- Game: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
- Publisher: 505 Games
- Developers: ArtPlay, DICO, WayForward Technologies
A Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night review code was provided by the publisher.
Kickstarter-funded video games come a dime a dozen, but only a few of them actually fulfill the promises it presented to financial backers. Mighty No. 9, Godus, and even the Ouya console itself are cautionary tales against a still healthy trend in gaming. Luckily, former Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi has done right by his dedicated fanbase. After leaving Konami, Igarashi made it his mission to prove that the games he was most famous for are still relevant to today’s gamer. It may have taken forever to get here, but we finally have the chance to delve into his spiritual successor to the Castlevania franchise. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Moon hits all of the classic beats of its sub-genre and makes a great case for its playstyle’s relevancy.
Like most Castlevania series entries, you’re put to work once a castle full of demons erects within your world. You set out to punish the evils that were given life in the human realm by an organization that put their own self-interests before the good of man. Bloodstained’s plotline is well told and does a fine job of making each character matter during your long journey. The voice acting does a decent enough job of adding some emotional weight for the game’s heavier moments and shocking reveals. You’ll come to understand why the main villain sets out on a dark path, but still have the desire to end his evil machinations. Miram’s unfortunate circumstances and strong will propel you to seek out justice. Bloodstained’s storytelling works well and pushes you to discover even more about its deep lore.
When it comes time to eliminate all those nasty demons, Bloodstained evokes memories of the very best Metroidvania-like games. Miriam can wield all sorts of melee and ranged weaponry, which is an awesome touch. You’ll never have to worry about being stuck to one combat style here – Miriam can quickly switch from a greatsword to a classic whip with the touch of a button.
Bloodstained’s combat mechanics are further strengthened by a “Shard” system that acts as the game’s sub-weapon system. From time to time, you’ll defeat a monster and claim their soul. That soul is encased within a crystal shard that gives you the chance to use that downed beast’s ability in battle. You’ll quickly get sucked into the rewarding habit of besting all sorts of monsters so you can claim new types of usable skills. Bloodstained’s varied combat options is one of the game’s strongest pillars.
Bloodstained’s approach to exploration is classic in nature. You’ll venture through a massive castle that’s broken up into several visually appealing locales. Exploring abandoned cathedrals, underground caverns, and all sorts of other themed areas never grow dull. Breaking down secret walls that hide beneficial items is an awesome regular occurrence as well.
There’s a ton of stuff to do and collect, so be prepared to hop into a long but rewarding adventure if you hope to see everything it has to offer. The fun factor behind Bloodstained falters a bit once you’re confronted by the game’s rage-inducing bosses, however. You’ll be forced to farm experience by tearing through all sorts of baddies in order to put Miriam on equal terms with each boss. That part of the journey feels more like a bout of busywork that takes away from the game’s overall enjoyable experience.
There are also a few unmistakable errors in Bloodstained that can’t be ignored. The game tends to suffer due to slowdown issues and even freeze for a few seconds whenever you claim a new Shard. And the strong narrative is hurt by a litany of localization issues that are present in scattered text typos. Bloodstained looks great and sounds even better, so here’s hoping that future updates eliminate all of the errors that bring the game down a few notches. The game’s rough patches definitely need to ironed out sooner rather than later (especially the drastically weaker Nintendo Switch version).
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Takeaways
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s promise of a triumphant return to the era of classic Castlevania has been fulfilled. Koji Igarashi and the developers at ArtPlay have crafted an engrossing side-scrolling Metroidvania title that’s powered by fun battle mechanics, a sense of deep exploration, and a strong story. There are a few rough patches present throughout that keep it from fulfilling its true potential, however. Even still, Bloodstained is proof that games of its ilk can still matter in today’s age of gaming. Braving a demon-filled castle and taking down the main source of evil was engrossing back then and still is to this very day.
Our Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review Score: 8.75 out of 10