Dark Devotion PC review: An intense RPG that's not for out-of-shape adventurers

Dark Devotion

It's almost impossible to mention difficult games without them being referred to as a "Dark Souls-like experience," but that could be applied to Dark Devotion. Of all tough rogue-like and role-playing games (RPGs) I've played to date, this is the first time I've thought of FromSoftware's series. Dark Devotion is a solid example of a developer taking an addictive formula, throwing in a gorgeous 2D pixel environment with a story, and maintaining satisfying gameplay to create something special.

Released on PC, Dark Devotion is planned for console and Nintendo Switch. You play as a Templar, tasked with exploring the secrets of a fallen temple, balancing your faith, devotion to God and bravery in journeying through deep darkness to uncover mysteries and have all your questions answered. Starting each round fresh, your character will need to be kitted out with various weapons and items you'll come across before getting absolutely destroyed.

Addictive gameplay and challenging combat

Dark Devotion

The most important part of any rogue-like and RPG is the gameplay, and Dark Devotion mostly nails the combat, both on mouse and keyboard or gamepad. There's a steep learning curve to overcome, which is what one should expect going into any game such as this, but once you master the basics, it's possible to get some great combos going while timing blocks and dodges to negate potential damage. Enemies utilize different attacks and weapons to make you think about how to approach situations.

Dark Devotion looks amazing, sounds great and plays seriously well.

Stamina is present and is depleted every time you roll, dodge or use a weapon. Depending on whether you're rocking spells, a melee or ranged weapon, you'll need to watch for telegraphed enemy attacks and react accordingly. It's easier said than done, but once you've died a few times to that one enemy or boss who seems incredibly overpowered (and likely is), you'll get to a point where it becomes less one-sided and the resulting victory makes it so much sweeter.

And you don't necessarily choose a class before you leave the hub area. Like Dead Cells, what weapons and items you come across will dictate how you take down various foes. It keeps the gameplay feeling fresh, since the player isn't locked into using a specific set of attacks.

Dark Devotion

You'll see this screen many times.

From the get-go, your character is essentially bare-fisted. In fact, you can run out and use nothing but your trusty knuckles. But I died often. In fact, I was tempted to count how many times I would die during the playthrough for this review, but I promptly gave up. It's all part of the learning process. I'd encounter a new area with something I've yet to see and get pummeled, only to return and make further progress.

A dark, haunting indie game that tests your faith with engaging combat.

Instead of simply dying and returning to a checkpoint, you lose everything aside from experience points and return to the hub area called Fithblood Shelter — this is where you start, respawn, take quests, and do other things to get prepped for your adventures. Upon respawning from a lost run, you'll need to grab some things from the blacksmith before heading out, and the selection of equipment improves as you progress further and come across shiny new items.

Having faith is important, and Dark Devotion will attempt to capture it at any given moment, whether you need to use a spell, unlock a secret area or use an altar to regain some much-needed health. You can only hold a certain amount of faith, depending on bonuses or items you may have active at that time, so using it wisely is a challenge since you're uncertain what the next area will contain. Destroying enemies will reward you with both experience points and faith.

Moving around the world is accomplished by using connected doors or altars, though the latter can only have a single altar active at any given time, allowing you to return to a particular area from Filthblood Shelter. This is an ingenious way of handling fast-travel. The only downside is it's not well explained, and you may find yourself progressing far beyond where you should before dying in your first completed quest.

Incredible visuals matched with poor options

Dark Devotion

Where are all my options?

The first thing you notice with Dark devotion is how good it looks. This is one gorgeous 2D pixel game, even from the main menu. It's mesmerizing. I found myself gazing at the screen a few times just to take in some of the exceptionally executed visuals. How this art style was used to create such a doom and gloom environment with a fallen temple is beyond me, as it works flawlessly, giving you a sense of hopelessness in each lit pixel.

You will die a lot in Dark Devotion, but no death feels cheated.

What saddens me about Dark Devotion is the lack of options available. You can't even set volume levels. This is a PC game released in 2019. The options area is incredibly bare with barely anything in there worth changing aside from language and screen resolution. I would like to see the settings section flushed out a little more in a future patch to give players more toggles to play around with. Speaking of volume, the music — while thematic and immersive — can start to feel a little repetitive as you progress further in a playthrough.

The story, map movement, and narrative could have used some additional love through development, as well. I understand and appreciate how everything is dripfed using notes and other pieces acquired from chests, lost souls and other characters, but it just feels lacking when compared to the addictive gameplay. It's a strange one since the lore is present, it's just not immediately obvious as to what's going on without heading out into the unknown a handful of times.

Play Dark Devotion if you love intense action

Even with a few minor gripes, Dark Devotion is one indie gem I would recommend to fans of rogue-likes and Dark Soul imitations. The game quickly grabs you with its addictive gameplay elements and mechanics, tasking you with getting accustomed with the controls from the start, then keeping an eye out for hidden areas on maps to acquire better equipment. You will die a lot in Dark Devotion, but no death feels cheated, even when you roll into a trap you know is already there.

Dark Devotion looks amazing, sounds great and plays seriously well for a game with a fraction of the budget other titles in this genre have available. Adding in unique mechanics to keep the game feeling fresh help prevent the player from getting burned out running through the familiar gameplay loop. It's just a shame more light wasn't shed on the story and narrative to really captivate the player on beyond smashing in skulls.

Dark Devotion is out now on PC, coming soon to console and Nintendo Switch.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.