Igavania: Ritual of Sorrow is literally everything that we wanted from Bloodstained and then some. The game looks, feels, and plays like a Castlevania game that came from Koji Igarachi, because honestly, that’s what this is. They traded ‘Dracula’ out for ‘Demons’, changed ‘souls’ into ‘shards’, and gave it all a stained-glass theme. This is the game that took Kickstarter by storm and surpassed their kickstarter goal by over 1,000%. That’s over 10x, for you kids at home that have a strained relationship with maths.
Some alchemists were experimenting with magic and eventually found a way to summon demons into this world. They manage this by binding a shard to someone with the talent or capacity to control it (Called a shardbinder), and use the shardbinders to grow the crystal necessary to summon … something. Maybe. You play as Miriam, who is chasing after a former friend turned evil mastermind, Gebel. Gebel is Bloodstained’s Dracula. Or at least, he’s the analogue to it in this gothic window reskin of our favourite games. Gebel’s right hand demon (which has a lot of little cutting scythelike blades, not entirely unlike Death) follows him and whisks him to safety while he permits Miriam to embrace her power and get more attuned to the hellish font of greatness. Presumably to join his side, after she realises what’s what, of course.
This game really may as well be a Castlevania game. It feels so much like one that it just IS one in my mind, even though I know that to be untrue. You have slides, a double-jump, an air slam, a dive jump. Instead of turning into mist, you get an ability that allows you to teleport along a beam that can get through narrow sections. Every time you kill an enemy, you gain XP (which goes towards levelling up, and improving all of your stats), and a chance at an item drop, or a shard drop. Almost every enemy (including most bosses) have a shard that you can collect. Getting multiple copies of the shard will increase its grade, up to 9.
Grade typically makes the shard more effective. Attack shards do more damage, passive shards raise stats by a larger amount, so on. Shards can also be enhanced back in town, if you collect various ingredients, to improve its rank. Rank will change how a shard acts in other ways, such as an arrow-firing shard will fire additional arrows, up to 5 at rank 9. Rank and Grade improve independently of each other, and it leads towards a fun but quite long grind that you’ll either hate or cherish. I cherished it.
Other interesting elements
Healing items are scarce in this game. Super scarce. Instead of them, you’ll lean on meals that you cook in town to act as your curatives. Go farm the ingredients out and prep the meals ahead of time. The first time you eat each recipe, you get a permanent stat bonus, so the game rewards you for the completionist effort. The biggest gameplay change came about because of meals. When you unlock the drink recipes, the apple juice, the smoothie, the godly nectar, and so on, each of them gives you a passive mana regen boost. Prior to the meals, mana regens at a rate such that, for a boss fight, you have x uses of your ability and then you’re done.
Following them, mana regenerates fast enough that skills are usable as your primary attack. Without passive shards (such as the mana cost reduction shard) to bolster this, you’ll still run out, but you can at least benefit from all of that time you spent grinding and levelling your shards. The audio track is spot on, with a dark gothic theme that fits right in with the Castlevania series. There’s even a couple of parts where I feel like the music is ON THE CUSP of transitioning into Bloody Tears, but never quite does so. The sound effects are par for the course, well timed and fitting for their purpose.
Issues / complaints
The switch version has some issues. It crashes, firstly. Random times, too. Sometimes when leaving one room to another, often while talking to villagers. There are some rooms with bad load times, too. If you are jumping up out of a vertical exit, hit a load screen, and don’t hold jump for the 5 seconds that it’s just all black for, you’ll lose your velocity on the other side, fall back down, and go through the same load again to leave the room. Of course you still need to jump again and load it all YET AGAIN. So, the switch version could use some work. But at the end of the day, I’ve dropped more than 40 hours into this game, and it’s crashed maybe 6 times on me? Only twice that I cared about (as I learned to save as the first thing I did when I got to town), but even 6 times in 40 hours is still infrequent enough that I can thoroughly love this masterpiece.
Maybe I’m a sucker for Metroidvanias (hint: I am), perhaps it’s just the nostalgia talking here (it definitely is), but this game is amazing. Absolutely amazing. Being able to take it with me to work, to the park, a friend’s place, because the switch is portable? That’s just icing on the cake. The developer has stated that they’re working on the Switch version’s issues, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on being able to fix this up to the point that it’s as good as the other versions of the game. There’s been reports of a ‘chest bug’ online, but I didn’t notice it.