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‘Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’ is Great and Terrible

At one point playing Bloodstained:  Ritual of the Night, I entered a room I thought I had not been in before and saw a lever on the ground.  The lever was not movable and my heart sank.  I was a good ways into the game at that point and had never come across a lever that couldn’t be activated; there were ones I couldn’t initially reach, but never one I couldn’t activate once I was standing at it, and this scared me. Would I have to start the game all over again?  If I did have to start the game from the beginning in order to progress, would I bother?  I didn’t think I would.  Doing that once already was quite enough.

Created by Koji Igarashi, Bloodstained is a side-scrolling bit of supernatural gothic horror.  There are monsters and demons and crystal shards that enter your player, Miriam, which imbue her with special powers.  There are vampires and a myriad of weapons, armor, and food.  There is a detailed backstory within the game… and another one about the game.

In short, Bloodstained has been a long time coming (we wrote about the demo we played at New York Comic-Con in 2017) and now that it’s out, the launch hasn’t gone smoothly.  Those who downloaded it for PlayStation 4 on day one and started playing immediately received an update to the game the next day, one which required people to start the game all over again from the beginning. Those who played before the update might discover essential treasure chests already opened and the items gone after the update (the issue also exists for Switch and Xbox One, although for users of the latter, the update is not available).

Knowing about this problem, already having suffered through this problem, I had to wonder when I saw that lever – was this something else in the game that was broken?  Would it require me to restart the game again?

To be sure, I had already come across several other bugs within the game as well:  there was the time I entered water but Miriam stayed within a crouch and couldn’t move (I had to go back to an old save), there was the time something hit me and knocked me inside a wall from which I couldn’t exit (I had to go back to an old save), there was the time the controls went laggy, there were the myriad of enemy drops that wound up staying in midair rather than falling and consequently couldn’t be picked up.  No, I knew I wouldn’t play again if that lever were essential to advance but broken.

At this point, Bloodstained:  Ritual of the Night feels rather tragic.  It has an incredible amount going for it, this is a game that is beautiful to look at and has wonderfully atmospheric music to accompany those visuals.  The RPG elements fuse perfectly with the Metroidvania feel.  With a lot of save rooms, teleportation rooms, and monsters that respawn every time you reenter a location, the risk-reward ratio pushing forward to a new place is enticing.  Play is exciting and there is a true sense of progression.  Although the world map itself is abysmally created, the locations are enjoyable enough—and can be traversed quickly enough—that one doesn’t mind all the back and forth.

Having come across one of the game’s ending to this point, I can say that it required me to keep playing because it was just awful.  It wasn’t that I lost, it’s just that rather than truly ending, the game kind of just stopped (feature, not a bug).  It was clearly not the “right” ending and pushed me to go back, which was fine as I knew I could revisit the non-ending ending at any point.  Plus, there was still more to see in the castle. More bosses to beat.  More weapons to acquire.  More sidequests to do.

Bloodstained:  Ritual of the Night is an amazingly fun game, one which offers just about everything a player could want from it.  But the bugs. The bugs are a problem.  They will, one presumes, be ironed out eventually, but right now, not knowing if the next update will destroy saves again, it’s tough to recommend it.

I still don’t know if that lever that I can’t move is going to come back and haunt me at some point, but until I’ve explored everything else, I’m going to keep pushing.  It is just so fun to play.

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