Available on: PC
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Genre: Action, Adventure
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: http://dangenentertainment.com/games/minoria
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam, GoG, Humble, Itch.io
There’s nothing like a good Metroidvania, you know? Crawling through mysterious dungeons, battling through waves of enemies and bosses; games like Hollow Knight and Axiom Verge have proven without a doubt that the Metroidvania formula is alive and well, and Minoria is a phenomenal addition to the genre’s lineup. The spiritual successor to the fantastic Momodora series, Minoria is developer Bombservice’s most ambitious project yet, far exceeding the two or three-hour playtimes of its predecessors and throwing even more challenges at players brave enough to take them on.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Minoria takes inspiration from medieval Europe, following Sisters Semilla and Fran as they attempt to purge sinners from humanity in the service of the Church’s Sacred Office. The Inquisition they serve seeks to stop a strange ceremony being conducted by “witches,” heretics who’ve violated the Church’s law during the Fourth Witch War. As Semilla and Fran traverse the mysterious, sinister corridors of the Church’s cathedral, they uncover strange secrets surrounding both the witches and the Church, leading to more questions than answers.
Minoria presents its story relatively straightforward on the surface, but hunting for secret archives and interacting with mysterious figures throughout the Cathedral starts to unveil deeper and darker themes below the surface. For those familiar with Bombservice, this won’t come as too much of a surprise; their Momodora series is notorious for being pretty dark and foreboding. To be totally honest, the story in Minoria is best experienced as blindly as possible, as the twists and turns the game takes are genuinely mind-bending at times.
A Challenge Worth The Stress
A fair warning to folks looking to pick up Minoria and give it a go: this game’s hard as hell, y’all. I actually was caught off guard by the game’s difficulty, as it immediately lulls you into a false sense of security with what looks like a pretty generous 300 HP and 5 charges of a “Healing Incense” (the game’s take on magical skills). So naturally, I blitzed the first monster in the short tutorial section, took one hit and touched the monster pretty much immediately after and died. The whole interaction was maybe two seconds long, so it became immediately clear that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. The game presents you with a few combat options from the get-go, employing a dodging and parrying system with some pretty standard swordplay that flows really well through the beginning of the game, but the game’s difficulty starts to scale almost instantly. Suddenly you’re being barraged with bombs, enemies are coming after you in ever-increasing numbers, and previously cleared sections respawn additional stronger versions of enemies you’ve encountered there before.
Your only points of safety are these save points in the form of inkwells scattered throughout the game; be warned, though, that if you die, you’ll be transported back to the last point you saved at and everything you’ve done since you saved will be entirely erased. Because of this, exploration becomes a tense game of trying to decide whether it’s worth venturing down that cryptic branching path to find new incenses or combat skills when an inkwell could be just up ahead. On the flip side, maybe that inkwell is down that path, and venturing forward will throw you into a boss room, potentially making you have to run the gauntlet to get back there all over again. Despite the stress, I never felt genuinely frustrated by the difficulty of the game; in fact, the sigh of relief after I saw that “Foe Vanquished” screen was easily up there with Monster Hunter’s “Quest Clear” or Dark Souls’ “Victory Achieved.”
Painted Retro Vibes
The art style in Minoria is absolutely gorgeous. The game’s 2D backgrounds are hand-painted, giving the world a whimsical yet eerie feel, while the character and enemy models are cel-shaded and incredibly unique. Parts of Momodora’s style can be felt, too, particularly in the look of the game’s human characters; a good thing, too, since Momodora’s character design is one of the most endearing parts of those games, in my opinion. The game also makes use of its art style to add to the challenge, with enemies that blend into the background to jump you when you’re not prepared or building enemy types around certain pieces of scenery, such as a monster that inhabits human skulls strewn around rooms in a particular mid-game dungeon. Minoria is also interestingly not afraid to ditch its own art style for the sake of atmosphere; one moment you’re running through a vibrant, colorful room in a garden setting only to find yourself suddenly thrust into a dark room devoid of all colors but black and gray. This is used to incredible effect to really drive home the sense of dread that seeps into the player’s mind as they progress, making them check every little detail for traps lying in wait.
Sounds of Dreadful Beauty
The soundtrack in Minoria compliments every moment of the gameplay, from the sweeping but sinister themes of the Cathedral down to the total lack of music ushering in boss fights just before you enter their rooms. The sound effects are equally impressive, masterfully blending the orchestral themes of the soundtrack that compliment the beautifully painted scenery with the similar old-school sounding effects that compliment the game’s dedication to its 2D Metroidvania roots. There were moments of this game where the music alone gave me enough of a sense of dread and anxiety to make me have to stop and steel myself for what was to come, which is I think the most powerful effect a game’s soundtrack can have on its players.
Verdict: All in all, Minoria not only finds its place among the modern Metroidvania greats but comes in with an indisputable bang. The amount of secrets, hidden weapons, and tools are astounding. And the game seems to be tailor-made for multiple run-throughs, even offering exclusive rewards to players who can flawlessly defeat the game’s astonishingly difficult bosses. If you’re into games like Hollow Knight or have played any title in the Momodora series, you owe it to yourself to check out this game, especially at an incredibly reasonable $20 price point. Be warned, though; the difficulty in this game is nothing to scoff at. Minoria may not necessarily be for everyone; fortunately, you’ll probably know whether you can hack it pretty quickly, and trust me, it’s definitely worth taking a little bit of a “git gud” ego hit to see the game through.
- Masterful world-building creates a very tense gameplay experience
- Combat is difficult but personally rewarding
- Vast potential for repeat playthroughs
- The game's difficulty may be a turn-off for some