Written by Twisted Ideas
Bloodborne comes from the same developers who made Demon’s Souls and the Dark Souls series. The series is famous for its punishing gameplay but was never too hard to ever feel impossible. From Software has been making improvements in througout the series, refining the gameplay and playing with the difficulty. Bloodborne is the first game that is trying to break out of that slow methodical shell by being faster and more streamlined. Are these changes for the better?
Developer: From Software
Publisher: SCE Japan
Platform: PlayStation 4
What is it?
Bloodbonre is a spin-off game of the Souls series. It retains most of the gameplay and the punishing difficulty that made the series famous. You play as a hunter that has awoken in a clinic only to find out that the town of Yharnam has been affected with a disease in their blood that turns then into beasts. You have to fight tooth and nail across Yharnam to survive and possibly find any semblance of hope in the world.
The core gameplay is more or less identical to the Souls series. You explore non-linear worlds fighting hoards of dangerous enemies, looking for bosses while managing supplies for survival. You will find shortcuts that makes backtracking easier. Killed enemies drop Blood Echos instead of souls and are used to level up and to buy items and upgrade weapons.
Bloodborne is a combat oriented game. Trick weapons are your primary mode of attack. They have light, heavy and charged attacks that vary in power and utility. Trick weapons can also transform into a different type of weapon. Firearms aren’t too powerful but are intended for countering and stunning enemies. You can evade in any direction to avoid danger. Attack, evading and running uses stamina. Stamina drains at different rates depending on the action but when it’s empty you cannot perform any of those action. Stamina slowly refills when it’s not being spent.
You will have an arsenal of items at your disposal. You main two items are you Blood Vials (healing potions) and bullets for your firearms. Other consumable items very from offensive, utility, buffs and for extra blood. You can set up to six consumable items on your quick button from the menu. Using items no longer freezes you in place anymore. You can walk a short distance before you’re free to roll or run out away.
The game is still very much about trial and error and death. If you die you drop your Blood Echos near where you died. If you don’t pick them up before you die then they will be lost. Sometimes nearby enemies will consume your Blood Echos, becoming stronger in the process. The game is punishing but very rewarding when you succeed.
Hunter’s Dream acts as the game’s central hub similar to Demon’s Souls. However, this is the only location to level up, shop and upgrade. There is no magic related stats so the overall level cap is lower but the cost to level up increases much faster. There are NPCs in the world but there are no hidden shops or blacksmiths. Initially, the shop has a limited amount of items and gear. They will carry more stock when you start finding badges in the world. Over the course of the game the price of consumables will increase. Bonfires are replaced with lamps and only function as a checkpoint and to send you back to Hunter’s Dream to heal and restock. In Hunter’s Dream you can warp to any activated lamp.
Insight is an alternative “currency” which is used to buy rare or expensive items as well as summon co-op players. Insight is very rare and obtained by using certain items and defeating bosses.
All upgrading occurs in Hunter’s Dreams. You now can augment weapons with gems and your character with runes that gives passive benefits.
Trick weapons have the ability to transform, changing its size, strength and ways it attacks. Trick weapons increases a weapon’s versatility, giving you a variety of options with a single weapon and more with your second trick weapon weapon. Some transformations makes the weapon two-handed meaning restricting the use of firearms.
There is a shield in the game but they’ve been replaced with firearms. Firearms consume bullets that you buy or scavenge. You can only carry 20 at time and some firearms use more than one per shot. You create 5 blood bullets by sacrificing some of your health if you’re low on ammo. Most firearms aren’t intended to kill enemies but to counter and parry. The main function of shooting is trigger Visceral Attacks. If you shoot an enemy during specific attack before they hit you they will crumple and your light attack changes to a powerful Visceral Attack. This can be
There’s a new mechanic, rally where you can restore health after taking damage by fighting enemies. It’s risky but you have a short amount of time to attack an enemy to restore the damage you’ve taken.
The weight limit is removed but you can only carry a limited amount of each item at a time. Any extra items found are automatically placed in storage for later use. If you die or warp to Hunter’s Dream any Blood Vials and bullets are restocked in your inventory. However, other consumables will not restock.
How does it look?
Bloodborne has a Gothic style which is quite different from the medieval feel from the Souls games. The main set of gear is a long, dark leather coat with a stylish looking hat. The entire theme of the game is reminiscent of Van Helsing but attached to something people actually like.
The world feels full of detail. The city and chapel towns does feel that it could function as a proper world if it wasn’t overrun by monster and wasn’t so messy. There isn’t as big of variety of environments and they fall into generic locals. But with the amount of detail in the game areas don’t feel too similar.
