Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (PC) Review

By Athanasios 25.06.2019 5

Review for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on PC

Koji Igarashi, also known as Iga, also known as the grandfather of the metroidvania "genre," also known as a pretty cool Japanese dude, once had a simple idea: to create the spiritual successor of the, highly influential, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - and not only was he able to amass 10 times the initial Kickstarter funding goal for it, not only did he actually listen to the criticism provided by backers, fixing and re-fixing his passion project while at it, but he also released something that's exactly what it was supposed to. Now that the much hyped Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has been released, though, maybe "exactly what it was supposed to" won't do.

Young Miriam is one of the Shardbinders; people whose bodies have been forcefully embedded with magic crystals by a bunch of alchemists, allowing them to absorb and use the power of demons - and as expected from something with demons in it, things go wrong, her Shardbinder friend Gebel goes Rebel, and he summons an evil castle, from which evil things emerge… EVILLY!

The story that follows from that moment isn't something special. It's you everyday, almost watered-down, shonen/shojo-friendly, gothic anime, with the typical characters (and quality of dialogue) anticipated from them. With that said, it's also far from a lacklustre tale despite its simplicity, and is occasionally injected with some nice twists and turns to keep things interesting.

Of course, no one really came in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for its great plot, but for its promise of it being Symphony of the Night's brother from another mother… but the same father. In that regard, this provides exactly that. Unfortunately, it's a bit too fixed on being another SotN that it almost feels like a clone of it - and in many ways it is.

From the title screen, the look, sound, and, at times, the atmosphere, but most importantly the way the enormous demonic castle is structured, this is awkwardly similar. In fact, a pretty large part of it isn't just similar, but identical. Simply swap Miriam with Alucard, and then make the 3D castle two-dimensional, and here you go! You are back in 1997, with a PlayStation controller on your hands.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on PC

Why is that a problem, though? Symphony of the Night (and the rest of its kin) was awesome, right? Yes, but this is also an old game - it's how metroivania begun, not how it came to be after all these years. In other words, Bloodstained doesn't bring anything new to the table. No alternative ways to move, fight, or explore; no improved enemy AI; no unique concepts; no nothing.

Sure, the good 'ol recipe is still immensely fun and addicting as it ever was. Exploration, upgrades, lots of secrets, tons of sweet loot; these are all here, and fans of the genre will stay glued to their seats from beginning to end because of them - but the fact that this is obviously unwilling to be anything more than an old-school metroidvania is kind of disappointing.

On the bright side, while relatively short in length, the way it's brimming with content is definitely impressive. You can find many types of gear, learn fighting game-like moves, craft all sorts of items or dismantle them for materials, cook stat-boosting recipes, do some minor questing for the townsfolk to receive awards, get haircuts in the local undead hairstylist, and many, many more.

There are many ways to customise Miriam, as well, and at the core of it all are the shards; crystals that have a chance to drop from a defeated enemy, and whose powers can be harnessed to give her all sorts of powers, from various projectiles and magic spells, to summons and stat bonuses. Find a shard you like? Great! Now you can upgrade it in the local alchemy shop to make it even better.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on PC

Despite the large variety in tools of the trade, though, these aren’t created equal. Not so much in terms of balance, although this does frequently suffer with that too, but in how fun it is to use certain weapons and shard abilities. The fact that some weapons are slower, or don’t hit enemies on the ground, is not the problem - you can change loadouts on the fly, after all.

Hitboxes, however, can be pretty unfair at times, which can be a royal pain in here, as the player character gets hit just by touching the enemy - a mechanic that has been slowly disappearing from modern action games, and rightfully so. Generally combat is one of the weakest parts of Bloodstained, which is really a shame, as Miriam is usually a joy to move around with.

Metroidvania, of course, also means exploration. Unfortunately, while definitely better than the combat bit, a great exploration game Bloodstained is not. Bad? Far from it, but the level design is quite simplistic, providing no interesting combat scenarios, and, most importantly, not forcing you to experiment with your abilities in order to get to any hard-to-reach spots.

With that being said, this remains a fine game... it’s just that much more was expected from it. Igarashi himself initially said that this would redefine the genre, but all that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does is to play it heartbreakingly safe. For some, that will suffice. For others it won’t. Maybe - just maybe - this shouldn’t just be a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on PC

Simply put, the fact that this doesn't even try to innovate (like at all) almost makes it a niche choice. The genre has evolved, especially this past years, as evident by actual masterpieces like Hollow Knight, which doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel, but certainly has its own unique character, and doesn't feel like a rip-off.

Moreover, Bloodstained amassed 100 times the amount of money that Hollow Knight! Where is that exactly? Yes, this looks good... but five million dollars good? Not really. Apart from the fact that monsters, enemies, and even the level design is lawsuit-level close to the titles that this pays homage to, this isn't as pretty as it should be. Honestly, it can even often be boring to look at!

It's all about personal taste, sure, but when compared to something like... err, again, Symphony of the Night, this has a somewhat flat, artificial look, with everything looking a bit to clean and "unused." The animation doesn't help either, sadly even when it comes to Miriam herself. As for the soundtrack, it's catchy and all, but can't hold a candle to the fantastic tunes of the Castlevania series.

It's important to understand that behind all that negativity mostly lies disappointment about what this could have been - not what it actually is. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a fun 2.5D action/exploration game, with plenty of small touches that will put a smile to your face (piano and Carabosse anyone?), and tons of things to do, without it ever forcing you to do most of them.

...but this isn't 1997 anymore, and others have done all that much better.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Want to play an old-school action/exploration game the likes of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? Well, you can't get more old-school, or more... Symphony of the Night than Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This offers a vast castle to explore, full of monsters to slay, and with lots of ways to slay them, be it the many weapons that your Shardbinder can use, or the demonic powers that she can absorb. If you are in need for something that's NOT an exact copy of late '90s metroidvanias, though, better look elsewhere.

Developer

ArtPlay

Publisher

505 Games

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

So far I like it, but boy do I regret switching from PS4 to Switch, because holy hell, it runs and looks terrible. They better patch this up.

Azuardo said:
So far I like it, but boy do I regret switching from PS4 to Switch, because holy hell, it runs and looks terrible. They better patch this up.

I've seen people complain about technical problems in the PC version as well, but thankfully I had no issues with it (apart from a couple of frame rate drops here and there)

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

After spending over 30 hours with the game, I'd give it about the same score.

I wanted an Igavania and I got it. This title met my expectations, but it didn't exceed them.

Well, the team just put up a post about hearing the Switch complaints and will release multiple little patches to address things. Really hope they don't half arse it. But good to hear.

There is some very hit and miss voice acting in there. Miriam's VA pulls off a very good English RP accent (to the point I was surprised she is American), but the villager NPCs are awful in parts, getting that generic "lower class" Cockney accent all sorts of wrong. It's a small complaint in the scheme of things for this type of game, but I never understand why it's so difficult for directors to get accents done properly.

Anyway, looking forward to playing more, though I might hold back a bit to wait for some patches.

soooooo glad i chose the xbone ver

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