By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), Lost in E3 Meetings
Wednesday saw the E3 speed pick up and a lot of last-minute meetings fall into place. So much so, there’s too much to talk about and not enough time to do so. You’ll find a lot of Wednesday’s meetings later on the MMOHuts YouTube channel, including a Mount & Blade II Dev Interview. There’s even some exciting Path of Exile information coming. For now, I’m going to touch on two of the many games I spent time with yesterday: Bloodstained and Laser League.
Bloodstained: A Love Letter to Castlevania
edited by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Editor’s Note: I am beyond salty that DizzyPW got to play this before me. He’s never even played a Castlevania before! – Jason “#Bookplace” Parker.
Bloodstained is a Kickstarted love letter for all things Castlevania. Except its quality is too high to be some random Kickstarted project. If you didn’t know any better, you’d feel it was built up by the original design team, as it plays better than anything you could have hoped for. They clearly understand the Metroidvania [a game that combines the exploration of Metroid with the platforming of Castlevania, gaining new powers, abilities, items as you progress] style, particularly Symphony of the Night. Visually, the game is a masterpiece. It almost feels like Blazblue or Guilty Gear turned into a sidescrolling beat ‘em up. Unrelated… but that’s a truly sick idea. Anything that even remotely makes you think of such a concept is reason for celebration. But “love letters” and “reimaginings” are a dangerous place to walk these days. Remember Mighty No. 9? How it was supposed to be a love-letter to the days of old, when Mega Man was the best action platformer going? Killing bosses and getting new powers? Yeah, I’m trying to forget too. But what is Bloodstained?
The lead character, Miriam, seems to be an orphan that was ported into some sort of cultish ceremony to transform her into a whip-wielding super succubus, as orphans are want to do in any game like this. Downside… she’s getting some wicked crystalized tattoos that are slowly sapping her lifeform to turn her into a living stalactite. Upside, she can sort of kill demons, absorb their powers ala Megaman, and continue snowballing into a creature of unimaginable power to make those damn cultists and their orphan experimentation demon fetishes pay for their sins. Miriam is our Alucard in this Symphony of the Night style Metroidvania.
While it may have just been due to the short length of the demo, Bloodstained keeps the adrenaline flowing non-stop as random defeated enemies drop… ugh… crystals that impale Miriam rather violently. Sometimes rather sexually. It’s a thing that happens. Moans included. One of the designers was walking around with a modified Fedora cracking a whip for fun. These are the kind of people that are all about that lifestyle in their video games. But interdimensional crystallized demon power porn aside, these new abilities you unlock through gameplay are rock solid. You quickly go from an awkward non-double jumping generic beat ‘em up character to someone who can double jump, ground pound, Mario Jump off enemy’s heads to reach higher secret elevations, and other more unusual things like throwing magical fireballs and/or magical monkeys. Magical monkeys do work. Don’t knock them!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Castlevania love letter without serious loot. I came across bundles of weapon variety from short range shank knives, to the iconic whip the developer loved so much, to kung fu shoes that turned Miriam into Chun Li. In between are your slow but massive claymore, long range and fast rapier, a morning star, and all sorts of medieval implements of pain, each with varying stats and attack animations to offer no single correct choice, but rather enough options that an experienced player will find use for each depending on the situation. Other chests drop gear and accessories as pure stat bolstering upgrades, which, alongside leveling through mob grinding, will no doubt be par for the course if you don’t want to get curbstomped by the arcade fighter level brutal boss battles waiting in store. As a side note, I am so glad that you can use potions in the menu in this. In SOTN, you had to equip them in lieu of a weapon or shield, and activate them in battle, and hope you don’t die as a result. This takes you out of the action, sure, but it is a lot more safe.
I had the chance to encounter one such boss at the end of the demo, newly revealed at E3. While I made the fight look relatively easy… I assure you it is only because they showed the press a trailer that gave away a lot of her attack chains ahead of time so I at least had a sense of what to expect going in. The boss was that odd in-between spot between being a huge turn on and making me sick to my stomach. Essentially she is a blood mage and a fashionista. What happens when you have a blood mage fashionista? She honestly reminds me of Bayonetta, except she turns blood into their fashion statement. Yea there goes my stomach…
But between the tankiness of the boss, and the huge array of attack combinations, and the just right room to maneuver to reduce damage to extend your life to fight on longer, I can tell that these developers have their finger on the pulse of what long-time Castlevania fans would expect from their boss battles. Overall the whole experience was a ton of fun, controlled nicely, had perfectly atmospheric music, and… honestly, was just a beautiful work of art. Bloodstained is the Metroidvania that everyone ought to have on their wishlist.
Laser League: Don’t Blink
Laser League is a Tron-esque 2v2 arena fighter in the style of a previous indie game we’ve followed for a number of years known as Just Beats and Shapes. Players select their character from a variety of visually distinct options to enter the two v two arena battle to fight it out in a first to 3 points, 3 match series. The characters all play virtually the same way, with the exception that every so many seconds, they charge an ultimate ability. Ultimate abilities that we saw on display ranged from a long ranged snipe kill shot, to a short range sword slash kill shot, to the ability to go invulnerable and negate damage for a set period, to an AoE stun shield that drops enemies to the ground unconscious for a second and a half, to even the ability to steal enemy laser walls as your own. To explain steal though, we have to explain the primary mechanic of how matches are won.
As a match plays out, various shapes will begin to appear on the map in a neutral color with a power prism at the center. The first player to run across the power prism activates the shape, expanding its size, filling out its dimensions, and turning it to your team’s color for identification as it moves in a set predetermined pattern. If an enemy player touches one of your walls, they explode and vice-versa. However, exploding is not the end. Should your ally be able to run over to your corpse, they can revive you an infinite number of times. To win a point, both members of the opposite team must be exploded at the same time.
Now… this is where it gets trickier. Catching a skilled opponent in one of these moving walls is no simple task. It takes timing, pre-emptive strike gameplay of playing chicken before snagging a power prism while the enemy is too close to escape the expanding radius, and, possibly most importantly, mastering use of the Pac Man style side map openings. You can instantly move from the top to the bottom or left to the right side of the map by entering the openings in the outer perimeter wall for quick escapes, or surprise ganks on the enemy team. Once you have all that mastered, if neither side is falling, then it all will come down to two determining factors. How can you use you and your ally’s character special to throw your opponent off their game, and how can you use the map altering power-up cores to ruin their rhythm enough to force a mistake.
As a match continues, power-ups will begin to appear on the map that cause utter chaos. From what we saw, there were only a few types of power-ups/map changing pick-ups. But they are wicked to see in action. One power-up swaps the claimed color of all moving walls at the time to the opposite team… instantly without warning. This has a tendency of ending matches in an instant as overconfident teams with full board control can suddenly find themselves in a hellish rat trap. Another pick-up freezes the walls in motion… including newly claimed walls. This can be used alongside some of the projectile walls to rack up multiple impending projectile walls before the power-up ends, restoring time and firing the whole wave of walls across the board at one time. A third power-up seemed to grant boosted movement speed… which can be dangerous before you get used to it.
While the demo we played is still pretty early in development, both the diversity of the character roster and maps was already at a decent state. Gameplay felt responsive and fluid, with death never coming as the result of the character just not responding to my input. Some of the abilities felt a little broken, such as the close range swordsman who could just straight murk you down, which felt counter intuitive to the whole forcing mistakes gameplay of using the moving walls to win matches… but that said, nothing was so overpowered that it was game breaking as neither the sniper or swordsman with their instant kills was ever enough to ensure victory for one side.
Want to see the game in action? Watch our first look from the show floor!