Devil Daggers, a debut from the demonic developer team Sorath, brings all new meaning to the definition of “hellish”. The player is pitted against a seemingly endless onslaught of hellish legions in a hellish black abyssal arena – and it’s hellishly difficult. Inspired by the 90s aesthetic sported by Quake and Doom, Devil Daggers is guaranteed to make you suffer, but assuredly entertain you in the process.

When booting up Devil Daggers, there is no indication of who, or where the player is. The only choice given is to walk into (and assumedly pick up) a floating, glowing dagger or stop playing – and I probably wouldn’t judge anybody that chose to shut the game off there and then, since the immensely addictive trial of skill, patience and error to follow is a pixelated nightmare.

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The first thing I noticed as particular to Devil Daggers was the nostalgic 90s artstyle. Even the main menu remains true to the days of old, with pixelated headings and very few adjustable options. Once the player walks into the fateful devilish dagger, gifting them the ability to fire an array of projectile blades, they are promptly rushed by hordes of skulls – some plain, others not so plain; adorned with multiple skeletal legs which endlessly writhe and reach for the player, triggering the arachnophobia I never knew I had. And the obscured, incredibly dark visuals of Devil Daggers presents this relatively campy affair as one of the most unsettling I’ve experienced in quite a while.

The creatures the player is forced to face are obscured by ineffable darkness – a particular enemy type dubbed simply as “spiders” (who, in reality, are magnificently huge skulls with spider-legs), appear to manifest themselves from the darkness, their legs sprawling from the abyss. This brilliantly terrifying effect is primarily thanks to the gorgeously dismal lighting, which outlines each and every creature with a thick mask of ambiguity. Being surrounded by darkness, I never felt comfortable knowing that at any moment an ambush of skull-insects could form and promptly end my short run. The constantly re-affirmed sense of claustrophobia wouldn’t have worked in the same way without the 90s aesthetic Sorath decided to sport, leaving many features of the obscured demons to the player’s imagination.

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There isn’t any soundtrack per se, but the droning crescendo of screaming skulls and twitching spider-legs manages to fill the otherwise soundless void; creating a sort of dynamic, environment-based soundtrack for each and every run. I know that this can be said for any game – that the sounds of the environment or enemies could be seen as an avant garde sort of soundtrack – but the sound in Devil Daggers is an appropriate replacement for an orchestral score. I tried not to remain in the failstate for too long, since the continued sludgy ambience of hellish skull-creatures is genuinely too chilling for me to stand for long periods of time. I don’t think I’ve heard anything that embodies the chilling, abysmal chaos that Devil Daggers represents than the endless yelling of the creatures that lie therein.

I should probably talk about the foundational feature of all games – the gameplay. Devil Daggers plays just like Quake – it’s smooth, fast, simplistic and very, very difficult. With an option of two attacks and the abilities to move and jump, you’d have trouble getting muddled up with the controls. Although Devil Daggers is punishing, I never felt as though it was unfair. The player is given very good maneuverability, and the enemies aren’t given an immensely disproportionate amount of health compared to that of the player – and although the player can only take one hit before reaching the failstate, enemies go down after no more than a few hits (saving for the later tankier enemies), diverting the gameplay focus from perseverance to skill, and quickness of wit.

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However, Devil Daggers feels a little repetitive and, as a result, not very diverse. Although nobody, including myself, has even come close the conclusive encounter of Devil Daggers, I feel it’s a bit unfortunate that there isn’t any more content. Fortunately, I’m not the only one looking forward to a fully-fledged shooter title to grow from the soil of Devil Daggers, so (fingers crossed) I’m hoping that Sorath succumb to demand and start working on another title soon.

This game is beyond the level of recommendation – I think anybody reading this review would be mad not to give the game a chance, at the risk of their sanity or, at least, their patience.

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Peter quite likes playing games, and quite likes writing. On IndieHaven, he has found a way to do both at the same time.

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  • I’m really impressed that this game looks really good. It has a visual that gels and isn’t way deep in over its head. Games just don’t look good anymore, they look like cheap trash, almost all of them, especially the mass-market ones.

    The PlayStation and even the PS2 generation had much stronger visuals. Whether claiming to be backward looking or not, if you tread carefully that path you’re likely to end up with a more cohesive visual. Also companies back then seemed to have a greater sense of responsibility to produce a polished diamond. Maybe only Japanese companies, and probably only because only the polished diamonds are known outside of Japan.

    I won’t go in for the staircase edges though. Like obviously on that dagger, as it tapers. They’re probably even exaggerated in this case. Last year I invented a technology/technique that makes the edges all but completely disappear, or appear perfectly straight, like on television. I think it’s a video revolution, but people are never interested in anything I do! It’s a simple concept. You can see how it works kind of in That Dragon, Cancer, which is a pretty good looking game also, at least until it lets in the vertex-based tessellated shadows here and there. Sometimes in that game the lines seem to wobble, giving them a soft edge. It’s because they are being moved, and your eye superimposes every line, creating a soft pure-3D effect, that costs nothing to compute. It’s probably ideal for VR headsets. That’s the only place I’ve seen anything like it since–TDC. I was white as a ghost for 6mos after discovering this. It’s a technique that would’ve totally changed the tone of video games if it’d been discovered in the 90s. As soon as I realized it would work in theory to solve hard anti-aliasing problems without any AA techniques (which was my goal at the time in general) I simply refined the technique, until it got really good… so no dreamy wobble like in TDC, just perfectly straight lines on integrated graphics chips, that make SD look like HD and HD look like 4K, if not better. People should know about this, but I don’t know how to communicate. You can scream at people, they don’t really care about anything, not really. It’s really a shame too, because this technique can probably be done much better on the hardware, the GPU manufacturers need to be researching this.