Red Candle Games' excellent Taiwanese horror game Devotion has had an eventful two years. First released back in February 2019, Devotion was available on Steam for only six days before it was review-bombed after backlash from Chinese players when an in-game poster comparing Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh was found plastered on the wall of a hallway. This led to an apology and explanation from Red Candle Games, but nevertheless resulted in it subsequently being taken down from Steam and the studio's publisher having its business license revoked.
A year later there was still no word from Red Candle and, although a beautiful limited edition physical copy of the game was released the next year, Red Candle was determined to re-release the game back in the West when circumstances would allow it. Come July 2020, there were once again plans in place to release Devotion on GOG, but it was dropped once again hours after the announcement with GOG's reasoning being that it had received "many messages from gamers."
It's been over two years since Devotion's first release and, from the handful who did manage to play it before it was taken down, many said it was one of the best horror games of 2019. Anticipation for the game's return to storefronts was evident from fans, and the good news is that Devotion is finally available to buy directly from Red Candle Games' official website. So, after all this time of not being able to buy this indie cult horror game, is it still worth checking out? The answer is a resounding yes.
Given we've all been stuck inside for around a year now, a horror game that takes place entirely in a small apartment in 1980s Taiwan might be the last thing you'd want to play. But Devotion's seemingly mundane household plays host to a terrifying domestic tale of ghosts, time travel, and more emotion than most horror games.
You play as Feng Yu, a screenwriter who lives with his former superstar wife Li Fang and their daughter Mei Shin. Both parents share the dream of having Mei Shin continue her mother's legacy as a famous singer but, after the young girl contracts a mysterious illness that could potentially jeopardise her future, Feng Yu's desperation leads him down a troubled road of paranoia and misplaced spiritualism.
Devotion doesn't have your regular ghosties and ghoulies. Through flashbacks, creepy children's tales, old notes, voice-over, faded photographs, and folklore, a troubled family portrait begins to form. You'll be visiting the same apartment over the course of five years, and, while it only has five rooms, you'll see how the family's fear has seeped into their home over time like black mold.
It has major similarities to the likes of Konami's claustrophobic house in P.T and Bloober Team's exploration of a man's paranoid mind in Layers of Fear, but Devotion hits differently.
What really gripped me was the exploration of one person's spiritual and religious faith and seeing how Red Candle has imagined that distressed headspace in the physical space of a small apartment. There are some really artful and simultaneously terrifying sequences, which not only serve to thoroughly spook the player but really evoke how desperate this father is and how he finally submits to his insidious beliefs.
Now is the best time to play Devotion, and you can also buy a bundle that includes Red Candle's previous game Detention if you've not played that one either (another great horror game). I'm glad to see that Red Candle found a way to re-release Devotion as it really is a fantastic experience. It's intimate and engrossing, a horror game that has empathy for its characters instead of treating them like disposable, screaming meat bags.