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.
All this emphasis on creating a truly excellent combat system has its own response by the game’s difficulty. If there was ever even a glimmer of worry Bloodborne was going to be easier in order to welcome a new public, those doubts faded away hastily. Besides the new combat features and the focus on speed, a unique cohort of enemies and bosses help Bloodborne brand its mark upon the world. Many enemies in Yharnam have what one might call “finishing moves”, which are rather special moves that, if landed, can kill a player quicker than you can say “watch this.” Every fight counts, and regardless of your character’s level, even the first enemy you encounter in Yharnam can still kill you with nothing more than a wry look.
In a similar way, bosses in Bloodborne are extremely formidable, implacable, and resourceful. These epic battles have been taken several notches forward from the expected norm by From Software, especially because these rather unique foes have a never-seen-before amount of skills and moves. This does not however make Bloodborne intentionally obtuse. It instead serves to inspire the player. After all, the tougher the battle, the more ecstatic the victory is finally achieved. Nonetheless, my personal experience forces me to warn you: there will probably be rage quits. Keep anything breakable at distance. Yep, even the dog.
While having the cuddly properties of an angry cactus, Bloodborne is also notably accessible. Its learning curve is sincerely steep, but also rewarding and every death is a lesson. If you don’t get cocky, you’ll soon be ready for tougher challenges. The best part of it all is that you actually earn everything the game gives you. More importantly, there’s nothing comparable to the feeling you get when that pain in the ass boss that’s been owning you finally falls to the floor; a sweet and incomparable adrenaline rush that leaves your heart pounding and face twisted into a semi-maniacal grin.
Bloodborne is a lot more than just a glorified combat system though. All of the features above, added to the way Blood Echoes – which act as both experience points and currency – can be lost when you die make players feel a familiar yet unique sense of dread. I promise you that during your adventures in Yharnam you’ll feel a triad of fears: fear of death, fear of loss, and fear of the unknown. While this may sound terrible, it’s what has made every From Software title stand out and in Bloodborne‘s own special way, it injects an even greater sense of terror into an already pulse-pounding landscape. Every corner has its own secrets and dangers, but you’re always being pushed forward, even as the whole city reeks of death and despair.
This overall ambiance is explained in the most subtle of ways. This may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but Bloodborne has kept the extremely cryptic and rationed narrative technique From Software thrives upon. Even though it may be annoying at times, or just confusing, it’s actually a stellar feature. Players get to put the pieces of the story together by paying attention to location names, item descriptions, notes and whatever they can get from the city’s citizens, sheltered behind locked doors. The Souls series has shown us how vast this hidden lore can be and Yharnam’s story, as well as the hunters’ mission, become clearer if you keep your eyes open. Luckily, everything stated above is enough to entertain gamers who don’t want to go the extra mile and play the additional role of archaeologist in a cursed city.
While it’s true that the base grounds for a story are laid in front of players right from the start, it’s but a husk waiting to be filled with content. You are a hunter, yes, but what does that mean? Why are there beasts there? And more often than you’d like, new questions arise as you keep moving forward. What happened in the Cathedral? Whose tomb is this? It’s a delightful puzzle that will only partially solve itself. Pretty much like with everything else in the game, if you want all the answers you’ll have to earn them.
As the night of the hunt progresses, you will know there are other hunters. Whether on your side or not is something you will have to see for yourself. However, that’s exactly where the multiplayer aspects of Bloodborne come into place. Using two items in the game will either allow summoning players into your world (Beckoning Bell) or joining someone else’s (Small Resonating Bell). These multiplayer sessions are cooperative and can be used to get past bosses or other difficult parts of the game. Additionally, there’s also a one-versus-one PvP mode in certain areas, as well as the much-talked-about Chalice Dungeons. The latter, which are randomly generated, are dungeons that players create by performing rituals on the Hunters’ Dream. Once created, they can be saved and shared, which allows for extra challenges and rewards. Chalice dungeons can be especially tough and are best suited for co-op situations, but definitely add a huge replay value to Bloodborne.
Despite all these great features, From Software’s latest game isn’t utterly perfect, at least technically. Despite getting a pretty big performance-related update on the very launch day, there are still some technical issues. In addition to some glitches and an occasional wall clipping, there are a few heavier issues which should be addressed: First of all, loading times are a lot longer than expected. Every time you die, which happens more often than you’ll ever admit, there’s a period of over 20 seconds until you actually respawn. You may think this isn’t a lot, but it does matter when a boss is getting all medieval on your ass. Secondly, even though the game does look gorgeous, there’s a frequent case of texture pop in, which certainly ruins a great deal of the game’s immersion.
One additional letdown is how little thought differing play-styles have been afforded. While theSouls series allowed players to choose whether they wanted to focus on heavy, agile, or even magical characters, Bloodborne seems to push everyone towards the same speed-based style. No one will deny it works perfectly, but it may not be suited to every player.
To be honest, minor little warts and all, Bloodborne was a lot more than I expected. It definitely builds upon the Souls games on the things it should, while still becoming a completely new thing. The changes on pace, as well as the new features are incredibly welcome and the game is a huge lot of fun. Believe it or not, From Software has managed to up their game a lot with this release, and I sincerely hope this is the beginning of a new legendary series.
There is no proper way to stress how good Bloodborne actually is. The sum of its features produces a complex yet accessible gameplay experience that is amazing pretty much in every aspect. The best part of it all though, is that Bloodborne turned out to be one of the few true exclusives, and probably the best out there today. It’s definitely laying a path to be followed by developers on the delivery of a true quality current-gen product.
[+] Stunning visuals and aesthetics
[+] Excellent combat
[+] Deep and intriguing story
[+] Amazing setting
[-] Rather long loading times
This game was reviewed for PS4