It’s really rare to get a game involving Cowboys, Cultists, Witches, Gods and Monsters. It’s even rarer when it’s all combined into a semi-coherent story. Ritual: Crown of Horns sets out to do just that. In this Gothic horror meets western adventure, you battle wave after wave of monsters in rundown relics of yesteryear. In a journey that takes you all across the country in every direction for the sake of revenge, you will have to use quick wits to keep you and your companion alive. But all things being equal, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

The story is told in this panel style. Different characters use this to express themselves or offer help and background information.

Story:

It is 18XX and you are Daniel Goodchurch a legendary bounty hunter sent to find a witch rumored to be planning an attack that would tear the country apart. As soon as you make it to the witches’ lair you are killed by a group of cultists and the witch brings you back for the purpose of being her personal bodyguard. Once revived, you discover your own government was behind your death so you join the witch on her quest to eliminate all the cultists in the country. Each notch on the map is another ritual you will have to look over to ensure it’s completed.

Besides the witch you follow on your quest, you are joined by another witch with sights of other dimensions and the God of Guns. Some locations include bits of backstory for each character told through pre-mission exposition like encountering the town from whence the God of Guns rose to power and having to cleanse it. After a handful of missions, I was rewarded with newspaper clippings with past tales of Goodchurch’s heroic deeds. There isn’t a ton of variance in the missions after about 4 missions I felt like I’d done everything. It was only when I got to a “boss” or the couple of ambush missions a little later that I had really done it all, which in a horde shooter isnt saying much, but by then I was determined to see who the final big bad would be.

Even when things get chaotic a well timed spell can help you clear a bit of room .

Gameplay:

Ritual: Crown of Horns in a top down twin stick shooter. It tries to separate itself by having a unique aiming system where if you hold the reticle over an enemy for more than a second you can kill most enemies with just one shot. A red skull will appear over the enemy you have in your sights and after you’ve killed them it auto locks onto the next closest foe. The game explains this through tales explaining that you are revered throughout the country as a great marksman that has never missed a shot. However, if you choose to not play the long game you have to spray and pray to stay alive. The witches revival also comes with the ability to use spells to defend her. My favorite was the first one you unlock a saw blade that surrounds you and harms all that you move past. These spells can’t be used at anytime. Instead, you have to collect souls from slain enemies to use them. Over the course of 30 missions you have to eliminate various threats under mission specific time limits. These range anywhere from 2-5 minutes in which you are tasked with defeating any enemies that approach the witch during the ritual she is performing. Not every mission is created equally however; the difficulty spike in some missions is ridiculous. I spent over an hour on one mission fighting a saw monster before I finally moved onto another mission I beat within minutes. 

Each mission rewards you with different gear that can be purchased and improves certain attributes. These can be any combination of Hats, Cloaks, Chains and Rings. These grant you little boosts such as two extra bullets in your Six shooter or a wider distance on one of your spells. You also unlock different guns and spells that you should mix and match as soon as you can. In addition, you start with just your trusty revolver but soon you find a spread shotgun and even a crossbow that goes through up to three enemies if they are in line. Eventually, you can have up till three guns at once. Each gun having its own ammo limit and reload speed. The game also has this unique reload mechanic where once you run out of bullets in a gunfight if you switch to another gun the one you were previously using reloads in the background. That way, you always have two loaded guns at your disposal. 

Who’s this for:

This is through and through a game for lovers of the twin stick genre or even Horde shooters. I myself, can play them from time to time but this one hooked me and infuriated me in equal amounts. I had to do two playthroughs because of a menu mishap where I clicked new game instead of continue and it started me back at the beginning with no way to recover my previous save. My first playthrough I experimented with every weapon or spell I got. During that second playthrough, I beat over half the game with just the starting combo of weapons and spells. The initial Playthrough took me about 7 hours, the second one was around 5 hours. Depending on your skills, the length of Ritual: Crown of Thorns could inflate or deflate that number.  

The games map opens up in three different directions after the tutorial. Missions can be complete in any order as long as you follow the unlocked path.

In Conclusion:

In conclusion, Ritual: Crown of Horns is a great twin stick shooter if you enjoy challenges that involve making split second decisions. I completed the story after about 5 hours with the Gothic horror meets western aesthetic never losing its charm. I would give Ritual: Crown of Horns 3 out of 5. It isn’t a bad game by any measure, it’s just a bit repetitive and the difficulty spikes can be off-putting to those less into the genre. 

Ritual: Crown of Horns was Developed by Draw distance and published by Feardemic. It was released On November 7th on Nintendo Switch and PC. Game Code Provided by Evolve PR.

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