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First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

And that’s everything I currently wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impressions: Ion Fury (PC) ~ Is it “Hail to the Queen” now?

Ion_Fury_logo

Official websiteSteam Store page

Once upon a time, there was a game engine. It was called “Build Engine”. With that engine, a lot of masterpieces like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warrior were created. Around 1999 – 2000, no new games came out that were made in the engine and the engine was sad. The King Duke Nukem had moved on to other projects. Well, sort of. It took FOREVER for his next game to come out. But, this year, something happened. A prince kissed the sleeping engine awake and it transformed into a new game. Wait, this isn’t working at all. Writing this introduction as a history lesson and a fairy tale isn’t working at all. Maybe we need a breath of fresh air. One was a Queen shows the ropes of the game instead of the king. So, shall we look if Ion Fury is successful in that quest or if it crashes and burns? This article is being written after I played the pre-release version until v1.02a. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note

Before I talk about the game, I want to acknowledge that I know about the controversy of this game. That the developers possibly made some transphobic remarks and there are some homophobic jokes. Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time on this controversy since a lot has been said and written about it.

My personal stance on the whole matter is simple. I’m under the impression that some things were taken out of context or provided with the wrong context and cancel culture did the rest. Also, let me be clear on one thing. I think that you should decide for yourself. Take a step back and take a look at both sides of the story before you make a decision and come to a conclusion.

About the homophobic jokes, one of them is a word pun that fits perfectly in a 90’s throwback game. The other homophobic joke is something that you have to go out of your way to discover. Where you have to enable a cheat and go out of bounds to a developer room where slang is displayed. So yeah, is this something you should take offense over or not…? That’s up to you to decide.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the controversy. I’m here to review and talk about games. I’m not here to write long articles about drama or controversies. My mental energy is best to spend elsewhere, like on all the positive things in the world.

Bombshell, the next queen?

IonFury1

In Ion Fury, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who earned her codename defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force. Then everything changed when the firing squad attacked. The firing squad of evil cybernetic cult robots made by the equally evil transhumanist mastermind Dr. Jadus Heskel. Now, Shelly has to clean up the streets of Neo DC that she knows so well.

The story brings up in several locations and areas. While this game sort of works with different levels, the world is still interconnected. It feels like you are playing on one huge map instead. Speaking of the levels, each level is quite huge. Currently, the main story takes around 15 hours to complete. Now, this is the perfect length for a shooting game. But, that doesn’t mean that you are done after those 15 hours. You can still find a lot of secrets and easter eggs in the game. And on top of that, the Steam version will have Steam Workshop support which opens the floodgates for custom weapons and even custom levels.

While you play the game, the story takes a backseat. The story doesn’t take a lot of twists and turns or isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the personality of Shelly is amazingly done. Her one-liners and personality is almost a carbon copy of Duke Nukem in female form. It’s great.

I love the voice work done in this game. The voice works for Shelly is done by Valerie Arem, who also did voice work in Final Fantasy 15, Zero Time Dilemma, Sailor Moon and many other series. She nailed it in this game. On top of that, Jon St. John, the original voice of Duke Nukem voiced the antagonist. It’s almost like the game is poking fun at the similarities between Shelly and Duke.

The charm of the voice acting and the one-liners is amazing. It was one of the reasons why I got so drawn into the atmosphere of this game. Even the enemy grunts are well done. So, this brings me to the sound design of the game. I have no complaints about the sound design at all. Everything sounds amazing and there aren’t any sound effects I would change or tweak. The sound mixing is great as well, I never had trouble with it.

Old game design

Ion Fury.jpg

Let’s talk about something you might have noticed already. While this game released this year, it looks and feels like it was released in the late ’90s. For some people, this might be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The game has this amazing retro vibe to it and makes me quite nostalgic about the times when I first played games like Doom or Heretic. Yet, the game manages to still look amazing. Every area is quite detailed and decorated. The color pallet is extremely varied and this makes the game easy to navigate while giving ample opportunity to hide secrets in various spots.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. Like the old school shooters of yesteryear, you have to explore the level to find keycards to open doors in order for you to progress. When you reach the end of the level, you get promoted with a message: “are you sure you want to leave this area? You haven’t found X amount of secrets.” This is an amazing feature and made me go back several times to look if I haven’t missed any cracks or holes that might hide a secret.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. While you are exploring the map, you have to shoot through various waves of enemies. Some of these fly and another move around. Currently, the AI of this game isn’t that smart but that doesn’t make them easy. The game provided me with a lot of challenges in the medium difficulty setting.

