Video games based on novels have a way of becoming phenomenons or at least offering a heartwrenching narrative that draws players in, especially considering the works of inspiration can give developers a bit more room to focus on the game itself rather than the story within. Excellent examples are CD Projekt Red's widely acclaimed The Witcher series, 4A Games' Metro games, and Daedalic Entertainment's Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth.
Well, now another game drawing inspiration from a novel is here, from Layopi Games, and the source of inspiration, in this case, is Pawel Leśniak's Equilibrium. It's called Devil's Hunt, and it takes the form of a demonic, hellish third-person hack and slash experience.
Devil's Hunt follows Desmond who, unlike Devil May Cry's Dante, is far from a tongue-in-cheek, loveable rogue. Instead, he's a rich, arrogant asshole playing the victim in the afterlife following his own suicide which occurred during a car chase with his best friend who's also the lover of his cheating fiancée (oops). Following his very sudden, on-a-whim death, Desmond wakes up on the beach on which his car ended up after he crashed through the railing onto the riverbank and things quickly take a turn for the diabolical. Turns out Desmond died in the wreck but, good news, he's also been unknowingly resurrected by Lucifer himself. All of a sudden, the ground cracks open - Desmond is going to hell.
As he roams the hellscape, he doesn't seem taken aback by the demon-ridden location. Instead, he casually comments on the fact that he's "not in Kansas anymore" after his fall from the surface down to the fiery depths. Maybe finding his girl in bed with his best friend was hell enough to lessen his shock.
Desmond is also morally challenged. For example, in an instance early on in the game, after entering hell, Desmond punches some crystallised living corpses to death without blinking but when he sees a bigger demon do the same he gets strangely protective of the "err something" (his words, not ours). This moral turmoil is one he stays with throughout the game and it's not just him either. Characters flip-flop between different alliances and moral standings as if the traits of morality and loyalty were a pair of underwear to change out daily.
The synopsis is this: war has broken out between heaven and hell, or more so between angels and demons and it's up to Desmond, who's made a deal with the devil, to set things right. Bestowed with diabolical powers, Desmond is essentially turned into a hellspawn peacekeeper of sorts. He retains some of his humanity (though there wasn't much to begin with) while the newly awoken demon within him grows stronger and as both the earth's saviour and destroyer, it's up to him to decide the fate of his kind as Earth is caught in the midst of the war. Because of his retained humanity, Desmond travels freely from the depths of hell to the surface, giving for a nice change of scenery (even if we prefer the depths visually as hell in Devil's Hunt actually looks pretty good, as do the demons).
The gameplay is very straight-forward. In combat, you have two main offensive moves at your disposal, a light and a heavy attack. As you get further into the game, you'll unlock three different skill trees or "fighting schools" - Executor, Unholy and Void - all of which give you special abilities that you can use to your advantage. If we're honest, however, we found that simply using the main attacks to stun-lock enemies and blocking the occasional blow when possible was the most viable battle option. Speaking of stun-locking, Desmond can easily get blocked into a stun-lock if more than two enemies swarm him at once but it's thankfully just time-consuming to make your way out rather than difficult. The combat feels pretty stale and mindless, as you more often than not just end up pressing a button or two until the enemies are no more since the fancier attacks don't bring much of a reward other than looking nice.
The other mechanic worth talking about is the platforming, which honestly feels pushed into the game for the sake of it. You can pick up various items of interest and interact with the press of a button, which isn't strange, but the same prompt is used for the platforming. This means the platforming simply requires you to walk up to a ledge and press a button to have Desmond climb up, jump down or teleport. It just feels like an odd addition and sometimes the prompt doesn't work, requiring you to restart, and the same goes for picking up items (although this is likely to be patched).
Earlier we mentioned Devil May Cry and there was a reason for that. Devil's Hunt feels like a budget version of an older Capcom classic in more ways than one, and therefore it lacks its own identity. The only things that truly set it apart as something different are the odd platforming sections and its earth-set sequences, where the game at first shows off the protagonists fancy possessions, luxurious abode, his beautiful but unfaithful girlfriend, and unfair, mean old dad as if it was a show about that asshole trope from any 2000s teen movie while letting the player listen to Desmond's lust for vengeance after his deal with the Devil.
That said, there are some redeeming factors to mention. The world design is nice, from Desmond's luxurious mansion to the infernal depths, and the enemy design is good albeit unvaried. The soundtrack is fitting and parts of the narrative are interesting enough to capture your attention (while others are not). The price of the game is also reasonable, so if you're interested, you won't have to spend a king's ransom to try it out. Devil's Hunt is more uninspired than straight-up bad, but regardless it's not a game we'd recommend when going up against the likes of Devil May Cry or even Darksiders.
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