Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a 2D Metroidvania title. Produced by Koji Igarashi, this is his first Metroidvania title since 2008. Originally the Producer of the popular Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for PlayStation, Koji Igarashi went on to develop Metroidvania titles until his departure from Konami in the 2010s. In 2019, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night became Igarahi’s first Metroidvania title in 11 years, not including the spin-off title, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.
A gothic adventure, set inside a castle summoned from hell, Bloodstained features side-scrolling hack-and-slash action. Fans of Castlevania will feel right at home with its gameplay and mood setting, while first-time fans will adore the bosses, the music, and the variety of combat options at their disposal.
You play as Miriam, a young woman who wakes up after a 10-year coma. At the same time as her awakening, a castle appeared near her straight from the gates of hell. The tale involves alchemy, summoning demons, and an incident that spawned demons, which took many lives once alchemists abandoned their faith. You’ll meet several people involved with the spoken genocide, as well those who oppose alchemists (Shardbinders), and those who seek to take a magical tome in order to summon the power of a demon. Miriam’s journey starts when she enters the castle to rescue Gebel, her longtime friend, back at any cost.
Previous IGAvania titles – Metroidvania games developed by Igarashi – titles utilized spritework with the occasional 3D modeling for enemies or environments. Bloodstained is the first of Igarashi’s titles to use full 3D modeling in a 2D plane. You’ll notice a glossy touch throughout the game among characters and environments alike. Also, note the evolution of Bloodstained from its original beta release to the final version and how much the lighting improved.
While the animations and some of the detail could still use a little more flourish, the lighting helped push the game in the right direction. As an indie title not using 2D sprites and going for a full 3D effect, however, the developers succeeded. Enemy and boss designs all look unique, some with near-realistic detail.
The music, composed by longtime Castlevania veteran composer Michiru Yamane, features a myriad of all her styles used in past games. You’ll hear rock and metal, classical, and many other styles through the castle and its various boss battles.
While the sound effects and music add a pleasant tone, the voice, specifically for attack cues, could use some work. The voice acting and direction is fine, which includes talents like Erica Lindbeck, David Hayter, and Robert Belgrade. The issue, however, is that you’ll hear Miriam’s same attack cues repeatedly. While this is generally a common trait in IGAvania titles, there’s almost no silent pause or variance to her quotes. So if you’re using the same move repeatedly, it might get a little grating at times. On the flipside, the fully-voiced dialogue marks a first for an IGAvania title, and one it does fairly well.
In Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, you’ll move on a side-scrolling plane while exploring a large castle. You’ll use a variety of weapons, including Swords, Greatswords, Guns, Whips, and more. As you kill monsters, you can collect their Shard. This Shard equips you with anything from stat boosts to summons to projectile attacks. Utilizing the ability to mix-and-match, create the attack combination that suits you best.
You can also equip various types of armor to boost your stats where needed. Akin to a JRPG, you’ll find equips for several parts of the body, some of which may affect movement or attack speed. Meanwhile, the Shards system is reminiscent to the Souls from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow, and the Glyphs from Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.
When exploring, you’ll come across monsters of many sizes and styles. Many of them will chase you around or summon magic to attack. If you’re itching for a challenge, you can also change the difficulty at the start of the game. Otherwise, you may find yourself barreling through monsters from start to finish. Normal mode is about as difficult as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. A basic understanding of enemy patterns and strong weaponry can end most of them within a minute.
Utilizing Shards will be key to your progress. Killing a vampire allows you to absorb blood, while the ability to reflect through light will help you shoot through tight places. These crucial Metroidvania elements allow the player to check their map and explore as they wish, solving puzzles to enter the next area.
One gripe I have, however, involves progression underwater. In other IGAvanias, you would find the ability to dive underwater after a boss or in a required room. In Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, however, you must farm a Deeseama enemy until you gain the Aqua Stream ability in order to move underwater. While the merchant character, Dominique, will generally let you in on hints to aid your progress, she remains silent about this cue. It breaks the convention and may leave many players baffled. Moreover, you gain the ability to dive underwater shortly after this part. It’s the one part of progression I strongly disagree with.
On another note, you can earn equips and even Shards to help boost your speed. But I personally wish that the faster running speeds were the default speed of the game. I feel pacing would be slightly more enjoyable as well.
Aside from the main game, you can take on side-quests as well. These include assassination quests against monsters, creating recipes for an elderly lady, or giving items to a woman mourning for the dead villagers. These will net you rewards in the forms of strong, rare equips. And by using the transmutation ability, you can craft items and weapons as well as break them back down into basic parts.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night allows you to change your appearance. You can change Miriam’s haircut, accessories, hair color, eye color, and skin color. You can find Todd the Barber in the chapel area and doll yourself up if you wish!
For players who seek trophies, you can also explore 100% of the map and find all the rare items. All in all, you’ll find a number of novel quests if you’re still looking for more after the 20 hour main quest. Be sure to continue checking back to the game and follow @SwordOrWhip on Twitter. You’ll learn more about the upcoming free DLC as it approaches release!
While I want to say Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the evolution of IGAvania, it may as well be a love-letter. It uses a 3D visual style, which branches out the series nicely. But I feel more visual detail and animation would be appropriate. At the same time, however, I found this game hard to put down. I sat down over the course of the week to play it when I could, only stopping once I finally beat the game.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s castle is massive. You can explore to your heart’s content. However, you may get stuck if you’re not privy to finding a specific Shard to progress through water. I found Symphony, Aria, and Dawn to be the best IGAvania titles personally. And while the other are wonderful games, they have that tiny flaw that sticks out and keeps them from that perfect score. Bloodstained continues that trend. For what it’s worth, its heart stays in the right place, you may bump into some glitches on the way.
For the modern-day Metroidvania title, however, it does an incredible job of bringing forth the IGAvania experience. The level designs, boss battles, and music will charm you. While the weapon styles, variety of Shards, and even some of the humor and story will keep you playing more and more. Castlevania fans will experience plenty of throwbacks, such as characters, boss battles, and many other callbacks. But fans new to IGAvania will experience a new world developed from one of the most well-known pioneers of the genre.
If you feel the need to hold out to avoid potential glitches and technical issues, continue following their Twitter account to keep up with updates. But if you’re itching to try out the title, I honestly recommend Bloodstained. You’ll explore many levels and enjoy the right bite of challenge you’re looking for.
Thank you for reading our review on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night! Are you a fan of IGAvania or Metroidvania titles in general? Let us know in the comments below!