PS4

Review: Bloodborne

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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Notable Games of 2014

Notable Games of 2014

2014 was kind of a disappointment when it came to video games. In fact, some of the best games were in fact re-releases of older games, but this article isn’t about those. This is because there were many good games that attempted to fill the void of bad ones, so many that one cannot decide what game truly deserves the title of Game of the Year. Therefore I deemed it appropriate to talk briefly about each game that appealed most to gamers this year. The list and descriptions below are purely my opinions and are in order by when the games were released, with newer games at the bottom and older ones at the top.

Final Note: Any game that was previously released such as GTAV, The Last of Us, and all of the Halo games will not be on this list because they are merely the original games remastered on next gen. Also, no sports games- they are relatively the same thing every year, and they are always enjoyable.

IE: Game Title – Developer (Platform)

The Games

February

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Bravely Default- Square Enix (3DS)

In my personal opinion, Square Enix’s Bravely Default was the first noteworthy game of 2014. Combining aspects that all JRPGs are known to have, Bravely Default was a great nod to the older Final Fantasy games and brought much nostalgia to everyone who I know has played it. A friend of mine recommended that I play this game. She told me it was a ton of fun but takes a very long time to beat. Both of these facts are true. The grinding of levels needed to level up your party is quite a hassle, but in the end makes the game a worthwhile experience in this turn-based RPG.

 

March

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Dark Souls II- FromSoftware (360, PS3, PC)

Bringing the trademark frustration FromSoftware is known to have, Dark Souls II was everything I could have hoped for as a veteran player of both Demon Souls & Dark Souls. In the third installment, the player is tasked with finding a king of a once proud kingdom that now lies in ruin. Challenging bosses, numerous enemies, and gravity itself will cause you to die multiple times. As the series tagline goes, “Prepare to Die and Die Again” in this dungeon-adventure RPG game. This is one of the games I would highly recommend if you have the patience and are willing to play a game that truly is anything but easy, but hey, it’s FromSoftware, all of their games are meant to be incredibly difficult. If you attempt this game, I wish you luck; you are going to need it.

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South Park: The Stick of Truth- Obsidian Entertainment (360, PS3, PC)

The Stick of Truth combines the crude adult humor one can expect from South Park specials with aspects of a tactical turn-based RPG. The player controls a new kid in the town of South Park, who has to decide which faction he will fight for, whether it be Cartman’s kingdom or Kyle’s. The animation and art style of the game truly makes the player feel as if they are in an episode of the show. If you are a fan of the show, you can’t let this one slide by.

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Titanfall- Respawn Entertainment (360, Xbone, PC)

Microsoft attempted to set the bar of next gen FPS shooters in this fast paced run and run, free running shooter. Titanfall comes from a team of experienced developers whose works include the first couple of Medal of Honors (the good ones) and several games in the Call of Duty franchise, including the most well-received and, in my opinion, best Call of Duty game ever: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Titanfall attempts to set itself apart from the normal FPS shooter as it allows players to call in Titans, giant mech suites that carry a lot of firepower. The free running aspect of the game also adds something that really hasn’t been used in any other FPS successfully (Looking at you, Call of Duty). Titanfall provides a nice starting point for what is to come in the next gen games, although this game does have its flaws (but we won’t talk about those).

 

May

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Watch_Dogs- Ubisoft Montreal (360, PS3, Xbone, PS4, PC)

Watch Dogs (Stylized as Watch_Dogs) depicted a rather uncomfortable and brutal reality of a world where intellectual digital property has practically no privacy whatsoever. Secrets and opinions believed to be safely kept in “the cloud” act as reasons to kill for, and the game itself is a giant power struggle of a file containing encriminating evidence on a major public figure. The game plays like Grand Theft Auto, yet it ties in hacking street lights or police barricades, etc., into the gameplay, adding another unique aspect to the gameplay. This game, if observed closely, may shine light on our world as the information age and hacking becomes more relevant. What kept this game from really being the fantastic game it was previewed to be was the fact that it was delayed twice, which killed the hype for its release. But if you have the money and nothing better to play, go pick the game up. Warning: Does not have a high replay value.

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Mario Kart 8- Nintendo (Wii U)

Nintendo went all out in the latest instalment of their trademark kart game. With returning characters and maps, this game blends overall positive aspects with new ideas regarding gameplay. Tracks now occupy an entire 3D space. The karts, which now defy gravity, allow for some truly vertigo-inducing moments, such as driving upside down or at a complete 90 degree angle from the track. In addition to this defining change in the overall atmosphere of the game, players can now receive an item that can counter the infamous Blue Turtle Shell. This will surely change the conversations one has with friends on the couch in this classic racing game.

 

June

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Shovel Knight- Yacht Club Games (Wii U, 3DS, PC)

Some may disagree with this game being on my list but in all honesty Shovel Knight was a fantastic throwback to traditional 8-bit plat formers. The somewhat simple nature of the gameplay, however, reveals a difficult game. Taking ideas from games such as Megaman and Zelda this game is hard to describe in a few words, but the plot is simple to explain: the player controls a knight with blue armor who wields a shovel that also acts as a sword and/or club. I suggest looking up gameplay if you want a more in depth description.

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Valiant Hearts- Ubisoft Montpellier (360, PS3, Xbone, PS4, PC)

Having been released near the centennial of the beginning of the Great War, Valiant Hearts attempts to capture the horror that was World War I. The art style of this 2D puzzle adventure game adds a lighthearted atmosphere to the difficult topic. Playing as five different characters throughout the game who all end up meeting one another ties the knot to this story that many critics believe is a commentary on the effect social status had on the war. For example, one of the characters is an upper-class man with no combat experience sending men of working class background to slaughter in the trenches of western France. The game’s story itself was enough to make even myself, a history buff, question the morals and reality that took place in the wretched trenches at the beginning of the twentieth century.

