Great artstyle and a solid plot can’t carry this clunky experience
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developer: Layopi Games
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Release Date: Sep 17, 2019
Devil’s Hunt is a courageous first attempt from an indie developer. It has great ideas and a pretty solid setting (it helps that it is based on a book called “Equilibrium” by Paweł Leśniak) but the execution is weak, downright terrible in some aspects actually. It’s a game I hope gets patched for its many gameplay and UI issues, as there’s potential for a solid single-player hack n’ slash experience here but right now, it’s a bad clunky mess at best.
I did not expect Devil’s Hunt to be this focused on narrative and it’s actually a solid one. You’re Desmond, an underground fighter that also works for his father, owner of a millionaire company; Desmond’s life is filled to the brim with eccentricities, his Miami home with a pool is probably the pinnacle of such: you can even walk around in it and check the view, which is pretty fantastic.
The problem with the game is that cutscenes are ugly to look at, removing a big part of the immersion and the writing is pretty mediocre overall, leading to a lot of cringe-worthy moments and, worse of all, boring and overly long cutscenes ultimately making the story worse than it actually is thanks to a weak gameplay/exposition ratio. The first 2 hours end up being literally 80% walking and/or cutscenes and 20% actual gameplay and combat…. in a hack n’ slash game.
The gameplay of Devil’s Hunt feels like a mix of traditional hack n’ slash games such as Devil May Cry, and the Batman Arkham franchise, allowing you to time blocks when enemies have a flashing button above their heads. The combat is okay and punching enemies feels pretty good, but the animations and combat transitions are really weak; the combat in a game like this needs to flow like butter and respond to inputs in a nearly perfect manner – the Batman Arkham games and Shadow of Mordor/War pulled this off flawlessly.
In this game’s case, however, the gameplay feels extremely stiff, some animations/attacks take too long to play out and their damage output is disappointing at best – I’ve unlocked at the start an ability that shot basically two ranged strikes in quick succession and the enemies don’t flinch, stagger or even bleed, the attack literally gets past them without any feedback to the player that the enemy was hurt by the attack. It’s extremely inconsistent and makes a lot of skills feel like a lottery draw as to whether the attack was properly play-tested or not.
Later in the game you’ll unlock your Demon Form where you look like this badass demon and supposedly can mow down enemies easily which sounds really cool, until you actually use it and you see that, while you do massive damage, it feels like you’re slapping the enemies and barely hurting them despite them going down quickly. It turns this really cool looking form and power into something very underwhelming in the gameplay department.
The game has a soul mechanic that works as both a plot point and the XP system for the abilities: by killing enemies you’ll harvest souls which you can then spend to unlock and upgrade new skills. A simple but effective idea and the skills menu UI is actually pretty fantastic, kudos to the developer team for that.
The level design is painfully linear so don’t worry about getting lost, let alone missing collectibles, as most are in nook and crannies that are usually quite hard to miss.
The game is also hurt by its bosses, which literally consist of spamming attacks, dodging and repeat mostly. It’s basically an enemy with more health and that’s a really poor way to design your bosses, especially with such a cool art design, which I’ll approach later.
AUDIO and GRAPHICS
The art style of the game is actually really neat. The mix of the apocalypse/hell on earth and the tropical setting of Miami is a mix that works surprisingly well and I’d love to see more iterations of this setting on a future, hopefully, better game. The graphics are sadly terrible which really undersells how great the art direction is. The lipsync during cutscenes also hurts the dialogue massively and the UI is absolutely terrible, except for the fantastic skills menu.
As an example, there isn’t even an exit to desktop button in your main menu, you have to press “exit” which will take you to the save file selection and then you have to press Start on the controller (my preferred control method in these type of games) in order to finally be presented with the “Are you sure you want to quit?” screen and return to the desktop.
Finally, the options menu is quite weak, VSync being a very obvious absence, hurt by some screen-tearing during play. The performance is also very inconsistent, with in-game engine cutscenes sometimes dropping to 10-20 FPS during mild events and even mid-combat sections dropping your frames by half with barely any reason. The Unreal Engine was really poorly used here albeit some sections, like Desmond’s house, are really nice to look at and some effects are really pretty, some effects like demon spawns, using abilities or when in Hell are really pretty but in contrast you’ll deal with really bad textures and some effects are also really weak, such as the fire (looks barely better than a PS2 game, honestly).
The audio deserves some praise though, the voice acting is pretty okay overall and the gameplay sounds and overall audio effects are pretty decent, paired with a phenomenal soundtrack: I really enjoyed the rock/metal tunes during combat and some cutscenes – it really helped elevate how badass you actually are (even though the gameplay feedback fails at transmitting that very same feeling).
It’s sad that I can summarize this game to this particular word. Devil’s Hunt can be fixed with a big patch – improving animations and combat feedback, better performance and a less convoluted menu/UI could make this game a solid recommendation, especially at the lower 29,99€ price tag.
However, in its current state, I can barely recommend it unless on a massive sale. The developers seem caring and very attentive to the community so I can see them possibly giving the game the work it requires so it’s still worth your attention for future updates but until then, skip this unless on a big sale.