors. Take some time to familiarise yourself with its nuances, and you'll find that all of Dark Devotion's mechanics fit together beautifully. An excellent debut from a studio that clearly is going to be well worth keeping an eye on!