Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Indie Impressions - Ritual: Sorcerer Angel

Ritual: Sorcerer Angel

Developed by Hexage

Now Available on Steam

You are born into this world with the innocence of an Angel, trapped into the weak body of a mortal by a counsel of villainous robed characters. Just as quickly as you came into it the forces of evil tried to suffocate you out of it. Now as a trained Sorcerer Angel its your chance to learn new and powerful magic and earn your revenge. Through floors of increasingly powerful creatures you must slay your way to these dark entities, this ominous counsel of robed cultists, and enact your revenge.

Ritual is a weirdly unique little single-screen roguelite that plays more like a series of intricately woven fantasy pinball tables, carried by a dark story of sacrifice and grotesquely beautiful art.

  • Gameplay

There isn't much control here, many looking at this as a standard roguelike may go in feeling a bit disappointed as there is basically no feeling of exploration. However, Ritual is an instant gratification sort of a game, much like a series of rounds in pinball, or pachinko/peggle where your fate comes down to your dexterous decisions.

You start off by selecting a direction to send your mischievous little warrior off towards, but you better make it count. Scattered across each scene of grim fantasy visuals are not only the roaming hordes of monsters but all manner of obstacles to bounce off of. Plan your trajectory accordingly.

As you kill more, more and stronger creatures start to pop out some even out of your level boundaries, forcing the player to carefully consider and plan their attacks so as not to bump into a higher leveled enemy and take damage. Wiping out the smaller ones will level you up accordingly, but there are plenty of skills to negate the damage or protect you from the over-leveled baddies. As soon as you've killed your quota for appearing monsters, a dimensional warp appears and whisks you away to the next area as soon as you collide with it.

There are certainly moments where the game seems to play itself, and it almost becomes like a dark-fantasy ARPG screensaver at points. These moments only really ever come when the player is careless with their Mana and find themselves expending it often, as there isn't much to do when you can't cast a spell other than watch. Luckily the game is gorgeous and there's a lot of creature design variety to ogle at between areas, and also luckily there's a fast-forward function for moments like these when you want to get to the meat of the action and resupply your mana.

There's something seriously magical and addictive about smashing into a group of frozen monsters that you previously locked down with your freezing spells. Every monster you bump into on your trajectory is a slash dealt, but there's an entire bestiary's worth of stats and attributes to each one so they won't go down that easy. Each monster has its own level, and its own unique attributes that make things quite a bit harder than just watching it all go down.

Higher leveled monsters won't just take a strike from you, and running into one before beefing up first is going to cost you a point of health. As you venture further into the world map the stages you enter will have higher and higher leveled baddies, to the point where you won't be able to break their defenses. Ritual contains a small bit of grinding, as you'll sometimes hit a brick wall in terms of enemy levels and in order to not have a tedious, long round you'll want to level up and grab some more of those skills.

  • Skill Progression/Mana

The real draw behind Ritual is the extensive selection of skills you eventually unlock through experience and levels to wield at your discretion. It's a small grind to get there, and if you like a steady but rewarding progression to get to a position of unrelenting power then this is the weird RPG/Pinball hybrid for you.

There's elemental homing shots with poisoning acid or slowing curses, elemental rays with ice-y attributes that lock roaming enemies into place for easier combos, and all manner of healing or shielding support skills. Of course, this task of bouncing around various dark forests and crypts and dispatching your hideous foes would be far too easy if the player were allowed to fire all of their skills willy-nilly, which is why its kept in check with a tight mana resource system.

Obviously there's going to be some spell builds here that don't really work as well as others, and end up in more tedious rounds. Of course equipping two support type spells, such as a heal and a shield, is going to send your defensive little warriors bouncing uselessly into the level only occasionally slashing and not really delivering any real attack power. This is why a careful consideration needs to be put into how you customize and edit your skill tree before heading into the next much harder area.

This is kept fresh each play-through, because as far as I can tell each time that I started a new game the base skills that I began with were completely different. This gave me a whole new perspective on how to approach each of the early stages, and kept me wanting to experiment in true roguelite fashion.

  • Visuals/Sound

Ritual's high point is more than likely it's beautiful presentation. With a dark-fantasy style of artwork, mouth-watering picture book worth-y cut-scenes, and painstakingly crafted areas littered with all manner of outstanding set-pieces and stage design, from wriggling grotesque worms to poisonous spores and other natural obstacles that create an overall dark and goth-y audiovisual experience.

Though the game may be light on the mechanics it consistently puts on the appearance to any outside eyes of being an intense and hardcore ARPG by every means. Spells are flying, heals are dispensed accordingly, and roaming hordes of monsters are swiftly dispatched in large satisfying numbers. It's very busy, it's very action-packed, the visual effects carry a lot of weight, and to anyone watching it essentially would look like you're involved in some high-level Diablo-like.

The soundtrack is very befitting of its darker fantasy overtones. Heavy, ominous, and with a bit of devious darkness to its atmosphere just as its story and visuals contain, the soundtrack in Ritual has an almost machine-like industrial feel to its music. Like an oncoming death-march with just a tinge of indie gaming nostalgia and electronics added to its mix

  • Controls
Given the incredibly simple nature of the game's mechanics, the controls can be played any number of ways without a hitch. There is of course controller support, but with only two buttons really needed to cast your spells it isn't really necessary other than for convenient couch play. In fact, the two button nature of the game means you can even play the whole thing with just the left and right clicks of your mouse. Nice and easy!

  • Final Thought

Ritual is not the top-down action roguelike it may appear to be at first glance. This is a game for people who like unique new metas, and who like the addictive progression of a good fantasy management through the upgrading and usage of a powerful skill tree.

While the lack of game play mechanics at first did leave a lot to be desired, ultimately Ritual's knack for an interesting and diverse progressive skill tree made the experience addictive and kept me pushing on to max out my full potential and see the monster bodies fly. I would absolutely love to see these developers take what they know, and their clear artistic talent, and create a beefier and more interactive roguelike or RPG experience someday. What they've created so far is definitely pleasing to look at, to say the least.

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