Through its creaking floorboards and hair-raising corridors, the Devotion demo lures us into the mysterious Hotel Marshall where our protagonist Amanda is searching for her long-lost father. With direction from an ominous note from him, Amanda is lead to their old family hotel against the guidance of her boyfriend Jeff. What she finds inside is an abandoned edifice rife with cryptic symbols from a religious cult.
Considering the game is currently on Steam Greenlight, Deadbyte Studios nails the ambiance of survival horror right off the bat. Each footstep and grating door hinge bring about a sense of unease and potential danger. Scattered throughout the rooms are notes, these tell a story of hopeless individuals who find enlightenment through an enigmatic religious leader, while the staticky monochrome-like visuals highlight the feeling of restlessness. The art direction of the game fits the theme excellently, however, there is a large number of repeated assets in the hotel like chairs, fire extinguishers, and paintings.
Though the voice acting is lacking in enthusiasm, the writing is clean and enticing. Amanda’s character could be fleshed out a little more, as she exhibits no response to the obscure letters or blood on the walls. Perhaps more characterizing thoughts could be narrated, or she could scribble down her thoughts similar to how it’s done in Outlast.
The 30-minute demo showcases the atmosphere and story rather than the actual gameplay. The majority of the demo is spent wandering through different rooms and hallways searching for keys or codes in order to progress through the story. With no sign of anyone around, eerie music plays or sometimes paintings will fall off the wall with messages on the back.
Amanda can interact with different objects, like drawers, to find hidden items, and she can also move obstacles, like boards, to clear a path for herself. Because the game is still in its early stages, some of the hitboxes for interactive objects can be a little off, while clicking to move obstacles button can also be a bit unresponsive. However, these are minor gripes that can easily be ironed out in development.
Towards the end of the demo, you encounter a fearsome demon-like creature with similar monster patterns to those in Amnesia and Outlast. Sticking true to the survival horror roots, there is no real way to defeat it. Amanda must run and hide to avoid the monster at all costs in order to survive. These tasks are accomplished by hiding in various wardrobes or other pieces of furniture to stay out of the monsters sight.
Because the game is still in alpha, it is lacking in a few areas when it comes to gameplay. There is no animation for going into hiding, which can lead to confusing or awkward camera angles, and keeping your flashlight on while hidden doesn’t give the monster any indication to where you are. Regardless, after falling prey to the monster’s grasp once, as well as dashing past it frantically with its faint screech in the background kept me on the edge of my seat until the final cutscene.
The game doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table, but it captures the essence of a horror game superbly.
By the end of the demo, I was impressed at how much was done with the small group of developers and left with a thirst for more. The gameplay could be a little more interactive and the hotel could be more diverse, but overall the demo did an excellent job of putting the game on my radar. With plenty of time to work out its minor kinks and flaws, the future looks promising for this early indie survival horror title.
Note: GameSkinny writer Caio Sampaio is working on the game as a writer.