Before we start, this is not a short review nor did I even bother to make it spoiler-free and I only revied the main portion of this game, things like the boss rush mode or the boss revenge mode that was added to the game as I was writing this isn't included so if that's not your thing then... be warned.
Now that the hyperactive ones are done we can move on to the rest of this review.
In the days that people are playing games about people caving other people's skulls in with a golf club, I've been playing games about girls, maybe a dude and a cat blowing or vaporizing their enemies and this is the crown jewel of them all and before you start saying: "&%$#@! you YAR, The Last Of Us Part 2 is amazing!" or anything related to that game let me tell you that you're the fool here because I was talking about Fallout 76. Look it up, that game has a golf club.
Bloodstained Ritual of the Night is amazing and I'm not saying that because of nostalgia cause I have non. This was the first time I even heard of the director of this game and the only other Metroidveinia I've played to the finish line until now are Gatoroboto and Shantae and the Seven Sirens. In order to properly review this, I chop this review into a bunch of parts: 1. Story 2. Gameplay 3. Visuals 4. Level and finally 5. Audio
Also don't expect a formal article that you might find in IGN or something cause if you hadn't noticed by now being formal isn't really my thing. LET'S FREAKING DO THIS!
This game had a predecessor but I'm happy to inform you that you can safely jump into this game without any worries cause everything you need to know is right here in this game. My only complaint is the intro probably has more story than the entire game. Fortunately, the story here is pretty good and I generally liked it. I liked the reveals but I could use more character development here. They come off as shallow and makes it hard for me to care if they end up dead. In the story, you play as a woman called Miriam and you're basically one of the 2 survivors of what I can only describe as an anti-demon project and you're also the best one
Sadly this is where they dropped the ball cause that and a gameplay mechanic never cross paths aside from the death of the 3ed to the last boss. Come on guys! You can do better than this!
Also despite what the achievements say this game only has 1 ending. I don't know about you but I don't call seeing a game over screen and having to retry that boss as an ending which also brings me to another thing about the story.
It's very linear. You don't get to choose what you want to say, the only semblance of choice are the side missions because you can literally choose not to do them and even those you don't get any interesting story bits. You only know that a bunch of guys are killed so you need to have a monument for them or avenge them by killing a bunch of the same demon type.
There's a grandma that can eat a lot cause she ate like 20 dishes I gave her in a row.
So basically there are 3 quest givers: 1. Madam Eats a lot 2. Mis disabled cause she can't walk literally downstairs and get a ring as a monument and 3. Very Angry and Vengeful woman. You don't learn anything else about these people.
Well well. Look where we are. Gameplay. This is probably the cause of my addiction to this game cause nothing else here is breaking any boundaries. The graphics aren't as advanced as... I dunno.. Gujian 3 they didn't do anything weird with the audio and I really don't think they'd be getting any awards for their story.
At first glance, this game doesn't look that complex but when you get in... you'll see that there are a lot more things in it than you thought.
Let's start with the basics. You have an attack button, moving that can be used to target diagonally and a jump and... that's it, at least at the beginning. In the first... 2 seconds into the game you are introduced to a new mechanic. Shards! These are the bread and butter of this game. but I'm not gonna talk about them right now. Let's go back to our attacks.
As I said before you can use your movement analog stick or your keyboard buttons to target things diagonally but the game throws that away when it comes to guns. WHY? You established a rule why aren't you letting me use it? And this is a problem with the entire game. The game contradicts itself a bunch of times. You might argue that you must hit the frogs that you must target diagonally but I have an easy counter to that.
I sure do love those 1 hit point critical hits... Why the hell would I use that when I can do something like this?
Also, this isn't how the game looks normally, this is just an ability I use in these screenshots.
Another thing the combat system is technics that you'd find either by accident like how I found the force something technic or by exploring. At first, these can only be done by specific weapons but after you master them (doesn't take much time) you can use them in every weapon in the same class which makes them actually useful and I'm so glad that this was included. I love my parrying. The only exception to these rules are weapon-specific technics that can only be done by a specific weapon but those weapons are so mundane and their technics are so... unimpressive that you have 0 reasons to pick them up.
And then there are loadouts which you can swap in between on the fly with the help of a shard. You can even name them! COOL! Now I can make build and call it Ichigo from Bleach (the anime not the chemical we use for cleaning).
