Up until Bloodborne’s release I had yet to play a game that was as polished and unique in regards to gameplay on the current gen consoles. Bloodborne by FromSoftware is relentless and unfair at times but likewise incredibly rewarding. I previously wrote a Preview article for the game back in February (before it came out) which was based on information provided by gameplay trailers, interviews and live demos. (You can read the Preview Article here) For the most part my predictions regarding the gameplay were spot on. Bloodborne takes place in a unique Gothic environment blended with aspects of Victorian age England architecture. From the surface, Bloodborne may seem like a normal hack n slash game, a poor mistake that looks over the amount of detail the developers put into the game engine, combat, and overall world.
For those unaware, Bloodborne is the spiritual successor to the PlayStation 3 exclusive Demon Souls. Demon Souls in turn was the inspiration for Dark Souls and its sequel. The Souls series is recognized as one of the most difficult games of the last console generation. This is a consequence of its high risk – high reward combat system. The games champion patience and foresight when it comes to building your characters skills and abilities tree. Yet, the games as described by Junior William Chu are simply “eloquent”. Eloquent by definition: is vividly or expressively moving or revealing; at times even forcefully. Bloodborne retains these aspects and then takes it to another level.
Unlike previous Souls games Bloodborne has a more concrete story and plot. Non playable characters are far more helpful when it comes to delivering objective information. This was and still is the largest complaint when it comes to criticizing the series. But the series makes up for this by telling stories through the environment and weapons/item description in game. This leaves the plot up to the players interpretation, contrasting the hand holding story telling style used by basically every other game on the market.
The plot of Bloodborne is simple at the surface level. The player’s character is seeking a cure to a disease that cause insanity and slowly turns those infected by it into mindless beasts and monsters. The player has been afflicted by this disease and seeks a cure which he/she is told can be found deep within the city of Yharnam. Yharnam itself is a chaotic and broken city with the majority of the population having already succumbed to the disease. The populace as the player ventures deeper into the city become even more frightening and difficult to combat. The further the player travels within the story, the less human these citizens appear visually. Grotesque and foul beasts add to this nightmarish setting and provide the players with ample amount of jump scares and heart stopping surprises. The player in the beginning of the journey becomes a Hunter, a sort of order dedicated to cleansing the town and realm of beasts. However, the motives without spoiling the game become blurred later into the game. The equipment and abilities tie in significantly to the overall gameplay of this incredibly well made game.
As stated previously Bloodborne by no means is an easy game. According to the game faqs and trophy guide system for the game only 48.7 percent of all owners of the game have received the trophy for beating the FIRST BOSS. Let alone only 3 percent at the time of writing this article have beaten the game which has been out for more than a week. I myself am on the final two bosses but simply haven’t had the time to beat them. This is the result of the high risk – high reward gameplay. Players health is minuscule and can be depleted in some cases by one hit from some enemies. In return the player does deal a lot of damage to enemies if they have properly balanced out their skill tree and abilities for their character. The consequence of dying still remains as a hurdle for player just as it has in previous games. For each enemy the player kills they are given a form of currency required to level up their character and upgrade weapons and items. However, upon death the player looses all of these and they are left where the player had died. The player can recover these by going back to where they died and picking them up after they respawn. The difficult aspect of the game reveals itself if the player fails to recover their items by dying, the result is the hard earned currency used to level your character vanishes forever.