I had to redo some sections over and over again because there was just an overload of enemies. At first, I was annoyed by this. While the weapons are easy and fun to use, I found it annoying that I didn’t see how many bullets I had before I had to reload. But, after a while, I got used to the flow of the game and I was defeating these hoards of enemies. When you prepare yourself and really pay attention, the game isn’t that difficult. But, yeah, you will need to do some old school trail and error.

Something that I really liked is the fact that this game has an autosave and a manual save system. So, whenever you are faced with a difficult section, you can save in advance and have a point to return to when you need to retry. The save menu provides all the information you might need and is a perfect example of a UI done well.

I like the way you die!

Earlier in this article, I talked about the visual presentation of this game. Now, the animations of this game are amazing. Some of them are a little bit gory, but they are over the top gory. Bodies can explode when you hit them with a rocket launcher, and the added sound effects are amazing. The fact that some parts of the world are destructible is great fun too. You can blow up some walls.

Now, speaking about blowing up walls… Something I found a tad bit annoying was how bombs were handled. You can throw them with the left mouse button, but you only light and throw them with the right mouse button. The reason I found the annoying is simple, in the heat of a battle I keep clicking my left mouse button to shoot and use my scroll wheel to quickly and easily select the weapon I need for the situation. But, because I’m so drawn into the game, I keep clicking the left mouse button and waiting for an explosion that never comes.

This is the only issue I have with the controls of the game. All other controls work flawlessly. Now, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to jump into gaps while crouched, but I quickly got used to that. These controls are quite helpful to explore the expansive levels to find the keycards, items, and ammo on the map. Some levels have a straight path forward but other levels have some branching paths with rewards for exploration.

It comes with the territory but there is some backtracking in the game. Once or twice I got lost in the level because I thought I picked up a keycard or found a keycard while I actually hadn’t done that. Oh well, these are things that happen in these old school 3D shooters. I think I have to pay better attention to the UI since it displays quite well which items you have.

Maybe that would help me to save up more ammo. Since sometimes I felt that I didn’t have enough ammo and other times I had

Speaking about items, this is were Ion Fury dropped the ball a bit. While the game is inspired by Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t have a lot of items. In Duke Nukem 3D, you have a lot of different items to experiment with, like the Holo Duke and the Jet Pack. The two items that I found in this game are a radar and a portable med-pack. If only this mechanic would be expanded in a DLC or an update, that would be amazing. Also, I found the radar item quite useless and barely used it. But, that might be because I don’t fully understand the purpose of the item.

Everything comes together in a well-designed game with expansive maps and fun challenges to blast through. Together with a great soundtrack, this game can be a rush from start to end. Now, the soundtrack of this game is more electronica/dance than either rock/metal/orchestral focused soundtracks of the other games in the engine. I can totally understand why some players didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s not the case for me.

While this game isn’t that long compared to other games I have played recently, I love to replay this game several times. Due to the updates changing the map layout since the pre-release, I love to find the added details since the updates or play through the game with the new mechanics and all the fixed bugs. And, as soon as I know the maps better, I might even play through the game on a higher difficulty setting.

Apart from the main game, there are also some additional gameplay modes. One of these is an endless mode where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. This is quite fun since the better you do, the better drops you get to defend yourself. This is a fun distraction from the main game. The other modes are something that you will have to discover when you play the game for yourself. And let’s not forget to mention that in a future patch, we will have multiplayer!

In conclusion, this game is a well-crafted throwback 3D shooter. Apart from some minor issues, I don’t have anything negative to say about this game. If you enjoy playing shooters or retro games, you should do yourself a favor and check this game out. Feel free to support the developers by leaving feedback on their forums. Personally, I think this game is that good, I might even buy the big box collectors edition for my collection.

And with that said, I think I’m going to close off this article. I might talk a bit more in-depth about certain things or mechanics if I ever write a review but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.