The Souls series have somewhat been associated with games that cause fear, agony, and frustration, but let’s face it, the thrills provided by these action RPGs are what so endearing to many gamers. The struggles and unforgiving nature of those games provide the best sense of accomplishment when you manage to complete a stage that you thought was nearly impossible to beat. The high risk reward system is what keeps many coming back to fight the same battle for the upteenth time, hoping that the next battle will be the last before you can finally proceed to the next stage. Bloodborne follows in this tradition of grinding players from one stage to the next where dying is inevitable. The most interesting thing about Bloodborne is that it’s a Playstation Exclusive. The developers from the past Souls series, From Software, have always released their games on multiple consoles including Xbox and PC. But this time around, Sony funded this project and made it exclusive for the PS4, and oh boy did Sony make the right call.
The story surrounding Bloodborne takes a backseat to the gameplay. The narrative is very vague and doesn’t exactly drive the game. You probably won’t even know it’s there. The story takes place in Yharnam, a city plagued with a mysterious illness that causes its citizens to turn into werewolves and monster-like creatures during full moons. Hunts are orchestrated which turn the city into one giant free-for-all killing spree. The people that do manage to keep their sanity lock themselves in their houses, refusing to let anyone in. As a hunter you must fight your way through the city to get to the bottom of what’s going on and figure out a way to solve the mystery. One major difference between Bloodborne and Dark Souls is the setting of the story. In Bloodborne, the towns and cities feel more alive and there’s a reason why each one exists, unlike in the Souls series, where there’s usually no sense of why I was in the places I was in. From Bloodborne’s victorian, steampunk infested city to the forbidden woods that have several intertwining paths, each location is beautifully rendered and has a purpose.
Going into Bloodborne, I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, nor did I want it to be easy, but from what I’ve seen from trailers and live demos of the game at conferences, the game seems to appeal more to someone who isn’t a fan of previous Souls games. And I was right, because the pacing of combat changes tremendously. It’s quicker and more relatable to recent 3rd person action games. For players that aren’t into Dark Souls’ slow gameplay, you will greatly appreciate the faster pacing in Bloodborne’s gameplay.
Another big change besides the pacing of combat is that there are no shields to be acquired but instead there are guns at your disposal like a blunderbuss or pistol to keep enemies at bay. These guns have essentially the same abilities as the shields do, but now you have a chance to stun enemies and get a massive blow on them, thereby increasing your chances to take out enemies more efficiently. The guns are not overpowered because there’s only a small supply of bullets to work with. You will either have to buy more shells or loot them off dead bodies when you inevitably run out.
The various types of enemies will also keep you on your feet. Each enemy type has different strengths and weaknesses. For example some enemies are less prone to fire damage while others could be quickly destroyed with one or two Molotov cocktails.
Action RPGs are usually based on heavily scripted enemy locations, where players will learn the routines of their enemies fairly quickly and Bloodborne is no exception to this simple rule. When killing enemies you will gain blood echoes. These blood echoes serve as currency for upgrading and buying new weapons. Once an area is cleared, players could return to the hub world, The Hunter’s Dream, to either cash in their blood echoes for weapons, sidearms, or to level up their character. Bloodborne is a difficult game, as expected from its maker. From Software is known for their extremely difficult and frustrating games. Bloodborne continues the tradition and keeps you on edge every step of the way. You could easily lose a large amount of blood echoes that could have you raging within seconds or you could pull off a great kill that doubles your echoes. The risk reward system is dependent on how you play your game.
One major criticism I have about Bloodborne is its load time. When you die (and you will die often), the load time to restart is just downright awful. It takes about 45 seconds each time. This needs to be fixed fast. The thought of having to sit and wait for the game to reload does take the fun out of wanting to continue playing this game. At times I was scared to die for the load screens alone. Similar to previous Souls games, once you die you return a lamp, and these are checkpoints in the game where you can return to when the game restarts or serve as access point to the main hub. Once at the checkpoint, everyone you just killed will respawn, making you go through the whole level killing them again and retrieving your lost blood echoes. If an enemy kills you, he will have your lost blood echoes, so you must find him if you want to retrieve them. However, if you die during this endeavor, all those blood echoes will be lost for good. Sometimes the blood echoes will be on the floor in the area you died previously, so you must return to that area to find them. Everytime going through a new area, you must be very careful as you DON’T want to die.
A cool feature Bloodborne offers to players are the chalice dungeons located in the Hunter’s Dream. These chalice dungeons will allow players to enter these dungeons under Yharnam. These are procedural generated levels and will give players more opportunities to gain more blood echoes or loot. The levels are randomized. Not knowing what to expect at each turn is what’s so amazing and terrifying about this game. Dungeons also include bosses, but since you don’t know what to expect each time you confront a boss fight, there’s really no way to properly prepare for these battles. You learn by having to repeat the fight several times. Once you defeat them you can go back to the Hunters Dream where you can cash those precious blood echoes in for upgrades or weapons. The dungeons can be played both cooperatively or by yourself.
Weapon variation is wide enough to keep players engaged with the availability of weapons like the Saw Cleaver or the KirkHammer, which allows different play styles for each individual player. This time around each weapon will have two different modes that you can switch on the fly, heavy and light, which can be used to create a string of deadly combos on your enemies. One of the most satisfying things while fighting is switching between the two modes. Watching your character do some cool animations with each weapon is pretty cool as well.
