Nothing could've prepared me and my two friends for our first fatal encounter with Anna, the mangled, groaning, possessed cult leader trying to drag you down to hell in Devour.
The new 2-4 player co-op horror game has shades of Phasmophobia, but Devour is a decidedly more chaotic experience. Right from the get-go, there's a lot going on and little in the way of instruction. Bundles of hay are scattered everywhere, goats with glowing red eyes are locked inside a cage, and cryptic notes are strewn about alluding to a sacrificial ritual involving said goats. I'll hand out a pro-tip right here and strongly encourage you to read those notes carefully.
My first good scare happened as I looked around a dimly lit, run-down old house for goats to sacrifice. Turning a corner, I could see something not awesome looming at the end of a hallway. As I got closer, Anna's ghost-white face, decaying skin, and her blood-soaked dress came into view. Naturally, my instinct was to run the other way, but she was standing in the way of where I wanted to go, so I just turned off my brain and ran full-speed toward her as my friends watched in horror.
The screen went dark, and for a second I thought my stupidity had finally gotten me killed, but I soon breathed a sigh of relief as I realized I'd survived, despite my ill-advised lapse in judgment. But as we'd soon learn, Anna isn't nearly so forgiving later in the game.
After we'd managed to sacrifice a handful of undeserving goats, Anna decided she'd had enough of our bullshit. As my three-person team gathered to talk about our plan of action using proximity chat, Anna came stomping out of the house and grabbed my best friend by the neck, dragging him off in the same unceremonious manner in which we'd been bringing those poor goats to their firey deaths.
Thankfully, my dear friend was still alive, albeit broken in body and spirit. He was asking for us to bring him a medkit, and I deserve a best friend trophy for working up the courage to find one, sneak past Anna on my way up to the attic, and revive him when I could've just left him for demon food. Unfortunately, by the time I healed my one friend, the other friend had been Anna'd and was crawling around in the basement surrounded by demons.
Everyone was yelling. Goats were running riot. Anna was also very unhappy. Things were generally pretty unpleasant, and we still had, like, six goats to sacrifice before we won the game.
Teamwork makes the nightmare work
Anna isn't the only threat you'll deal with in Devour; there are also your classic demons-with-horns crawling around trying to stop you from killing goats. The first few times one popped up in front of me were pretty startling, but the demons ended up being more irritating than scary, as they're slow and can be killed by shining a UV flashlight at them for a few seconds. Still, with Anna in a constant state of hysteria toward the backend of each session, the demons only add to the sheer intensity of playing Devour with friends.
Every time you turn in a goat in Devour, Anna gets more aggressive, the storm shaking Anna's house grows more violent, and demons appear more frequently. At 7/10 goats sacrificed, I could hardly hear my comrades over the pounding rain and Anna's frenzied crying. Because of the weather, the bonfire where you sacrifice the goats was never blazing for long, which meant anyone with a goat would need someone nearby to pour gasoline in the pot and light the fire. But when there's pretty much always at least one player in need of a medkit and another being chased by Anna, it's tough goings for a three-player team.
Much of our struggles, I think, could've been remedied by proper planning and coordination. To our credit, it was our first playthrough together, and as I touched on earlier, Devour's "tutorial" is literally just a bunch of cryptic notes scattered around the map. Even so, we could've been much more prepared. You can make a mental chart of the locations of medkits in the house so you're not scrambling when a teammate is down, leaving hay and gas tanks near the bonfire is a great way to catch and kill goats quickly, and unlocking all the doors in the house early on gives you more escape routes. Had we known all of this, our ending might've looked a lot different.
As I laid our eighth goat into the unlit bonfire, things were looking good. Everyone in my crew was alive and able-bodied, a buddy was on the way with gasoline, and another was in hot pursuit of our ninth goat. But then I heard a familiar sound. A shriek. "I'm down," friend #1 said. It was the friend with the gasoline. "Stay here, little goat," I silently prayed to my ticket out of that hellscape as I started toward the house to look for another gas can. "Don't go in the house!" my downed friend warned me. Through the windows of the house, I could see Anna charging around the first floor with outstretched arms.
Within minutes, friend #2 was down. "Joe (referring to me) is so fucking dead," I heard friend #2 say over Anna's increasingly loud voice. She was on my tail. A sound like clattering teeth was also growing closer to my ears. I ran toward the sacrificial site with the desperate hope that there'd be a gas can waiting for me and I could quickly sacrifice another goat and maybe evade Anna's stalking for enough time to get the other two. But deep down I had already resigned to my fate. I turned around just fast enough to see Anna's horrifying face envelop my field of view.
My crew was silent as we watched the grim cutscene we had just earned ourselves, and we stayed quiet for a few seconds after we'd returned to the lobby. Devour is a highly stressful, fast-paced, downright scary experience, and I think we all needed a second to breathe. We called it a night after that, agreeing to try again another time, now that we'd learned the ropes. Though, even as I write this, I dread my next meeting with the ever-terrifying Anna and shutter to think of the horrors I'll face in Devour's upcoming private mental asylum map.
Devour is available now on Steam.