Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Following in the footsteps of many developers to come before, the creators of Bloodstained have kept up the trend of copying a seemingly dead franchise to capitalize on a fanbase that is starving for a sequel. Wargroove, Stardew Valley, Golf Story, and many others have succeeded in mimicking the franchises they were paying homage to. So the question is, can this Castlevania inspired title match the prestige of some of the series best titles?
Less “Metroidvania”, but rather simply just Castlevania. The fact that an entire genre has been titled “Metroidvania” should highlight the popularity of the Castlevania franchise. For those unfamiliar with the series the type of Castlevania game in question typically revolves around the protagonist searching a castle, defeating bosses, and gaining upgrades to proceed further with some minor RPG elements thrown into the mix. That is exactly what Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is and not to jump too far ahead of myself, but it does a pretty darn good job of filling the void titles like Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow, and Portrait of Ruin have left fans.
Exploration and combat are the main meals to sink your teeth into in Ritual of the Night. Players take control of Miriam and must progress through a castle with some interesting environments to put a stop to a collection of nasty demons that have spawned.
Combat is simple, but varied. There’s a wide selection of weapons to craft with their own unique properties and special techniques. Guns, shoes, swords, spears, whips, katanas and more will be on offer and each has its own unique properties to make each stand out from another type. Not only do players have a wide array of weaponry to make use of, but Miriam also has the power to acquire “shards” from enemies.
Every single enemy in the game has a shard to collect and Miriam can equip a variety at one time. A typical shard will give Miriam access to a new attack and with other 100 there’s a great deal of variety on offer here. From firing beams of light, dropping ice from above, throwing shurikens, summoning demon dogs, toads and more. I haven’t even managed to give half of them a try in my 12 hour playthrough. With so many on offer some shards to feel a bit lacklustre and uninspired, but there is no denying how fresh the combat can feel thanks to the amazing amount of combinations the weapons and shard system offers.
Enemies and Bosses
An impressive combat system is all well and good, but surely it is only as good as the enemies it is used against. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night thankfully delivers an awesome selection of creatures for Miriam to face off against. An entire array of gruesome creatures litter the castle. From simple creatures like bats and toads to more fearsome beasts like werewolves and dragons. Each locale with give the player a whole new host of unholy spawn to face off against each as challenging and visually impressive as the previous selection.
Even more important than the standard enemies in a game of this nature is the bosses. For the most part I think the developers succeeded with the boss fights. I don’t want to spoil any of their designs, but there’s a nice choice of grotesque monsters to face off and the majority of boss fights are a good challenge. I do however think there were too many humanoid battles. They were fun to play, but felt a little uninspired visually.
Exploration & Secrets
Of course any Castlevania inspired game wouldn’t be complete without a healthy does of exploration. Whereas many games today are criticized for their linear paths, Bloodstained gives players a lot of secrets to search out and plenty of reasons to backtrack to previous locales. There’s a lot to search out in this game and for those for take the time to seek out the hidden treasures they will reap the rewards.
I do have one issue with Bloodstained and its exploration/secrets. Non linear gameplay is great and secrets are great, but one or two part aspects of the main game felt fairly ambiguous in regards to how to proceed. NPCs do give hints, but upon trying to locate certain NPCs it doesn’t help that the map doesn’t mark them at all. At one part I found myself needing to locate a Librarian in the castle and could only remember the vague location. It really isn’t a massive problem, but one that did frustrate me slightly.
The Elephant in the Room
For anyone who has been keeping up to date with the Switch version of Bloodstained it should come as no surprise that there have been numerous performance issues reported. In fact the developers even responded to the backlash ensuring fans that the main team is now focusing on ironing out these problems. So how bad is it?
Make no mistake, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Nights performance is clearly below standard. Frame drops, minor visual glitches, missing text and even game crashes are present — I had a total of two in my 12 hour playthrough. For the most part these issues are minor. With the major one being crashes which can be very frustrating in a game of this nature.
The hysteria surrounding the release of the Switch version seems to reveal a deeper issue with the gaming community and its desire to latch on to legitimate issues and blow them completely out of proportion. As I said, the performance is below standard and needs to be fixed, but it will not ruin your experience. In fact I can’t say I even noticed any input lag for my entire playthrough.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was provided by the publisher.