The gameplay’s attention of detail is not limited to the environment and style of the world. The exquisite weapons and attires that can be equipped by the player’s character also add to the brooding atmosphere of Yharnam. Unlike essentially every other RPG or Hack N Slash game on the market, Bloodborne’s weapons can be upgraded and used through the entirety of the story. Hundreds of games require familiarity and constant use of a weapon for several hours at times. Eventually, once you feel comfortable with it, the weapon is too weak or under leveled to actually be useful in a fight. Bloodborne has a relatively small amount of weapons that can be used in multiple kinds of engagements. The developers accomplish this task by giving each primary weapon two modes to engage with enemies. On the PS4′s controller this is accomplished by pressing L1 to transform your weapon into an alternate form. For example, one of my personal favorite weapons, The Threaded Cane, is a cane with a serrated edge that can be swung in shallow quick strokes. If the player presses L1 to transform the cane, he/she will be met with the surprising whip alternate form to the weapon (hence The “Threaded” Cane). This weapon is one of the three starter weapons and its whip form has arguably the farthest reach out of all of the weapons. For players that dislike getting up close and personal to their targets, I highly suggest selecting this weapon. The trick weapons that are equipped in the player’s right hand are only half of the fun in regards to the weapons. Players can equip a gun, torch and even a flamethrower in their left hand. It is foolish to think however that guns would make this game any easier. Since there is an absence of shields in the game (excluding a wooden one that is a joke of a shield), the developers turned to gun (ie a flintlock pistol or blunderbuss) in order to allow the players to stun or parry opponents mid swing. Once the player perfects the timing needed to accomplish such a task the game will become a little more easy. The outcome of equipping a weapon in each hand along with the absence of a shield to cower behind leads to fast paced and aggressive combat. In fact the game rewards the player’s that are relentless. For example, when you are struck by an enemy and lose some of your health pool, there is about a 1-4 second delay on the actual loss of health. During this time if the player decides to strike their opponent they can gain some or all of the lost health back through quick slashes. At first this may seem relatively broken and alien to this style of game but the fact is this isn’t the easiest task to accomplish. Once the player “masters” this technique the game becomes far more manageable.
However, as much as I would like to not touch on the few flaws of this wonderful game, they are still worth noting as this is a review and not just a rant as to why you should buy this game (You still should though). Bloodborne suffers from both game design and game engine flaws. The game engine flaw is currently being reworked though and will be patched soon. I am of course talking about the frame rate during online play. It dips around about 20 FPS during online play when large amounts of enemies are on screen. The developer is aware of this and is already working on solving the problem. This is quite an easy fix according to FromSoftware. Thankfully this isn’t a new issue for them either, all of their games initally suffered FPS problems but patched the game up afterwards. The other only real flaw in this game is the level design. Despite the various and sometimes truly terrifying levels, I myself just find some of the enemies as re-skins of older enemies from past games. This is both good and bad: On one hand it provides veterans with a since of nostalgia and confidence boosting while also lacking originality. However Bloodborne’s more nightmarish settings than previous games allowed the designers to engineer some truly terrifying monsters. For example there is a walking reptilian beast that has a snake head with smaller snakes attached to it or some grotesque giant spider (my least favorite). Werewolves and man-beasts (however no man bear pigs) also litter the streets of the decrepit city and emote a feeling of repetition.
What Bloodborne lacks in some enemy designs it absolutely compensates and exceeds by miles. The unique Gothic and Victorian age setting helps the players descend into a hellish realm retaining familiar traits. The game by no means holds the players hand and forces proactive thinking, particularly in the final frames. The unique weapons and faster combat style improves upon the fair but “unfair” Dark Souls esque combat system. On top of this Bloodborne has a far less abstract story, a meaningless fact compared to Dark Souls. Nonetheless this game delivers a quality and truly epic adventure to gamers on the PS4.
Verdict: 9.8/10 Bloodborne is essentially everything it was set out to be as a game in general. It’s highly effective delivery makes it One Of The Best Games I have played in the past three or four years. Though it shares many aspects with the Dark Soulsseries, Bloodborne distinguishes itself by proving to be a more difficult and darker game. I honestly couldn’t recommend this game enough, if you have the patience to die a lot but also seek great rewards for success this game is for you. The players decent into the darkest regions of Yharnam is executed with up most precision by this veteran team of developers at FromSoftware & Studio Japan. This game is honestly on my radar for game of the year and likely many other reviewers due to vast critical acclaim.