The Souls games and Bloodborne manage to do something that’s very rare to see in the gaming industry these days. They bring the whole community together as an attempt to let us work together to figure out every nook and cranny of the game. Going into Bloodborne alone, having no idea where to go next, how to fight the next boss or just being plainly unaware of the little secrets in the game, you are going to have a tough time playing this game alone. But with all the players coming together and helping each other out, by putting up videos, walkthroughs, threads in forums, etc, really improve the overall gaming experience. These things bring unity to the players which is a beautiful thing to see. There are countless times while playing the game that my brother and I receive messages asking what to do next in the game or a party chat invite from other players seeking advice and help. This is a cool feature and I strongly advise you to take advantage of it if the game becomes too frustrating to handle alone.
Multiplayer is a huge factor in Bloodborne. At times where it might be to hard to play, you can always call in a friend to help you complete a section or a difficult boss. Not taking advantage of these multiplayer sessions could easily be the thing that keeps you from progressing in the game. Playing with others helps overcome the more difficult stages of the game that might otherwise have you give up on them entirely if you were to do it alone. Unfortunately though, multiplayer may not be a feature for everyone. Like Dark Souls, not everyone will want to join co-op to help you, but they will gladly invade your game as an enemy to kill you and loot blood echoes off your dead bodies. In the beginning of the game, you have the option to play offline if you want to avoid this type of encounters. In order to play the co-op or multiplayer game, players are required to purchase bells to join online games. To get these bells, players must have at least 10 insight points. Insight points are given through defeating bosses, attempting a boss battle, and mad mans knowledge. At first it will be difficult to join other games as there is really no tutorial on how to do that. As a matter of fact, there’s basically no tutorial to show you how to do anything. This is when the internet and fellow Bloodborne players become your best friend. Once you acquire a Beckoning Bell or Small Resonant Bell, you will be able to join your friends online. One will have the Beckoning while the other has the Small Resonant and both players must have the same password in the “Network” option in the settings page. It takes a while before you could join up with friends but it’s totally worth the wait. For invaders, they must purchase the Sinister bell. This bell will allow them to join online players and create a fight between the two of them. When playing multiplayer, I should point out that there is major frame rate dips when online. It’s pretty noticeable at times, which can make you want to play offline instead.
Graphically, despite the obvious beauty of the rendering and art style of the game, there are a few things that could be improved upon. For example while in the character customization screen, you will immediately see that the model of the character is jarring to look at. The hair in particular stood out and looked weird and fuzzy, something we’re not accustomed to with next-gen consoles. It’s not just on your main character but even on bosses, like Vica Amila and The Cleric Beast. It was an eyesore to fight them as they had so much hair on their body that could hinder the gameplay experience. As cool and crazy as they look, this could lead to the major frame rate dips that you may experience during boss battles. Every game is with flaws, and no game has a perfect ride. Bloodborne stumbles across some small hiccups like frame rate dips and fuzzy hair texture but it doesn’t hurt the game in any significant way. Bloodborne is still a beautifully detailed game. You will come across some very intimidating monsters that are capable of inducing sweaty palms when you confront and fight them. 95 percent of the game will run at 60 fps with no problem and that’s when you see all the glorious minor details From Software added to the game, such as puddles with reflections, the landscape of castle skylines, and all the blood on your body from dead enemies.
Bloodborne isn’t just difficult, but it’s also down right creepy. In one area of the game in particular, you will hear a woman laughing while everything else is dead silence. When playing alone, I was very careful exploring the game’s creepy environments because an enemy could pop out from just about any corner and instantly startles you. Enemies screech and plenty of jump scares could definitely get your heart leaping out of your chest especially when you carry with you a large supply of blood echoes. Who’d want to lose all of that hard work? The famous sounds of the footsteps are back in Bloodborne. When walking through a quiet corridor and hearing your footsteps go one after another really builds tension and anticipation for something to jump out from a corner at you. If that doesn’t get you a little freaked out, then the boss fight will definitely get your adrenaline rushing, especially when you encounter them for the first time. Their horrific screams and roars send chills down your spine, and their sudden appearance may choke you up and send you into a frenzy where, if you’re like me, you will forget what buttons do what or which to press next. Besides the loud noise the foul monsters make, the dialogue between characters you meet is even far more atrocious. To be honest, I never liked the voice performance in the Souls game and Bloodborne seems plagued with the same problem. The voice acting feels dull and lacks enthusiasm. Maybe that’s what they were going for, but its hard to keep an interest in what’s going on while characters boringly read off their lines. Besides the subpar in-game voice performance, I never actually see a mouth open when the characters talk. It’s pretty noticeable, but on the positive side, there isn’t many of this type of scenes in the game.
Bloodborne can easily be one of Playstation 4’s greatest games and a strong candidate for this year’s Game Of The Year. It’s not an extremely difficult game, even though it may discourage you at first, but with enough perseverance and time spent learning the enemies routine, it is actually a very fun game. It would be a disservice to not recommend this game to everyone. You should check it out for yourself. We’re happy to help at all times through twitter : @jordanbiazzo14 @nickbiazzo @FilmGamesEtc. You could also leave questions and share your gameplay tips and advice with others in our Bloodborne Forum. How do you guys feel about Bloodborne? Think it’s better than its predecessors? Let me know in the comments below and for everything Bloodborne, keep it locked to FGE!