Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the highly successful Kickstarter project helmed by notable Castlevania Producer/Director Koji Igarashi, recently released a substantive demo in celebration of E3. Showcasing the progress they’ve made so far, this demo has also been made available to backers of the project above a certain tier – including yours truly!
For those who are unfamiliar, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night centers on a young woman named Miriam. Known as a “Shardbinder”, Miriam has been experimented on by ethically dubious alchemists in an attempt to battle back demonic hordes, first released 10 years prior by a catastrophic event. By defeating enemies and absorbing the shards they host within, she can use various abilities, both offensive and defensive. Miriam is driven by an old friend-turned-enemy named Gebel, who appears to be responsible for the most recent onslaught of demons, as well as the sudden appearance of a foreboding castle.
Jumping into the demo, the first thing I noticed was that the graphics appeared to have taken a step back from some of the earlier renditions. Some of the animations are still a bit rough, but given that the game still has a while to go, I’m sure these are things that will get ironed out before we get the final product.
It still looks great, don’t get me wrong. The way the character models stand off of the background environments is striking, and there are a number of interesting (and challenging) foes that you encounter during the demo.
The backgrounds are really something else, providing a depth to the 2D action with lush forests, intricate stonework, ruined villages, and of course, more than a few dramatic shots of the moon:
Another standout from the demo was the voice acting. Typically, English dubs/voice acting for Castlevania titles are pretty bad: who can forget the classic “miserable little pile of secrets” exchange?
Thankfully, the voice acting in the demo is worlds apart from Richter and Dracula’s rigid confrontation. Miriam, Johannes, Dominique…they all have some great lines and delivery throughout the demo.
As far as the gameplay goes, we’ve got a bit more to chew on when compared to the very minimal alpha demo released just over 2 years ago. Miriam’s got a full inventory to manage, including weapons, armor, accessories, and of course items. We meet the alchemist Johannes, who helps Miriam craft and create items, as well as Dominique, who runs the general store.
Throughout the demo, Miriam can unlock quite a few different weapons. These tools run the gamut: the classic whip, kung-fu boots, claymores, katanas…even huge double-sided axes! Some of the weapons have hidden abilities, such as your ability to perform a quick-draw slash or combo attacks with the katana. Fans of Symphony of the Night will definitely enjoy the breadth of options.
As I mentioned before, along your journey you work with the alchemist Johannes to create additional items using components that you acquire during your demon-hunting. The recipes provided in the demo are pretty well-rounded, with a healthy amount of weapons, items, armor and more to piece together. My guess is that in the final version you’ll likely need to find more blueprints, but for now it was nice to see that there will be no shortage of items that you can create.
Besides crafting and shopping, there’s also a cooking system in place to help boost Miriam’s stats and keep her well-fed and healthy while she’s busy slaying evil.
Obviously, all of these systems are things that we’ve seen before. What made me happy in playing through the demo was that the systems didn’t seem unnecessarily complex. I kill monsters, pick up a handful of ingredients, then make my way back to the vendors to explore my options. From what I can tell there’s no quick-travel options yet, but I would imagine that as you explore further and further in, that will become a feature. At least I hope so…
In terms of the nuts and bolts of gameplay, it’s got that Symphony of the Night feel: a jump, slide, backdash, standard attacks and “shard” attacks. The jump is dynamic, providing a higher jump if you hold the button down, or a quick hop if that’s all you’re looking for.
When it comes to shards, there are 5 different categories to choose from: Trigger, Effective, Directional, Enchant and Familiar. Trigger is a sudden attack, directional can be targeted using the right stick, enchant provides persistent effects and familiar summons a buddy to fight alongside you. The only remaining question is the nature of the “Effective” shard, which is not answered in this demo, unfortunately.
With so many more enemies to fight and shards to unlock, you definitely get much more of an appreciation for the depth and versatility that the system provides. I can definitely see myself getting lost in optimizing and leveling shards, and working towards the perfect build/combo for adventuring through the demon-filled castle.
The overall difficulty of the demo wasn’t that bad, save for the final boss, Zangetsu. He will definitely rake you over the coals if you haven’t spent enough time leveling/prepping.
All in all, the E3 demo is a promising glimpse into a title that’s among some of the most highly anticipated projects to come from Kickstarter. If you’ve backed the title already at the $60 or more tier, you can find the code in your fangamer survey. Until next time…the anticipation continues to build!