Dark Devotion is a 2D indie RPG as dark as its name suggests

Dark Devotion looks kind of like Castlevania, but here's the thing—as soon as one of its dungeon doors slam shut behind you it's locked for good. Only the hub space of Filthblood Shelter, where friendly characters like Bones the blacksmith hang out, can be revisited. The rest of Dark Devotion's temple is a series of paths with no doubling back. At no point do I find a blue grappling hook and realize now I can reach that blue ledge in level three. 

It's still in development but there's a demo up on itch.io right now, and that's what I'm playing. As a templar who starts out armed with a sword, shield, and bow, I've been drawn to this temple for reasons that are vague (the creators are French and have flagged the translation as something they're working on), but since there are skeletons, swinging blade traps, and treasure chests in here it's pretty obvious what to do. 

Reaching a ledge, I kneel to look down and see a pit full of spikes. It's a very Prince of Persia moment. A diving roll puts me past the trap and onto what should be safe ground on the far side. Then a woman with clawed hands attacks me, each of her blows bouncing off my shield and pushing me back, until I slide right into those spikes. "YOUR DEVOTION HAS FADED," the death screen tells me. 

But it's not game over and I reappear in a burst of light within Filthblood Shelter, ready to try again. This time I roll past Mrs. Claws to hack at her unprotected back and then push on, where I'm rewarded with a treasure chest that has some healing rags in it. 

Dark Devotion is a bleak experience. As is probably obvious by now, there's a bit of Dark Souls influence in there, complete with a stamina bar that empties faster than you'd like with every attack or dodge, only refilling when your shield is down.   

The temple isn't a nice place, with those who braved it prior to you often lying down to give up, and enemies frequently chained to the walls. It sure is fun, though. The combat is fast and thunky, thanks to smooth animations that make you feel every hit. There's also a light puzzle element to it, with levers that can be hit with arrows to move platforms and doors and statues that can only be interacted with through prayer (which empties your faith bar, forcing you out to refill it by defeating heathens and monsters). 

Hibernian Workshop have been working on Dark Devotion for two years and made it through Steam Greenlight back when that was still a thing, but now they're crowdfunding the money they need to finish it. They're looking for €20,000 and their Kickstarter runs till October 17.

The demo contains the first world and a boss, which is a decent amount to play and definitely worth trying as its own thing. I've dodged descending spears while fighting undead, foolishly swapped my shield for a torch, and generally had a good time with Dark Devotion. Still, I'd like to see it grow into a full game some day.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.