Your loadout consist of these parts.. use your eyes and see them. Everything in this inventory appears on your character unless they overwrite each other like... Wearing a party mask an a hat but we reach another inconsistency in this game. Rings and cloth don't appear on the character. I can excuse the rings since you stay far away from your character most of the time but why the cloth? Does this mean I have this cloth all the time? OK than! Oh, wait! Valkyrie's cloth actually appears on your character! Why was that the only cloth that appears on your character aside from the default one? OK fine.. at least I can recolor this guy like the default so I can keep my character in the same color pallet using the barber guy who can change my skin color, eye color, and cloth color as well as my hair color and style.
NO! YOU &%$#@! CAN'T!
Now, I have to hand it to them that the outfits here are good looking on the character so do he accessories and the rings especially give you some interesting bugs aside from a bunch of numbers added to your other piles of numbers but this isn't the end of your combat capabilities.
Shards are the bread and butter of this game. They each have 2 stats that can change: 1. Rank 2. Grade
Rank increases area of effect and stuff like that while Grade increases the damage or the main effect of the shard. You need to use the crafting guy for increasing the rank and you have to grind shards for the grade.
They all have their purpose and can be used in different play styles. Even something as seemingly useless ability as summoning a chair has a use too bad that like 2 shards from the early game are literally the only things that are good for combat. My personal favorite first run shard "True Arrow" stayed in my build till the end cause it dealt a ton of damage and it used so little MP. Why would I swap that out for something that does everything there worse? Aside from attack shards can be used to buff you, help you with navigation, or even finding secrets. The buff ones are pretty useless unless they are the ones that increase your attack speed or are ranked to level 9 so they become permanent. The only limiting factor is lack of MP which can be solved but I won't get to it now. Some shards need to be crafted but in general, most things have to be farmed by killing demons which has its own side effect which again, I won't get to here.
This crafting shards system quickly brings me to another mechanic. Crafting. Do you know what the game tells you about crafting? Consume some materials to create something new. Look at that. Digest that sentence. Imagine yourself in a room with that in your stomach.
What do you think that does when you craft a new shard which needs 1 or more shards? It should take them away from you, right? NO! AGAIN! Another time the game throws it's own rules out the window. I was so confused by this that I actually submitted it as a bug to Art Play but apparently, it's a feature? I don't know, they hadn't answered me yet.
Aside from this issue, this is actually a blessing in disguise cause the drop rate of these shards are usually very low and I don't suggest farming them without the Solomon ring unless you want to be me and be max leveled by the end of your first play threw which took me over 120 hours because of that grind.
Shards aren't the only thing that you can craft over there. You can also use him to craft new item, most of which are useless unless you want it for that shiny completion 100% or you can use him to craft food which gives you a temporary stat boost and a permanent one the first time you eat it... or get poisoned depending on the thing you eat. Everything you craft here becomes available in the shop for purchase. The last function of this guy is the opposite of crafting. Disenchanting a thing uses something called Alkahest which I have no idea how to pronounce and you can find it relatively easily. And that is the end of this basically.
Now we get to the shop who is kept by a woman or a kid depending on what point of the story you're in. The prices, even with a discount card, are so high that you are better off just buying the basic materials and craft the thing in the next room instead of buying it, sadly very basic materials aren't things you can buy. Selling prices are also so bad that I never even bothered to do it. There's also the second form of selling is selling shards something that I never did and will never do. Why would I sell my shards when I can't collect more than its maximum grade? To grind more? Why would I do that when most shards barely have a 5% drop chance? This is something Wayforward fixed in their own recent game, Shantae and the Seven Sirens and they are a team that worked on this. My lack of interaction with this mechanic made the final boss making 0 sense cause that literally happens because you sold her some shards but when that never happened, why would the boss exist?
This brings me to my final word about the gameplay. After you finish the game you unlock NG+ and Zangetsu which is basically NG but you are playing as Mr. Anime Samurai so your skillset is limited to katana and there are 0 dialogs in it... WHY? But this isn't my big problem since it's not the main meat of the game. In NG+ you keep everything aside from any shard or item that can help you progress in the game. They keep their rank but not their grade, WHY? I grinded for some of those because they weren't tied to a boss. You also let me keep my ability to freeze anything that's on the screen so why not these? Mr. Samurai can go wherever he wants so why can't Miriam?
All of these are combined to make the game's challenge from fair to an absolute joke as you level up and complete the game. For example, you get gold medals for killing a boss without taking a single hit, it doesn't matter how good it is when you can kill him before he even reaches you, or him using projectiles while you can freeze them in mid-air, I was actually surprised that every video on YouTube made this loos so hard to do. I love that completing this game feels so rewarding and it powers you up so much to the point that it breaks the game.
