While others may have been excited over the release of Jump Force this month, my most anticipated game in February was actually Devotion by Taiwanese developers, Red Candle Games. They are the same developers that made Detention, their previous side-scrolling horror game, and I've loved them ever since. Main reason being how they incorporated real Asian lore and themes to create something horrifying yet human in a way.
Devotion is no exception to this. While Detention touched on martial law in Taiwan and the horror that led, Devotion explored religious culture and the limits people would go to get what they want, even at the risk of involving spirits and mediums.
With such high expectations (mainly from me), there was a concern on whether Devotion could live up to the hype that Detention left behind. It’s not fair to compare Devotion to Detention though, so this review will keep that comparison minimum to none.
Amped up visuals and lore elements
From the very moment the full trailer was released, Devotion's visuals and details are mind-blowing, especially considering that this was made by an indie developer. Every detail is placed carefully to recreate an 80's style Taiwanese home as well as truly build up the horror in the game, mixed in even with Taiwanese 80's entertainment and advertising. But the real horror lies in other details that are linked more towards Eastern Asian horror; the really bad feng shui, the colour red, the use of dolls, the talismans written in Chinese, the dark lore related to deity Cigu Guanyin, and even the date of the game's release! I could go on and on.
If you're familiar with this lore, then the horror level is amped up for you as you take it all in while unraveling the tragedy of what happened. But for those unfamiliar, it may not be as scary as it could be. That doesn't mean that the game fails in captivating players though, as even if you're unfamiliar with the lore, there's still enough unsettling matters to keep you on your toes to find out what happened.
It's due to this that the game is more like a walking simulator, in which you're mostly walking around, experiencing the horror while solving relatively easy puzzles. Don't expect a major challenge, Devotion is meant to be played as an experience, like walking through a horror house. That doesn't make this game less scary, as there are moments where you will be chased or spooked by some of the things you need to do to progress
The real horror
As mentioned earlier, the attraction of Red Candle Games is how they incorporate real Asian lore into something that becomes human and relatable, especially for Asians. Many of us would have had some experience with spirit mentors or bomohs or even those who speak on behalf of Gods, even if without personal experience you would know someone who does.
The game does a great job in making you question what it really means to be devoted, as the main character you play faces what he has done and what he has sacrificed through what many of us consider as a viable option to solve problems. The only downside is that, despite how beautiful and emotional the ending was, it doesn't have the feeling of being complete as you'd hope. Although on the upside of that, it does make you want to play the game again to pick up on clues you may have missed to piece the ending together yourself, or maybe find friends you can discuss the game with. Always a great way to learn more East Asian lore if you ask me!
Overall, Red Candle Games continues to be one of my favourite Asian game developers. Their introduction of East Asian culture and lore in a medium that anyone can follow is still one of the best there is out there. Based on the quality of Devotion alone, I believe it's safe to say that Red Candle will continue to deliver in great story-based games