Word of warning: if you’ve played a FromSoftware game before, I would suggest skipping to Patrick’s view. Because of this, I have a terrible confession to make. I’m a filthy casual. I’ve never played any games created by FromSoftware, meaning no Demon Souls or either of the Dark Souls games. Truthfully, I wasn’t even sure I’d want to play one of these games; every time the experience has been described to me, the mechanics seem needlessly complicated. And through playing, I’ve discovered I’m half right; while the game is complicated, it has become clear why the base mechanics between these games is so similar, because it is an incredibly rewarding and well constructed system.
At first, it’s a little overwhelming getting into Bloodborne; with three weapons to choose from, and two guns, it can be a bit much to start, especially if you have no idea what anything does. However, I happily found that the weapon I chose, the cane-whip, while definitely the worst, served me just fine. In fact, I was able to buy the other starting weapons just a small time into my playthrough and found myself using one of them, the pole-axe. If the weapon names sound hyphenated, then it’s because they actually serve as two weapons. Every weapon has two forms, the cane-whip can serve as a blunt weapon in cane form, or as a sharp range weapon in whip form. These transformations are quick and seamless, allowing you to transform even during combos. And while this game is harsh, it is far from unforgiving, being able to retrieve your currency of blood echoes lost upon death by simply returning to where you’ve died. The combat is brutal; most enemies can kill you in one or two hits, but it forces you to quickly memorize not only the layout of the area and enemy locations, but patterns where enemies might ambush you or traps might appear.
My favorite part of the game, however, is the incredible world. Set in this awesome gothic city, in one continuous map, you traverse a Lovecraftian wet dream. Minus the trips you spend in an upgrade area, you could traverse the entire map without seeing a loading screen, and you should be happy about that, because it is amazing. The world is in the 13th century gothic architectural style, with creepy weeping statues, and a wonderful blend of winding residence streets, muggy forest caverns, dark castles, and many other places. Not only is this place huge, but the world feels real, with an intense attention to detail in not only making the area look fantastic, but flow with the enemy placement and combat.
This game has shown me why people like other FromSoftware games; the mysterious Lovecraft-inspired story, the gorgeous scenery, and the fast paced combat makes the experience of getting back up after being repeatedly knocked down so much sweeter. If you have a PlayStation 4 and haven’t tried this game yet, please do; it is one of the best games I have played in recent memory.
Having played the Dark Souls I and II, Bloodborne has been an absolute treat. The common theme of every Souls game so far has been the presentation of a seemingly insurmountable challenge, followed by victory after mastering the situation, and Bloodborne is no different. The biggest differences for veterans coming to Bloodborne are the faster combat, weapon choices, and the almost complete removal of shields. All three of these play upon each other to create an experience reminiscent of Dark Souls while still defining itself as its own game. Attacks, dodges, and counterattacks come out much faster than in previous titles, which, when combined with a lack of shields and a mechanic for regenerating lost health by quickly retaliating, leads to a gameplay style focused on constant offense. Players who choose to retreat whenever hit will soon find themselves out of blood vials, the games “health potions,” which the player is limited to 20 at any given time. All considered, Bloodborne’s fights are fluid and active, an interesting and welcomed change from the slower and more reserved fights of previous titles.
Combat isn’t the only thing that has changed in Bloodborne, though; returning players will most likely find the lack of variety in covenants and the absence of New Game Plus secrets very concerning. While the NG+ cycles and PVP and PVE covenants added countless hours to the replayability of the Souls series, Bloodborne instead focuses on its Chalice Dungeons. New to the series, Chalice Dungeons are a combination of fixed “story” dungeons the player can advance through; these are randomly generated dungeons for each player, and can connect to ones shared by other players. The dungeons feature several bosses not part of the main story, some that are, and a few variations of the stronger enemies. Each dungeon consists of three to five layers, each containing it’s own boss. The endgame loot is found exclusively in the more difficult Chalice Dungeons, including variations of the normal weaponry with different blood gem layouts, the most powerful blood gems themselves, and even a unique weapon only found in these dungeons.
The biggest mistake a veteran of this series can make is walking into Bloodborne looking for Dark Souls III. However, if you leave your notions of what a From game should be like behind, you will find a wonderful title that challenges you, tantalizes you, and more often than not, kills you.