Return to Bloodstained

If ever there was a bloodline for the metroidvania genre, this one would be a pureblood. Koji Igarashi is the person credited for building the genre, and his indie game really pushes that to the next level.

This is one of like 3 games I have every backed on Kickstarter. Iga building a metroidvania was about as sure a bet as the sun coming up. It had some bumps in development and was delayed a tad. The visuals in particular were overhauled. I like to point this fact out as much as possible, because the changes are spectacular.

The storyline itself is pure Iga, where there’s only one “true” ending, and multiple fake endings along the way. You likely don’t know they are failures until you see the credits, and then dig through the lore to see how to go further (the first Gebel fight is a perfect example of this). The good news is that you’re never locked into a failed state – Blasphemous has a key point where you can lock yourself out of the true ending, and the auto-save feature means you can’t revert.

The mechanics are all about throwing stuff at the wall and hoping it sticks.

  • You need to take down bosses to unlock skills to unlock more of the game
  • Unlocking the endings requires specific skills to be used at specific times
  • Multiple optional bosses
  • A less-than-clear crafting process for equipment
  • An even-less-than-clear crafting process for food, that gives a 1 time stat boost
  • Dozens of weapon types, with attack moves
  • Dozens of “shards” which provide active or passive magic effects. Said shards can be upgraded by crafting and collecting more of the same type.
  • A manual save system, where you lose progress on death since the last save (which is ultra painful when farming shards)
  • A bunch of side quests
  • An actual leveling system based on experience points.
  • Multiple hidden areas and items
  • Bosses that can be killed without you taking damage, while at the same time being able to wipe the floor with you. This particular one is a staple of the genre, and taken to the next level with the “Souls” series.

To me, one of the defining features of the genre is both how obtuse and important the relationships between the systems are. If you play through without paying attention, you’re going to have a very hard time. If you read the lore and stats, and do as many side activities as possible, you’ll get way more enjoyment out of it.

Think about that for a minute. A game where the subsystems actually matter and are not simply separate activities? It’s a heck of a balancing act to run from a development perspective, as all the variable can be applied to different degrees based on how much the player has “done”.

I’d say I’m about halfway through the core storyline now, which in this genre means closer to 20% of the actual game. I’m finding myself smiling at the various bits and bobs throughout. That the boss AI is both punishing and rewarding. The joy of collecting a new shard, or the relief of finding a new save point when inches from death. Death here is not a frustration, just a chuckle and another attempt. It’s just plain fun, and given all the *waves hands at everything*, we can all use some of that.

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