Bloodborne on PlayStation 4
You are told it’s all going to be like a bad dream and you know, deep down in your gut, that you are being lied to. Your first experience of the game swiftly proves how tough you’ll have it and yet you smile, since you weren’t expecting anything less. Outside, the night of the hunt has already began. Welcome to Bloodborne. Set in a dark Victorian setting, the latest From Software title puts players in the shoes of a beast hunter. What beasts are those? It’s up to you to find out but rest assured, it’s a rough ride. Yharnam is a cursed city; armed with a few weapons and whatever powers you can gather from the blood of your voracious foes, you must face its dangers.
The first thing you’ll notice about the game is how good it looks. There’s a huge upgrade to everything From Software did before, including Dark Souls II. Textures, animations, and even models are extremely eye-catching. They exemplify a definite improvement on what’s come before, while maintaining the company’s pretty much classic aesthetics. Bloodborne certainly seems to have delivered on their promise of making the most of the PlayStation 4’s potential. Cling to that good news, because there’s plenty of heartache to come.
Technical specs aside, the real question was how apart from the Souls legacy Bloodborne was going to be. Right from the start this project was born to stand upon its own two feet, aiming to keep long-time fans satisfied, while opening its arms to brand new players willing to take advantage of a PlayStation 4 exclusive. It was certainly risky and yet, it delivered.
Bloodborne was not only carefully built upon the foundations of everything From Software did right in the past, but also improves the whole experience going forward. Players used to theSouls series will feel comfortable right away; controls, items, leveling up, and stats, among other features, feel extremely familiar. Nonetheless, far from feeling like a new skin for Dark Souls II,Bloodborne makes a name for itself.
First of all, there’s the setting. Yharnam’s opening zones showcase a relatively modern city, filled with Victorian and gothic details. On its streets, opulent civilization and beastly barbarism collide in an interesting way: deformed humans hunt and burn beasts while sane citizens hide in their houses. This conflict creates a very dense and terrifying atmosphere that makes this title extremely enjoyable and certainly unique. A never ending clash of worlds remain as a constant, even when you move further towards the source of the scourge that plagues the city in more ancient and mystical landscapes.
Concerning level designs, Bloodborne stands tall alongside it’s contemporaries. Yharnam is nothing less than rich in details, ranging from different levels and narrow streets to high spots with stunning views. Different parts of the world are linked together by shortcuts and secret passages, which work efficiently together with the fast-travel lamps. These connections not only become extremely helpful when dealing with tough parts, but also are nothing short of surprising. Most of the places that can be seen in the distance turn out to be visited later in the game.
As soon as I began my hunting night I found out that Bloodborne has no problem when it comes to overwhelming players with numerous mobs. The first minutes of the game are a test. You turn a corner and there’s one enemy. Right after, there’s two of them. It’s a piece of cake until then you notice you are facing tens of foes scattered around a pyre in the middle of the street. This is a classic From Software teaching method: the hard way. The good thing is you get to fight, and that’s where Bloodborne really shines.
Bloodborne’s combat system is fast, ruthless and extremely gory. In addition to requiring skill, it rewards players for being bold. This is achieved by several features. The most important and probably most daring of these is the health recovery system. This smart ability allows players to recover some of the hp they lost in a blow by counterattacking right away. Since healing with items – called Blood Vials – is somewhat limited, furiously slashing at your would-be assailant ends up being a great incentive for being as quick as possible. It goes without saying that this constant pressure to push on after you’ve failed makes the game a whole lot more fun.
This focus on swiftness and agility is further buoyed by an exceptionally versatile capability to perform lightning-fast evasive maneuvers. In a very unique fashion, Bloodborne’s dodging is graceful yet accurate like a ballerina’s point shoe, while retaining defensive and aggressive elements. Moreover, it looks visually astounding. These movements, which number more than just rolling around, can be performed in any direction, and are a serious resource for maintaining or closing the melee gap with enemies. It remains astonishing just how natural outmaneuvering a vicious beast feels.
Nevertheless, this redoubled focus on risk and reward is only a part of what makesBloodborne’s combat so wonderful. Having played so many hours of the Souls series made me kind of shield dependent. As I walked through Yharnam’s streets I felt a bit naked since instead of having something to protect me from harm, I had a big-ass rust-riddled shotgun. While this didn’t prevent me from pressing L1 (as my body was used to) to use an imaginary shield during my first hours in the game, it surely takes combat to a whole new level. Even though these secondary fire weapons are often about as good at dealing damage as a cruise missile made of wet cake, they are extremely useful for stunning and stopping attacks, and of course looking undoubtly cool. By the time I actually got a proper shield (which exists, I swear) I was already used to how much more useful an aggressive stance could be.
An extra combat feature, but not less important, it the fact that melee weapons have two fighting settings: short and fast, or longer and heavier. The great thing about this feature is that it doesn’t settle for different damage outputs, it also expands the versatility during combats. Different modes will be more effective depending on the quantity and type of enemies. As if this wasn’t good enough, changing weapon modes during combat works as additional movements, which can be combined in order to keep the movement flow. The ways in which this works also vary depending on the weapon you are using: for instance, while an axe will simply extend its handle, a short sword will attach to a huge hammerhead. The outcome is often a bloody ballet of extremely awesome moves you will never get tired of.