This is a thing. A good thing. An actual game that originated from Kickstarter no less.
There’s a phase in the Castlevania series where a wide left turn was taken and the game turned from linear adventure into exploration-mode. Symphony of the Night triggered a few “sequels”, but truthfully it just generated an entirely new genre. That eventually morphed into the open world / icon-palooza games we have today.
Bloodstained goes way back to the roots, and plays like a prettied up version of Symphony. The controls are slow, the movements deliberate, the difficulty all over the place, the secrets fairly well hidden, the dialogue extra-expository, and the bosses entertaining. Oh – and there’s crafting, quests, exploration, and collection building galore.
What I find most interesting about this genre is the development planning required to provide a smooth experience. Sure, you get through and get bigger numbers but the game mechanics change too. You start off with basic weapons, then unlock some interesting spells. More enemies, different spells get unlocked. Craft some new gear. You need to choose your loadout for fights. Make some food that provides permanent stat buffs. Farm a few enemies to upgrade spells. Upgrade some spells in the shop, and they become passive effects. You eventually have this massive list of permanent effects (+xp,+gold, +drops, +damage, +resist, +movement,….) and the game turns into this blur effect of speed runs. And you don’t even realize it.
I cleared up to O.D., got all the shards, a fair chunk of food, and a good set of gear (Rheva Valar is just insane OP). I’ve played with a ton of skills and found a loadout that makes me feel like a tornado of ginsu knives. I still have a lot of stuff I want to test out – and there’s some extra content I should give a shot.
There’s a solid 10 hours to get to the good ending. Another 5 or so to clear all the rest of the content. Another 5-10 to complete all the collections. Super recommended.