Developer Red Candle Games presents Devotion for review. Devotion presents as a first-person exploration into the tragic circumstances of a family.
Devotion is an exploration into a three-person family consisting of young daughter Mei Shin, wife Gong Li Fang, and player-controlled husband Du Feng Yu. The game asks players to explore the tragedy surrounding Du Feng Yu by exploring his family’s apartment as dioramas frozen in different periods of time. Players may see the family moving into the apartment, dealing with the sickness of their child, or planning a family vacation in non-sequential scenes littered with unsettling and foreboding situations. Gameplay is mostly linear and constricted, able to be completed within 3-4 hours on a regular playthrough.
The current legacy of Devotion is perhaps the most famous aspect of this game. Released in Feb. 2019, Devotion was removed from the Steam store by developers following the discovery of a political joke referencing Chinese leader Xi Jinping to being classic children’s character Winnie the Pooh. Following the discovery, the Taiwanese developer faced mounting pressure from its publisher and Chinese regulation, quickly deciding to pull the game from the storefront. It has since been unavailable for purchase, with a Jul. 15 tweet from the developer stating that there is no plan to re-release Devotion in the near term.
“As such, we want to apologize to the players for the wait,” the letter read. “We are truly sorry, but please understand our decision.”
Moving back to the gameplay, Devotion opens with the player sitting on the couch watching television. As your wife mentions your daughter’s name, your vision swims and you begin by exploring the apartment for clues about the fate of your family.
Devotion is primarily a horror game, coming off Red Candle’s previously acclaimed Detention, released in 2017. Similar to that title, Devotion also carries another message within its horror trappings. While Detention focused on a story of interpersonal pain set in a political context, Devotion has an interpersonal story explored in a religious context. Without moving into serious spoilers, Devotion explores the value systems of people who are desperate for answers to difficult questions. That exploration is unraveled and delivered in a satisfying way that allows players to contemplate the ending as the credits roll.
Overall the presentation of Devotion is fantastic, with an early jump scare utilized to some skillful degree (for once) to quickly increase tension and keep it there for the rest of the game. The game is dark, most times illuminated only by a dim lighter, coupled with deep and unsettling noises marking your explorations into the different eras of your family’s home. There are some special sequences along the way which were excellent, unexpected, and unfortunately best left to the player to discover on their own.
Barring one chase sequence that had a fail state, Devotion lets players explore and immerse themselves in Du Feng Yu’s perspective on his family at their own pace. However, the atmosphere of most areas will likely gently push players to play faster than they’d like in order to escape the discomfort the game skillfully generates.
Fans of horror will likely draw connections to contemporary horror oddity PT and it’s hard to ignore some of the comparisons. In both you explore identical geographical locations as they change across the game, backed by creepy and unsettling images that give meaning to the story. However I’d say that Devotion tells a short but complete story with space for contemplation and definitely breaks out of any simple comparison to PT.
Hopefully Devotion will become available again soon for players so they can experience the second solid outing of this developer. Devotion is a must-play for any fan of horror and for any fan of a game with an interesting story both in it and behind it.
Devotion: Doctor's Assessment
Devotion is a short but excellent look into the story of a family beset with tragedy. It has incredible atmosphere, sound design, and a simple but well-executed story that stays just as long as it needs.
- Excellent short stay into horror that tells a good story with appropriate atmosphere.
- Spaces feel very real and lived in. The apartment becomes as familiar as your own over the course of the game.
- Chase sequence was one-off and slightly confusing to begin properly, causing some of the game's only fail states.
- Unable to be purchased currently.