Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the long awaited metroidvania title from former Castlevainia developer Koji Igarashi. Taking the helm on production along with the rest of the team from developer ArtPlay, Bloodstained promises a return to form for the vetern producer. Set in a dark gothic, medieval setting, this side scrolling platform offers more than simple jump attack repeat mechanics. However with the hype train being what it is does Bloodstained really offer players something new to one of the oldest genres in gaming? Grab that coffee kick back and enjoy our review of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
Saturated in nostalgia, Ritual of the Night harkens back to the old days of dark sewers, blood stained stone walls and castle exploration. The setting and tone feel right at home with the many Castlevainia games of the 90’s. Yet despite its similarities in style and form, Bloodstained still manages to set itself apart visually with some stunning set pieces, unique and challenging enemies and some great character designs. It’s a world that is both intriguing and mysterious and one that is easy to lose many hours exploring the many areas the game has to offer.
Unlike some titles in the metroidvania genre, no part of Bloodstained seems cut and paste. Instead each area and even section seemingly tells another part of the games narrative, with bloodstained corridors or crumbling pillars hinting at some event that has taken place in the past.
Speaking of narrative, Ritual’s story is presented through a series of voice over dialog narrated over text and some excellent character art. Its a great nod to games of the 80’s and 90’s that would rely on these more detailed art pieces to help compensate for the graphical limitations of the day. In a hope to avoid spoilers I’ll refrain from explaining the story but will say that it offers some solid reflections on human nature, redemption and self discovery. All of which takes place against a backdrop of monsters, demons and an incredible gothic setting. What more could you really want.
Movement and combat feel fluid with each combat encounter forcing the player to strategically engage with enemies. The controls are tight and responsive with both keyboard and controller which is mandatory for some of the enemy encounters you’ll face along the way. Indeed, combat encounters as a whole will require players to be smart and engaged. Having used both keyboard and controller during my playthrough I feel it's safe to say that the controller is definitely the best way to enjoy your playthrough.
This is not a simple hack and slash title but instead offers a smart and engaging combat experience. Bloodstained works hard to find a balance of accessibility for new players while still leaning into the challenge level that older games in this genre were known for. It’s a tightrope balance to maintain but Ritual walks the line without breaking a sweat.
One element of Bloodstained that I was pleasantly surprised to discover is the deep character development and progression systems at play. Gone is the base level bag and item system that is inherent with many of the newer metroidvania titles and in its place are some deep, rich inventory, crafting and abilities mechanics. Players will collect several pieces of gear as they progress through the title, many of which drop at random from enemy encounters. Each gear slot into a head, chest, boots or accessory slots and offers a host of bonuses to the player.
More impressive was the host of weapon types available allowing me to choose ranged or melee combat. Board swords, Blunderbuss, daggers ,whips and many more weapons are available for the player to try and experiment with. Of the several I’ve tried, each offers feels unique and offers a new way to engage with enemies.
Also included in your monster hunting arsonal is a host of abilities that are collected from defeating enemies. Each ability fits in a predetermined category allowing the player to have a few on que for combat at any given time. Upgrading abilities is handled through collecting items in the world and the whole system is easy to learn and fun to use.
Crafting is handled at your base of operations and is a pretty straight forward but extremely useful process. Collecting items in the world are submitted to an alchemist who in turn transmutes them into usable items such as health and buff potions. It's just another system that feels refined and at home in Bloodstained.
The whole experience of BloodStained: Ritual of the Night feels polished. None of the mechanics or game elements presented are, in and of themselves, revolutionary but when brought together in this metroidvania title, offer up a compelling, engaging experience for fans of the genre. If you are a fan of the genre or wanting to dip your toes in, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an excellent addition to the genre.
- Beautiful world design
- Smooth, strategic combat
- Excellent storytelling
- Way more RPG depth then expected
- Can we get a sequel soon?