That is all I have to say about the gameplay.
To be honest this game looks beautiful with it's colorful and cell shade style. The backgrounds have debt thanks to the 2.5D style they went for and they actually look interesting from the castle all the way to Liver Ex Machina, well... beautiful if you don't count a few places where textures can look like this:
The color purple plays a big role in this game, as a symbol of magic it does exactly that. Everything magical is purple, From the bookshelf to the secret level to the lanterns scattered in the game.
Each area has its own theme and they work pretty well Aside from one section. the thrown room area. That part on its own works fine but when you realize that it's part of a part of the castle then you'll see the problem. The castle has a medical theme while the thrown room looks as if Rococo art style and El Dorado had a child. It looks glorious and shiny but has nothing to do with the rest of the castle.
Speaking of the castle, let's look at the layout of the game.
Apart of the Metroidveinia is how areas are laid out and each area in bloodstained is well made but how they are connected to each other isn't. The underground sorcery lab makes sense because it sanctioned off by a train ride. The clock tower works because it's in a different tower.
But places Oriental Sorcery Lab make no sense based on how it looks and where it's placed. It has that name but it more looks like a Japanese temple and why is it in a medieval castle?
In general, levels are great if you don't count why they are connected to each other but there's more about the level than just how they are connected.
There isn't anything I would call an environmental puzzle in this game. The moment you look at the screen, you'll know if you have the ability or the item to progress, sure, there are some optional items you can get by using a technic or jumping on torches but anything that was necessary for game progression is taken away from you in every NG+ and is gate kept by a specific item or ability kinda ironic that even with this linear approach, things like this can still happen.
If you enter this room in Secret Sorcery Lab (Yes... there are a lot of Sorcery Labs in this game) from the left, this story set piece won't play, you have to enter from the right for it to happen. I've only managed to not have this issue in my first play threw because I entered from the right and this issue absolutely wrecks the feel of the game for me.
One of the biggest draws of this genre is the exploration and Bloodstained Ritual of the Night has done the best job among the ones I've played. You always face interesting places with questions on your mind, or you just really want to go back and check where that locked door leads to or what doe that chest that I can't reach contain? Or why is there a chair over there? All this is backed up with an easy to read map. On NG+ this map shows the places you explored before so you don't have to run around trying to figure out where that hidden room was this map also shows you regenerating chests and you can also put I think about 10 makes on your map, this helps in exploration and is a step above any other Metroidvania I've played but it still doesn't help me with the biggest issue. Let me explain. in the game, I've seen several chests that I couldn't reach with my current abilities so I marked them. but you can't know what type of chest that is. You see locked doors that need a specific key. If you find the key, you don't need to have the doors marked cause inferences are clearly shown on the map but what you can't know is which door does this key open. When you approach the door, the door literally says what key it needs, so why can't you just put a name sticker on the door so I don't have to teleport to a bunch of different places to figure out which door needed this key.
Aside from this everything in the levels are absolutely lovely.
Let's start by the voice acting.
The English voice acting in this game is actually pretty good. one of the better ones I've heard but I switched to Japanese and never went back because it just had more feeling behind it. So you can safely play this game with whichever voice you like without feeling left out. Voice actors feel alive and involved.
The audio effects from your shards and other things are also well made but I wish they had more punch. Like true arrow feels week when you shoot it. They even went ahead and made us of the stereo audio system. you can hear things from left and right. When things get bad is when you realize that every single attack you do has a grunting sound by Miriam and when you have slain more than 40k enemies as I have it can become very annoying, or whenever you use dimension shift Miriam shouts "Dimension Shift" every single time using the same audio clip.
And now we are in my favorite section. Music. Music in this game is glorious. They match their environment and are lowered in the safe rooms to tell you that this is a separate place from the world outside. When you enter the secret level you'll hear 8-bit music to immerse you in the 8-bit environment, well... as immersive as an 8-bit environment can be, you get the idea.
So here we are ladies and gentlemen, it was a long and bumpy ride. Most of my issues with this game were nitpicking things so overall the game is great. The levels are great but don't make much sense base don how they are connected to each other. The visuals are beautiful. The voice acting and music are great. The mechanics are solid but might be inconsistent sometimes. If you like Metroidvanias this is a must-have.
- Interesting locations
- Solid Mechanics
- Great Soundtrack
- Simplistic story
- An event might not trigger
- Some Textures look very low res and unloaded