 

September

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Destiny- Bungie (360, PS3, Xbone, PS4)

You either loved it, or you hated it. Bungie’s Destiny had mixed reviews criticizing its repetitive story missions, but you have to understand that this isn’t a normal game. MMOs aren’t known to have amazing stories; you play them for the social and gameplay aspects they provide. Destiny provided players with arguably the best run-and-gun fluid controls that have been lacking in the FPS genre the past couple of years. It’s hard to describe, but Destiny simply plays exactly how I would want an FPS to play. The controls are responsive and can be tuned to your specific sensitivity and layout and the social aspect of the game regarding the idea that you can simply drop into your friend’s game really helps bind this game together. If you are looking for a good story filled with huge cinematic cut scenes, I suggest playing another game. But if you are playing games for the gameplay and are fond of shooters, then I highly recommend this game.

Warning: Do not get it on the last gen systems, it looks awful and watered down. Get it on the next gen. You can read my full review here.

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Forza Horizon 2- Playground Games (360, Xbone)

After the lack of cars, tracks and content that was Forza 5, Microsoft finally nailed the racing simulator with an increased amount of car and tracks. Forza Horizon 2, the sequel to Forza Horizon, is the best racing simulator since the PS3’s Gran Turismo 5, which surprised everyone with its catalogue of over 1,000 cars and stunning visuals running at 60FPS 1080P on a PS3 all the way back in 2010. Forza Horizon 2 is everything I wanted Gran Turismo 6 to be. (Sorry to you Sony fans, I myself am impartial.) It hits the idea and gameplay of the ideal racing simulator head on and gives players hours of content in a nice $60 dollar package, and trust me, this game is worth so much more. If racing simulators are your thing or you are in the mood to fly down the track in an exotic sports car, I suggest picking this one up as soon as possible. Here is a link to our full review.

 

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor- Monolith Productions (360, PS3, Xbone, PS4, PC)

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor takes the combat system of Assassins Creed (note: it is not made by Ubisoft), makes it more fluid, and drops you in the wonderful fictional world of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. The player controls a Ranger (voiced by veteran voice actor Troy Baker, whose works include Bioshock Infinite and Final Fantasy) who also has wraith-like abilities. This open-world game allows the player to explore Mordor and conquer Uruks and Orcs who are responsible for his families deaths. If you want more, as in an in depth review click right here.

 

November

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Far Cry 4 – Ubisoft Montreal (360, PS3, Xbone, PS4, PC)

As a sequel to Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4 had some very big shoes to fill. In this case it did its best to do so but still felt very much like Far Cry 3. The environment and small additional features to gameplay however made it distinguishable from the previous installment. Troy Baker did a phenomenal job by portraying the antagonist Pagan Min, the evil king who rules the Himalayan inspired country of Kyrat. Like other Far Cry games this one is a free roam FPS game with tons of fun side activities and a chilling amount of violence to quell your inner bloodlust (if you are into that kind of thing). The game maintains its feel from previous games and is definitely worth buying if you were fond of the past games or want to play an actual FPS game. Full review is right here.

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Dragon Age: Inquisition- Bioware (360, PS3, Xbone, PS4, PC)

Honestly, this is a game I wish I had more time to play. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third installment in the series of the game. The game itself plays like a standard third-person RPG but it has traces of features one would normally find in MMOs like World of Warcraft. The game itself takes place in a fantasy world where the player, his party, and up to 3 other friends embark on an epic quest in order to keep demons from devouring the land. I have the game on my PC, and I have to say this game on max settings looks absolutely breathtaking. Bioware truly wanted to immerse players in their world. Since the title is made by Bioware I’m making the judgement that it is basically Mass Effect but set in a fantasy world where multiple dialogue options are available.

Warning: this game requires a lot of time and commitment, only play it if you feel you can hang around for the incredibly long but satisfying story. (I don’t have the time but wish I did.)

 

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Super Smash Bros – Nintendo (3DS, Wii U)

Having been released earlier on the 3DS this past October, the classic beat ‘em up style game that is Super Smash Bros finally made it to the Wii U this past November. A new addition to the Wii U version of the game is the ability to play 8 person smash all on the same screen. That’s twice the amount of action and you will no longer have to switch out and rotate controllers with friends. This feature, however, does put a large amount of objects on screen making the game even more chaotic, but hey it’s Smash Bros. If you have a Wii U and have plenty of friends (kind of boring by yourself), pick up a copy of smash and have a blast venting your anger out on friends. Full review is right here.

 

The Conclusion

2014 was a relative let down when it came to video games. Ubisoft went too big this year and paid for it with their 30% stock drop after Assassins Creed Unity & Rogue came out. Not to mention The Crew is simply an awful racing game. Luckily EA didn’t screw up this year when it came to releases. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was a poor attempt at reigniting the franchise and overall all of the big name games that were supposed to be released this year ended up being pushed back to next year. (Specifically The Witcher 3 & Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain) MGSVRU_6

However, gamers can still enjoy re-releases such as GTA:V & The Master Chief Collection in order to maintain their gaming passion, because new awesome games are right around the corner. These games include Bloodborne, a Dark Souls-esque game made by the same people coming to the PS4 in March. The Witcher 3 is a huge game to look forward to and will be out in February. But my most anticipated game of next year has a solid release window of 2015 and will be the biggest console game ever made: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (screenshot Above), which I am already predicting will be one of the best games of next year. So gamers shouldn’t worry, great games are coming soon. You can check my preview for it here.