Enemies are surprisingly well hidden. The game uses a lot of dark tones, with a lot of greys and browns. Enemies blend in naturally and don’t need to jump out to sneak up on you. Some enemies play possum so it’s hard to notice their bodies on a quick scan. They don’t need to jump out to catch you off guard.
How does it sound?
Like the other games in the series, Bloodborne ambient sounds rather than a background music. Boss fights have epic orchestrated music to wrap up the intensity but generally it’s still pretty a forgettable soundtrack.
The sound effects are what make the game memorable. The sound that your weapons make when you hit an enemy with a Visceral Attack or the sound they make when they die is something that makes you feel good every time you hear it. Even some enemies have a distinct sound. The corrupted humans still have a voice, the hunched robed enemy does a wail that warns nearby enemies and the crows have this very unusually growling sound.
What do I think?
Bloodborne makes stride to be more approachable and streamlined while retaining the core mechanics that give the game its depth. The controls and movement are smoother, faster and more responsive so you don’t feel stuck in place as much. You have to maintain your healing items again but the game’s very generous in having enemies dropping them making it easier to push further ahead. Enemies do hide themselves but they don’t blindside you as much ad Dark Souls 2. Few levels are designed where you likely to fall to your death. Also there’s no real penalty for death other than having to retrieve your Blood Echos. There’s no undead state or lose insight in death. Overall it’s slightly less stressful.
The trade off for making the game easier for players is that you’re dealing with bigger numbers. Enemies have more health, have multi hitting attacks and often come in groups. Bosses feel like they have more health than ever and have very strong and cheap attacks, some of which can one shot you at even average levels. Since there are less stats to level, level costs increases much more each level up. Early game, strong consumable items are expensive yet reasonably affordable. Later on it’s very difficult to buy a health stock of them due to the vast increase in costs.
The hammer on my back is for special occasions
Bloodborne is designed to be played more aggressively than the Souls games. Visceral Attacks and rally perfect examples of the game wanting you to be riskier and more aggressive. Visceral Attacks leaves you exposed to danger for a potentially a huge counter attack in your favor. Rally allows you to essentially come out of fights unscathed even if you do get hit, saving you precious healing items. Bosses and enemies early on also encourage riskier behavior. The first main boss’s AI is designed to chase down backrolls making it very difficult to heal in front of him without taking another hit. His final form makes running away one of the worst options available.
Defensive and cautious play has there place but the more of a case of using aggression wisely. The window of opportunity to attack enemies after their attacks is very small. They sometimes are in huge groups, can recover their poise while being attacked or attack again before you even make it to him. The increased health makes killing standard enemies in anything less than three hits harder. You have to leave yourself vulnerable for a while, even when fighting one on one. Once you start recognizing enemy patters and how they react to your attacks then the game becomes less and less intimidating.
The game is non-linear but starts off more enclosed. The first two or so areas probably have to be completed a in order before the world opens up more. When that happens, it’s incredibly easy to get lost. Some areas are massive and some have several branching paths. It’s difficult to keep your bearings while dealing with enemies that might detour you. There are fewer lamps because the shortcuts do a good job of having a short path through an area; However it’s hard to know when or if you will stumble on to a shortcut and have a good chance to get to a lamp again.
Bloodborne has very similar items but differently named items. Some of the items have simpler names and there isn’t the glut of filler from the Souls games but fans of the Souls games have to adjust to all of the new items and gear. I’m not crazy about how most of the armor just shuffling around stats. It’s hard to gauge the how much +10 or -10 in any of these categories affects anything. It’s very easy just to default to a single set for a long time.
For some reason, gestures can be controlled by holding X and using the motion controls. The motion controls are very sensitive at times and you might accidentally trigger them. If that happens in combat, you can’t cancel the animation and will take a hit. So far there isn’t a way to disable the motion controlled gestures. There are a few glitches and long loading screens in the game. From Software is working on a patch soon but having played it for the past week the long loading times after warping and deaths is annoying.
Should you get it?
Bloodborne is “THE” killer app for the PS4. From Software took the super refined gameplay from the Souls series and made it more approachable and fun. Bloodborne puts a greater emphasis on action while staying true to the Souls series’ mechanics. You feel more in control and don’t have to worry about obtuse mechanics confusing you. This is still a very punishing game that demands patience, observation and a risk taking attitude. You might get stuck on bosses or areas for long periods of time but it’s very rewarding when you accomplish your goals. If any of this scares you off then this might not be the game for you. For anyone else, let the hunt being.