Tuesday, 10 March 2020 04:30

Bloodstained: Stained with Disappointments and Broken Promises

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Edited by: Jade Swann

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night originally planned for a roguelike mode that would feature procedurally generated dungeons during its Kickstarter phase back in mid-2015. The campaign broke the threshold to unlock that mode as a stretch goal. Ever since the game’s (eventual) launch, I’ve checked the Kickstarter page frequently in hopes of promised content, especially a roguelike mode. I’m a fan of games with a roguelike slant and even better, this would incorporate roguelike features into a genre I played often growing up.

I ended up not pledging to the campaign, but almost 65,000 people did to make this dream become a reality.

Years later, that mode has been cancelled. Of course, Kickstarter campaigns are merely a way to set an idea into motion, never a guarantee, and planned stretch goals are no different — but could this have been circumvented? On the March 2, 2020 update, the creator of the campaign, Koji Igarashi, announced the plan to drop the roguelike mode and opt for something called a “randomizer,” which immediately feels far less extensive as far as additional playability is concerned. The reason for this switch (several years later) is that “the code that was created early in the game’s development is not currently compatible with this type of gameplay” according to Koji.

The issue comes from the reasoning behind the switch to something more compatible with the game’s code. In these four years or so, from the time of the campaign to the time of the announcement, no one saw any disparities between a roguelike mode and the game’s code? Second, the wording of his reasoning is peculiar. “The code that was created early (likely sometime in 2015) in the game’s development is not currently (now, about four years later) compatible” with a roguelike mode. Isn’t the whole point of innovation in game design, or any type of design for that matter, to overcome challenges and break away from the “guaranteed” (read: easy) path and not settle for less until a solution is found? As a comparison, Dead Cells has undergone countless changes and a player stepping away for any longer than half of a year will find a new game that’s almost unrecognizable in certain aspects. Messy, sure, but it works. Point is, that’s the difference between a dedicated team and this.

I’m certainly disappointed, as are many others.

Not only was there a huge gap between the expected delivery and release of the game, but there are a myriad of other issues to note. It’s one thing if a project is delayed by a few months, especially for quality or logistical reasons. It’s another thing for it to be delayed for more than two years, double the time expected. But, people held on and waited, checking for update announcements and not writing off their pledge as a loss. What steps were taken during that time to ensure a quality product? From what I remember, they overhauled the graphics due to consumer complaints — a significant improvement, one which a video on the Steam page notes. We can thank them for that at least — listening to their fanbase. Yet, a considerable amount of people in the comments section of the Kickstarter campaign are still looking for rewards (just a few months ago, some still hadn’t received so much as a key for their copy of the game).

But, what of the content have we seen since the time of its release? Apart from balances and fixing issues (I hear the Switch version was a complete mess, perhaps still is), the project feels abandoned. Not even the second playable character, Zangetsu, a much earlier stretch goal, has been implemented. There was an update back on September 29, 2019 regarding steps being taken to make Zangetsu playable. Where’s that addition at? Per the March 2, 2020 update, he will be released alongside the “randomizer.” Who knows how far along this “randomizer” mode is, so we could be waiting some time still for just an extra character. The storyline for his playthrough better make up for it.

I figured that I should at least give this “randomizer” thing a look — maybe it would be a good substitute. Some parameters you can change are neat and would give a playthrough a fresh feel, but it’s doubtful it could compare to a full mode, nor does this feel like a good use of a five million dollar stretch goal — in fact, it feels like a quick afterthought.

I feel sorry for the people who pledged to the campaign and I’m glad I chose not to. I lucked out and snagged a PC copy of the game on sale for just under $30 last year. But, with all of the delays (release, post-launch content, and otherwise) and promises either broken or held still in limbo, there’s no way I’ll back a campaign from this team unless I have money to throw away.

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Chris Hubbard

A fan of RPGs above other genres, Chris has been playing video games for as long as he can remember. Some of the games that had the most influence on his gaming preferences have been the Final Fantasy and the Diablo series. More recently, most of Chris' gaming time has been going toward Gems of War and Clicker Heroes (give it a try, it can be addicting), along with open-world RPGs such as Skyrim and ESO. He's also dabbled with RPG Maker software, and it is a goal of his to someday create an RPG.