A Valiant Return to Metroidvania
Originally posted on August 10th, 2019
After Koji Igarashi’s departure from Konami in 2014, many wondered if the famed Castlevania mastermind would continue his work in the genre. With Iga free to do his choosing as an independent developer, a Kickstarter for the first post-Konami title was made. With over $5.5 million funded, the wheels to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night started churning. After nearly 4 years of planning, and 3 of those years set developing and building the world, the tale of Miriam and her quest to rid the world of a plague of demons is finally upon us.
Set in 18th Century England, the followers of Alchemy were seeing their relevancy quickly dissipate through the technological advances of the Industrial Revolution. Seeing society move forward with the advances of the future, The Guild of Alchemy found a way to summon demons and show that Alchemy was still a need in the world. In order to bring these demons to their realm, Crystals charged with demonic powers were forcibly infused to humans and then sacrificed to complete the rituals to bring the demons to them. What was meant to show the need for Alchemy because a horrendous massacre that wiped out not only most of the Guild, but most of England as well. Through the chaos, only two humans infused with crystals, known as Shardbinders, lived: a man named Gebel, and a woman cast under a mysterious sleeping state named Miriam. After ten years of slumber, Miriam wakes to Gebel bringing the demons back into England to rid the rest of the Alchemy Guild, and it’s up to Miriam to help the Church in saving England once again.
Bloodstained was an interesting product for myself, given I’ve never played any Castlevania games in my life. So any running comparisons are lost on me. That being said, I can understand why people favor the style of game so much. Right from the get go, I loved the flow of combat, especially the diverse amount of weaponry that really allows you to tinker your favorite style to your liking. With Miriam being a Shardbinder, she is able to pull Shards from the demons she faces, using their powers to help slay her foes. The amount of different types of magic is staggering, bolstering an already impressive amount of depth with even more choices. The castle’s many areas are filled to the brim with detail, with each new section of the castle having its own personality and super fun to navigate. The castle’s lore is scattered throughout bookcases that dive further into the history, as well as having special combos for each weapon type, ranging from throwing daggers, to countering attacks with a katana, and much more.
Though I did have a ton of fun with Bloodstained, it isn’t without some faults. While the game starts out with a hefty tutorial, Bloodstained feels a little too easy when venturing the castle. Throughout the game, I only died once to common enemies. Though this qualm is easily fixed with the harder difficulties available after you complete the game, as well as Bloodstained‘s real test through the bosses littered throughout the castle. There are a decent handful of main bosses that are such a treat to face, with each boss bringing a new style and challenge. The boss fights are easily the most enjoyable facet of the game, with the later bosses and optional bosses easily humbling you, which makes the Boss Rush Mode that much better when you unlock it. One other issue I found is it’s really easy to get stuck wondering where to go next. Bloodstained plays with a breath of non-linearity, where some bosses can be fought out of order, or missed completely if you aren’t careful, or looking to run the True Ending. Acquiring all the steps necessary to receive the True Ending can feel like a ridiculous scavenger hunt that you’ll most likely stumble into, if not eventually reaching for a walk through.
But all of that pales in comparison to the blast of a time I had with Bloodstained. The bevy of content out now will have you pumping hours unlocking everything that is in store; but the amount of free DLC down the pipeline: online co-op, versus mode, speedrun mode, and much more, give Bloodstained a glowing future to look forward to. The astonishing amount of customization within fighting styles, topped with some gratifying bosses, complete the package of this game being just plain fun, and an easy recommendation now, and even more so in the future.
Reviewed on PC/Steam