The Godfather of the MetroidVania genre returns, as Koji Igarashi, DICO, Art Play, and WayForward Technologies come together to deliver a spiritual successor four years in the making: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. A hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, followed by some turbulent years of missed deadlines and miscommunication put the future of the game in question. Does the long-awaited Bloodstained deliver on the hype and expectations?

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night Review

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night Review

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night follows the journey of protagonist Miriam, one of two survivors of the Alchemist Guild’s infamous plot to return to power. Experimenting on humans, merging demonic power with the human form, the Alchemist Guild turn on mankind’s newly found faith in industry and growth, and in an attempt to return mankind to faith and belief, bought around a cataclysm that nearly ended the entire world. All in a days work.

Ten years pass as Miriam awakes from a mysterious coma to learn of demonic castle that has appeared, alongside droves of demon warriors. At the heart of the castle is a childhood friend, Gebel, possessed and influenced by evil forces. Once again, the end of the world is nigh. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s story delivers a predictable but worthwhile narrative that follows Miriam’s battle against the demonic forces that lie within. A plot of urgency, intrigue and betrayal comes together to offer brief insights into the characters and world of Bloodstained, without distracting from the core purpose of the MetroidVania genre.

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night Review

At its core, Bloodstained is a 2D action side-scroller with a heavy focus on combat and exploration, both staple features of the genre and both delivered in near perfect execution. Miriam moves through the castle, exploring room-by-room, solving puzzles, defeating demons and learning new powers. From the very first room to the very last, toward the end of my 23 hour experience, each moment was as thrilling as the last.

Combat is robust, rewarding, and varied throughout the entire game. There’s a huge selection of different weapons to unlock, each with their own unique combat style and combination attacks. At one point I was swinging around a greatsword of fire, the next unleashing my inner Bruce Lee with kicks and blows. The massive variety of traditional weaponry is only the tip of the iceberg with nearly 100 unique Shard abilities on offer, providing an impressive level of depth to Bloodstained’s combat.

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night Review

Shards represent the inner powers of the demons Miriam encounters. Nearly all of the demons you battle have a special ability that can be absorbed upon their defeat. The Shards are arguably one of the games most intriguing and rewarding aspects, offering regular intervals of progression alongside the excitement of discovering that new ability with the all-so-low drop rate. Shards range dramatically in power and usage, from summoning a giant dragon to increasing rare item drop rates. Hunting these special abilities is a bigger driving force than even the main objectives, offering a thrilling combination of exploration and progression, all while you’re beating down demon after demon.

When you’re not slaughtering room after room of demons and absorbing their souls, you’re at your base of operations collecting quests from survivors and crafting new items to aid you on your journey. The quests are somewhat shallow, offering repetitive objects spread across three main quest types. Kill something, find something, make something. The simplistic nature of the quests means they rarely become the focal point of your next venture, but the rewards are satisfying enough to make them worthwhile.

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night Review

Crafting is a mixed bag of tricks. While upgrading your weapons and Shards is a fantastic way of garnering more power and a rewarding system of progression, the latter game upgrades require a lot of frustrating trial and error as you attempt to locate a single special item from a particular demon with a drop rate of 1%, with little more than your wits to figure out which demon you need.

If I had to summarize Bloodstained’s shortfalls in a single word, it would be frustrating. While I understand the MetroidVania approach, some of the required objectives to progress in the game are so anal-retentive, it leads to countless hours of treading over beaten ground until you miraculously discover a single chest that contains the single item you need to move on. Surprisingly, that’s probably the easiest barrier I encountered. To get through to the end boss, well, it was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night Review

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a thrilling and rewarding adventure into the MetroidVania genre. It is a fantastic entry level title for those yet to familiarize themselves with the genre, and a brilliant entry of quality and character for veterans.

This Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review was done on the PlayStation 4 Pro. A digital copy was provided.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review

The Godfather of the MetroidVania genre returns, as Koji Igarashi, DICO, Art Play, and WayForward Technologies come together to deliver a spiritual successor four years in the making: Bloodstained

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