Minoria-ing in Metroidvanias during its sophomore year.
Minoria is a Metroidvania from developer Bombservice, who also created Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. The former is described as a spiritual sequel to the latter, and so the gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played Momodora. Even though I had been interested in it, Momodora still sits on my eShop Wish List, but I’m glad to have had the opportunity to play Minoria. It’s a dark, brutal, and familiar experience, especially for those who have played Hollow Knight or even Dark Souls. A few questionable design choices hold it back from greatness, but it’s fun while it lasts.
As Sister Semilla, players go on a quest to purify the witches that have taken over a cathedral and its surrounding areas. She is accompanied by Sister Fran, who provides flavor text at different points. The absence of light and the claustrophobia-inducing spaces of games like Bloodstained and Hollow Knight, as in Minoria, lend a foreboding atmosphere to exploration. The story presents opportunities for you to sacrifice or spare some of the bosses you encounter, but the larger backstory of the game itself isn’t all that compelling.
Along the journey, you’ll meet NPCs who sell incenses, which function like equippable abilities. You can have three active incenses on, and these represent your spells, such as healing and summoning lightning bolts. You only have a set number of charges for each one, but you can (and will need to) acquire more charges for the healing spell. It’s a good idea to keep that on equipped at all times. Passive incenses can reduce the amount of damage you take or give you health regeneration. You’ll find over a dozen different incenses, and it’s worth backtracking to discover more, but especially those that give you more healing incense charges.
And why would you need so much healing, you ask? Early in Minoria, you need to learn the parry system incredibly well, dodge like the wind, or be patient and heal frequently. Enemies hit like trucks, often doing half your health meter in a single strike. There isn’t much in the way of enemy variety, unfortunately, and stronger versions of the minions you meet early on can’t be distinguished from those you encounter later. Another problem is that the experience and levels you gain don’t really do much. At level up, you’ll gain less than one percent as a health increase, for example, making grinding fairly useless; another consequence of the lackluster progression is that you don’t feel noticeably more powerful until much, much later in the game.
Combat and movement are fairly simple. Semilla begins with a sword that has a fairly long reach, but you can find other weapons scattered throughout that might suit your playstyle better. You start with a single jump and eventually gain an upward strike that serves as a second jump and a horizontal, mid-air dash as well. Moving around and attacking feel good, and the sound and visual effects of successful strikes make fights more engaging. Enemy attacks can be parried allowing for a powerful riposte, and you’ll often see a visual cue that tells you when to parry. Like in Dark Souls, dodge rolling can also be a very effective technique, and so you’ll rely much more on your skill than the built-in progression system.
The environments aren’t always drastically different from one another, but they all make use of effective lighting and a charming paper-craft art style. Despite the music being very subtle, it makes a triumphant return during boss fights and other sections, often heightening feelings of tension and isolation. The contrast between light and dark is almost a staple of the genre, and Minoria has a good balance of each in keeping with its themes.
Even though Minoria does little to distinguish itself from similar titles, it remains a fairly satisfying playthrough. Lasting 5-8 hours, its campaign tells a largely forgettable narrative, but the action segments are enjoyable and the boss fights quite thrilling. A lackluster leveling up system means you won’t ever really feel all that strong; maybe the issue is that even the most basic of enemies are incredibly dangerous at all times. Fortunately, retrying after death is decently quick, and checkpoints that save your progres and refill your incense charges aren’t uncommon. Even though it’s not a must-own title, Minoria is quite competent and will likely appeal to fans of the genre, in particular those who enjoyed its predecessor, Momodora.