“Oh it’s like Dark Souls but with werewolves instead of dragons.”
That was a conversation I had with someone when I first loaded up From Software’s latest action RPG, and while it is great starting place for a conversation, it is far from accurate. The spiritual successor to Dark Souls, Bloodborne takes a lot of those mechanics and elements that fans around the world have loved for years and polished, tweaked and changed enough to give a brand new experience that may just very well be the best game on PS4.
Like the Souls series of games that preceded it, Bloodborne’s story is told a little more cryptically and subtly than many other games. Instead of long, wordy cut scenes that are filled to the brim with exposition, Bloodborne tells its tale through the actions of the player character, the NPCs of the world and the items you find along your quest. In this way, it helps to immerse you into the game’s world in a very natural way. When you move to a new city you likely won’t know all the landmarks or the lives of its residents straight off the bat and Bloodborne integrates that feeling of unknown right into the game.
What we do know from the outset is that you are a hunter who has been tasked with ridding the city of Yharnam from a plague, and to find its origin. You aren’t the only hunter present however, as many others have joined in on the crusade, but very few are your allies. Bloodborne does a great job of making the player feel isolated and alone, even more than Dark Souls ever could.
Bloodborne is the spiritual successor to Demons Souls and the Dark Souls franchise, and as such it shares a lot in common with these games. The controls are almost exactly the same as they have been since Demons Souls first launched in 2009, which will give longtime players of the franchise a leg up in getting used to the controls. However, there are some notable differences from the previous games that really help Bloodborne stand apart from its predecessors.
Firstly, Bloodborne is a far more aggressive game than any of the three Souls instalments. Instead of holding up a shield and watching to attack, you will be jumping, ducking and weaving your way through enemies in order to try and bait them out so that you can finish them off. At the same time, the enemies themselves are more wild and aggressive than I had come to expect from a From Software game. The most standard of enemies can and often will push you to your extremes. The focus on combat and aggressiveness also means that Bloodborne is a fast game. The pace never seems to slow down and there is hard,y ever room for a breather.
Another major different is that the weapon (and armor) selection are slim in contrast, but everything operates in a unique and different way. Instead of finding the best longsword in the game, you will find the weapons that suit your play style and work from there. The melee weapons also feature the ability to transform, which offers a different mode and means of attack. One of the starting weapons (and my personal favourite) was a sword cane that operated like a short sword, but once transformed became a whip that was excellent for clearing out crowds of enemies.
I thought long and hard about how to word my experiences with the actual gameplay of this game, and the best description I can come up with is; soul crushing. Bloodborne will break you, there’s no ifs and buts about it. The very first area is probably the most difficult that I have ever experienced in all of my years of gaming. Thrown into a city that is over populated by manic infected townspeople and given a weapon that is better suited to spreading butter than hacking off limbs makes for an incredibly tiresome starting area.
Playing Bloodborne will push you to your utter limits and challenge everything you think about yourself as a gamer. All hope is not lost though. Because the fact that the game kicks your ass for hours on end just lights that fire inside us all and makes us get up, find the strength to keep going and finally overcome. Then when you do finally beat that boss or run that gauntlet of enemies, you get that feeling of satisfaction and euphoria that almost cannot be described. After finally beating the game’s second boss, I actually jumped up and screamed “f*** yeah! Suck my f***ing d***!!” I was just so overwhelmed and excited about my accomplishment that obscene profanity seemed to be the only way to properly express myself.
Video & Audio
Unlike its predecessors, Bloodborne moves away from the fantasy world of dragons and castles, and i stead is set in a Victorian-era, gothic horror inspired city. From the moment you load up the game, the entire world feels different to anything that has come before. The game’s first area is designed so that you have multiple different paths you can take to make your way through the city streets, while at the same time those paths feel closed off and narrow.
While the setting has changed, the attention to detail has not. Bloodborne’s landscape is littered with tiny little intricate details, that if you ever have a moment where you aren’t being hunted down by plagued townspeople, are just impressive to look at.
The audio here, as in most From Software games is very subdued. The quiet ambient noises work really well with the setting and game’s method of storytelling to make the player feel like they are truly alone In the middle of a nightmare. The soft sound effects are broken but by the screams of the infected as they try to turn you into mincemeat.
Bloodborne is the most challenging, frustrating and downright difficult game I have ever played, and I cannot get enough. The level of difficulty means that the reward for overcoming a wave of enemies or a giant grotesque boss is a feeling beyond compare. From Software have done an amazing job in taking the mechanics that players had become all too familiar with in their Souls games, and tweaked them just enough so that the gameplay, while reminiscent of those past titles, feels fresh and new. While the difficult of Bloodborne is likely to turn off many, those who persevere will find an incredibly rewarding experience that is not only the best that the PS4 has to offer, but might be the best game available on current gen consoles.
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