Not as clever as the Devil
Let’s say your existence is only made up of fulfilling tasks for everyone else. There’s a part of you that might enjoy the structured linearity but there’s a side of you that desires the freedom to explore and be yourself. This is Devilian. A game that puts you in a role of a half-human and half-devil. An interesting dichotomy. G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown said it best: “I am a man and therefore have all devils in my heart.” To be human - selfish, greedy and hateful, with inconsistent demonstrations of benevolence - and to be devil; the absolute embodiment of evil. It’s an interesting premise and one that isn’t explored at all.
Trion Worlds can’t even tease us with this premise on its Steam page. Instead, we’re pushed to what you can do in the game and unfortunately, what’s there isn’t much to boast about, either.
You choose one of four character classes: Evoker, Berserker, Shadowdancer, and Cannoneer. You dress them up in a few limited ways and you start your adventure. You’re awakened by some important girl who needs the help of Devilians - the last guardians of Aelkenia - to stop a god from destroying the world. Once you’re awakened, you go from person to person completing mission objectives in the most mundane way. The cycle looks like this: talk to a person; start the mission which can be kill these baddies, observe those dead bodies, destroy those rocks, or seal this altar; run back to the person, collect your reward, and restart the loop as a side-quest or mission. It’s a great game if you play it as if you’re reading a book before bed. Games like Borderlands and Guild Wars 2 have similar loops but successfully drench them in other inspired quirks. Devilian’s lack of masking presents a dull mission structure that can only be tolerated by MMO diehards.
There is a unique mechanic that makes matters worse: auto-running. With the press of a button, you’re running along a pathway to and from mission centers and objectives. It’s brilliant but detrimental. On one hand, I can prevent carpal tunnel or fiddle with my inventory. On the other hand, it’s a moment I mentally disconnect from the game.
Combat suffers from a similar problem but, thankfully, you have some control over how interesting combat becomes. Essentially, every character has four attacks and three different skill trees to choose from and like Borderlands, you can place your skill points wherever you like. Unlike Borderlands, each skill tree gives you six additional moves. However, you only need about five moves to be successful in Devilian.
Enemies are rarely a threat. A group of 10 or more constitutes the need to reach for health potions. Otherwise, when you’re idle, you restore health. And it’s a weird inclusion as the game gives potions extremely frequently.
You also have a powerful devil form. After killing a certain number of enemies, a meter fills up. Once that meter reaches halfway you can turn into your devil form and wreak havoc. This form has its own set of moves and is leveled independently from your human form. Mechanically it’s still button mashing and doesn’t seem necessary, but it’s an interesting system. It would be nice to remain in devil form longer but the trade-off is it also makes everything that much easier.
The most challenging aspect of the game is balancing the “power meter.” I spent most of my time as the Berserker and his “Rage” meter fills up with his standard attack (the Evoker’s meter drains as she uses “power meter” moves). When I have enough Rage I can use attacks that consume Rage. But when I’m not in battle, the rage meter depletes fairly quickly forcing me to use my basic attack to fill my meter. I was caught so many times with an empty meter for my favourite combo, but again, enemies don’t pose too much of a threat.
For the sake of personal amusement or exploration, you can re-spec your skills as often as you like and play with skills from other trees but generally, once you find a combination of moves you like, there’s little need to switch.
There is comfort knowing how you want to proceed in battle because when you reach the dungeons, it’s not a good time to think a lot. Devilian’s dungeons are the excitement in the mundane. The early dungeons are straightforward but later ones become complex and force you to think how you’re going to combine your moves. It’s also nice that you can match up with others online that are around your level because dungeons are not easy to beat by yourself.
Bosses are exceptionally challenging, as well; mostly because they’re sponges but it’s a spectacle to watch all the attacks go off. And while my computer can handle the graphics, there were rare moments the framerate would hitch. Otherwise, the game performed wonderfully on my i5, 8G RAM, 660 Ti with all settings maxed out. Not that it’s a visually stunning masterpiece, anyway.
The problem with dungeons is that they’re too spread out. In the close to 20 hours I played, I guesstimate a dungeon every two hours. At one point, there were no dungeons for six hours. Once you hit around level 25, dungeons become frequent. You can also participate in the Abyssal Tower, which is where you can climb 10 floors by beating a number of enemies on each floor, the last floor being a dungeon-like boss you fight alone. It’s a great place to level up and the best parts of Devilian in one place.
Another great aspect of Devilian is Talismans. These are basically trading cards that boost your character’s stats. Any Talisman you don’t want, you can combine with a Talisman you do want and level it up. It’s a great tool and became one of my favourite aspects of the game. It allows you to create a unique character. Want a Devilian that specializes in health, defence, or strength? Fortify them with Talismans.
Engaging in the PvE includes other online Devilians. It’s no different than seeing other players running around in Guild Wars 2 but when you’re not engaging tough bosses together, it can get annoying. Let’s say you have to kill a mini-boss. If player A gets the attention of the mini-boss first, it doesn’t matter if you kill it, Player A gets the credit. It’s distinctly not like Guild Wars 2.
Which leads me to the most irritating aspect of Devilian. The character I chose; The Berserker. This game isn’t anti-Berserker or melee but it is evidently pro Cannoneer and Evoker. Let’s start with PvP. There’s 3 vs. 3 and 20 vs. 20. Both are fun but if you’re not using a ranged character, or a character that has good range - a la the Beserker - you’re screwed. The Cannonner, for example, has close range area-of-effect damage and long range. You can’t get in close and you’re supposed to get in close.
It’s no different with bosses or the rest of PvE. Long-range characters have a huge advantage. I figured out how to compensate for my characters huge weakness (focus on physical and magic defence), but there’s hardly any hope in PvP. Even if you needed to play aggressively, you can’t. Hop into a match and you’ll find more than half of either team is a Cannoneer or Evoker. That’s a problem the developer has to rectify quickly.
Now, I’ve gone through this entire review and haven’t mentioned the free-to-play. That’s how much it doesn’t matter. All of the items have to do with PvE except one which hardly affects PvP. Everything else is experience boosts, cosmetics, or currency boosts. At no point was I tempted to buy anything in the store nor was I prompted or encouraged to. In fact, if you turned on the game and let me play from the title screen, I would never know. Leveling feels completely normal.
That’s where I can appreciate Devilian. It’s a full game in a free-to-play package without any pressure or need to engage the marketplace. It’s a big game, too, but it’s woefully repetitive. Each mission increases your desire for the much more exciting dungeons. And you can forget the story. That’s a horribly translated mess. If you’re okay with auto-running through mission after mission, Devilian will pleasantly fill your time. Otherwise, Devilian doesn’t offer anything fresh enough to warrant stepping away from your favorite ARPG or MMO.
Devilian does not do anything to separate itself from other ARPG’s and MMO’s but it is competent in both. If you’re okay with going from mission to mission and completing uninspired mission types that are all similar to each other, Devilian will happily take 50+ hours of your time. The best part is that you won’t have to spend money or feel pressured to open your wallet in this huge free-to-play game. Otherwise, Devilian is too repetitive to engage for long periods of time and the online components do not justify taking extra time to build guilds or participate in them. It would be best to continue playing your favourite ARPG or MMO instead of giving time to this hybrid.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Learning how to use the Berserker.
Good vs Bad
- Great dungeons.
- Talismans are fun to tinker with.
- Fighting bosses with online players is enjoyable.
- Missions are way too repetitive and uninspiring.
- Combat doesn’t utilize full breadth of abilities.
- Potentially interesting story themes left on the table.