Devotion – Review
Devotion is a horror adventure set in Taiwan that deals with the horrors lurking behind family life. Should you be scared? Here’s what we think.
Devotion understands horror in a way that no other game does. There’s no haunted houses here, no zombie outbreaks, or mutant invasions. There’s no cursed objects and no serial killers. There are also no safe havens to escape to. Devotion is a game that understands horror in its most natural state: the fears and anxieties of everyday family life.
In 1980s Taiwan, scriptwriter Du Feng Yu is pulled into a nostalgia-fuelled nightmare surrounding his family. To uncover the truth, you must explore remembered instances of his flat (and solve some environmental puzzles while you’re at it).
There’s a bit of Konami’s P.T. in here, given how much you’ll be retreading the same flat.The repetition breeds a sense of familiarity, and before long, the flat becomes your home, just as it is Feng Yu’s. As you come to know which room is which, a sense of comfort congeals into form.
As a counterweight to the comfort, you are treated to a claustrophobic use of lighting and sound. Typhoon winds and rainstorms batter the windows, punctuating a distressing quiet. Pleasant music warps and contorts into a demonic dirge.
This feeling of being at home while simultaneously trapped in a nightmare is absolutely crucial to what Devotion is trying to achieve. It’s a blend of horror that’s decidedly domestic and unquestionably psychological (the latter being a label often misused by horror media marketing).
By turning Feng Yu’s flat into a familiar setting, the game is free to explore Feng Yu’s mind and memories, delving into the darkness that lurks beneath ‘normal’ family life. In exploring Feng Yu’s family, you learn about their relationship with each other, their obligations and expectations, the anxieties they each have, and the rising strain that threatens to break them both internally and externally.
Devotion is a horror game, so there’s more than a few scares waiting for you. Some are subtle and creepy, others sudden and violent. The game’s sharp direction, however, keeps the scares from feeling cheap. It’s the same direction that makes sure that no scene or moment in the game is wasted. Devotion may be short, but that’s because it affords no time for filler content or padding.
It’s not a survival horror game from a gameplay perspective, but neither is it so from a story perspective. More so than trying to survive a monster or quell some great evil, I found myself trying figure out exactly what had happened in Feng Yu’s past. The scares I encountered along the way seemed like a natural part of that journey.
Peeling back the layers of its mystery, I found a game that is deeply thoughtful and very, very sad. It’s a game that pulls its sense of fear out of everyday emotions, out of love, ambition, and of course, devotion.
In doing so, it emerges as a horror game that reaches far beyond trying to startle or unnerve you. It becomes a deftly told story about the nature of fear itself.
Developer: Red Candle Games
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Publisher: Red Candle Games
Release Date: 19 February 2019
This review of Devotion is based on a copy provided by the developer.
For more information on Devotion, have a look at our coverage of the game.