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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night review
by DJSharpeCheddar

Much better than I expected, especially given the high-profile failure of its Kickstarted contemporary, Mighty No. 9.  Delivers on its promise to satisfy that old Symphony of the Night itch, and puts its budget on the screen in the form of some suprisingly strong 3D graphics. Falters in the storyline/cutscenes/voice acting department, but if we're being honest with ourselves, those were never the older Castlevanias strong points, either. You can't deny they put a lot of effort into it, at least.

Very strong return to form, and hopefully the start of a bonafide new series.

8/10
Thumbs Up

PlayStation 4 version
Played through main game on Normal difficulty, completed 100%, unlocked Platinum trophy

Other reviews6

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a traditional metroidvania with an RPG system layered ontop. Puzzlingly stupid design decisions coupled with awful sound design make Bloodstained physically painful to play at times. However, there's enough interesting ideas and nostalgia that make it worth checking out at a discount.

The sound design is absolutely awful. There's one, maybe two sound bites for each action that don't mesh with the background music and aren't cohesive whatsoever. Some of my play sessions were cut short because my ears couldn't handle it for much longer. Surprisingly, the OST itself is actually pretty good. Some tracks feel out of place in a game like this, but most of them are inspired by Castlevania and have a polished but retro feel to them.

The exploration is rewarding, but the retro-map does you no favors. There's health/mana/ammo upgrades, chests, respawning chests, and hidden abilities/summons. The map could have used some color to differentiate zones, and it clearly had some technical issues with marking respawning chests and not properly showing explored areas. Fortunately, you can place custom markers on the map the help with navigation and memory. The exploration items are pretty typical of the genre (double jump, teleport, "hookshot"), with the exception of [spoiler]inverting gravity[/spoiler]. That one is a pretty cool take on Castlevania's Inverted Castle. It's worth mentioning, however, that the worst design decision of the decade goes to this game for locking the ability to swim behind an item that has a 10% drop rate from a specific aquatic enemy with no indication that's how you acquire it. This is a hard barrier to your progress in the game.


The combat itself started really strong, but slowly becomes trivial as you become vastly more powerful than all the enemies you'll ever encounter. I would have played on a harder difficulty to help remedy this, but Hard and Nightmare are not available at the start. Boss encounters are the main challenge of the game, ranging from entirely too easy to entirely too hard hitting with extremely erratic attack patterns. The general strategy for bosses is all the same: outlevel them and kill them fast, find a cheese strategy (like jumping behind them, inverting gravity, or crouching in a corner), or hope for good RNG on their attacks while abusing healing items. Some bosses were fine, but most were unremarkable.

I don't know why there is so much dialogue. The story would have been fine without 90% of it. It is also awkwardly placed before each boss, causing you to spam SKIP before every attempt at a boss.

The RPG systems themselves were refreshingly simplistic. You get a weapon, hat, armor, two accessories. a scarf, and 5 different magical shards. It allows for lots of different play patterns, even though archetypes like Tanks are not viable in the slightest. There's 5 stats (STR,CON,INT,MND,LCK), a basic leveling system, a crafting system for making new gear and enhancing existing ones. There's a level of investment in your character; without farming for materials and experience, you won't be able to easily switch weapon types or magic types. The item drop system was a bit of a pain (see: swim ability), and often resulted in 20 minute farming sessions of going in and out of a room 100 times.

I'd recommend this to fans of the metroidvania genre, but not for those new to it. A thorough playthrough of the game will take about 20 hours, and much of it's replayability comes from grinding/farming items and gold. It doesnt have the level of polish I'd expect from a $40 game (visually, mechanically, or audio), but at a discount, this is definitely worth your time.
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Evokes Symphony of the Night really well. Some of the secrets can be incredibly obtuse, which would be one thing if they didn't smack you over the head with how you miss the true ending if you didn't get all the secrets. And unfortunately some of the late game areas feel really disconnected from the rest of the castle. It makes sense for the first area as a tutorial but not so much

Some of the bosses are great. The tower of twin dragons and the coin guy at the very end were cool and what I expect from this style of game. The more 1:1 fights like Zangetsu and even Gebel, plus other spoilery ones, are just grinds - high HP and high damage output. Teleport back to the town (you do that a lot and it's not interesting, specifically because of how out of the way it is), buy your arbitrarily limited supply of potions and elixirs (why are these two types of items the only ones with a limit), guzzle them down as you whittle down their health. It's just not an interesting fight nor does it really "test" anything I've learned throughout the game.

So much "stuff." Tons of crafting. There's even a sidequest chain that has you making food. Which ok, it's kind of a tutorial. Except the second recipe you have to make involves ingredients that you ALSO have to craft, each level requiring tons of ingredients that aren't common so require either grinding or just buying them, which is boring. And the reward is nothing. There are sidequests that involve just killing a certain number of monsters. Weapons and armor can be crafted but are rarely better than weapons and armor you find. You can upgrade your shards - sort of a replacement for ability upgrades but also Castlevania type secondary weapons - but also collecting more than one of each type makes them stronger, which isn't explained (each shard has a grade AND a rank AND familiars have a level??), even though you're kind of encouraged to sell them. Some ability shards let you upgrade the ability - longer teleportation, higher jump, etc., but it requires you to lose that ability or grind and, again, it's not explained. There are so many weapon types, some with special moves and even unique weapons that have their OWN special moves, that each do a different "type" of damage (slashing, thrusting, etc.) plus there are element types (fire, ice, dark, light, etc.) plus all kinds of status effects. And yet again, it's very sparsely explained and not worth digging for. I get they're encouraging you to explore and experiment but there's just too much.

Right now it's an overall solid Castlevania. Would have been a great one had it pared back the fluff, leaned into the big monstrous boss fights, toned down the bad melodrama story, and improved some of the obtuseness of SotN, or at least made the obtuse secrets more optional. It still does a good job evoking SotN, better than a lot of other Castlevanias, but comes with its own new set of problems, made even worse by how superfluous they are.
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Bloodstained delivers on its Kickstarter promises like no other game has before. Setting out to be the Castlevania game Konami refuses to make and knocking it out of the park.
4/5
«Can’t stop playing»
8/10
+ Classic Metroidvania Design
+ Variety in shard system
+ Provides strong sense of direction
+ Snappy controls

- 2.5D visuals sometimes feel cheap
- Perhaps a little too similar to it's inspiration
- Too many competing systems added unnecessary fluff
Graphics pretty bad, architecture is fine, but characters are really bad, especially in a cutscenes, looks very outdates. Gameplay feels outdated as well, like old castlevania, yes, but it became very boring after an hour. Controls are not tight and it feels like there is a big input lag(PS4 pro).