I don’t know how From Software does it, but they just seem to know how to pump out triple-A titles that will surely entertain gamers in ways that other developers can only dream of. While known for their recreation of NES hard from the Dark Souls, Bloodborne is a different take that while similar, has enough to set it apart from the Souls series to stand on its own. As one of the first true PlayStation 4 (PS4) exclusive games for the system, it really shows that From Software are prepared to tackle the next generation of gaming.
Bloodborne is set in a different era from the Souls series and should be separate from it. It steps away from the medieval settings the Souls series is known for and goes for a more Gothic horror setting during the Victoria era. You play as the hunter that awakens in the Hunter’s Dream during a blood transfusion. A creepy old man does the deed with the operation and you find yourself alone in an area that is both unsettling and creepy. You explore the world of Bloodborne and find there are locations and environments that differ from the Souls series. Gone is the feel of fantasy and dragons, replaced with cities and a more modern setting of Victorian era London that almost feels like you’re playing a completely different game. Despite it playing similarly, it is very much not a Souls game but more of a game that heavily borrows from the Souls series.
The game is gorgeous in its nightmarish appearance. It is a delight to witness each new enemy you come across. Each creature has it’s own unique and horrifying look to it that forces you to pay attention if you hope to survive and you can’t help but pay attention to the details of how you plan your attack. Towering, monstrous creatures intimidate you while agile beasts question your chances of living through another fight. I found myself feeling that some of the enemies designs were something that can only be thought up by exploring the dark depths of madness in the human mind and I truly cherish From Software from bringing it to life in Bloodborne.
Those that experienced the hellish landscapes and battles of the Souls games will feel right at home with Bloodborne. Many mechanics have been borrowed and those new to it will be able to understand and pick it up straight away. Replacing the souls you can collect from fallen nightmarish foes, are blood echoes that serve much the same purpose, while messages to read from fellow players and trolls also return to help guide or screw you around. You’ll once again be able to see blood stains of how other players met their demise and summon comrades to help you in your time of need. If anything, many mechanics from the Souls series were borrowed but under different names, and are welcome in Bloodborne. Character creation, of course, is also borrowed along with the well-designed leveling up system that gives the player the freedom to level their character in any way they desire. It pays to learn and study the game so you can develop your character the best way possible.
Shields and defensive play are no longer an option either in Bloodborne. Here, we’re introduced to a more aggressive play style that rewards punishing your opponent with overwhelming strength instead of defensive play. While parrying is no longer an option, to keep up with a more modern feel, we have firearms at our disposal. While guns don’t function as a means to kill enemies, it changes Bloodborne enough to have it’s own identity apart from its funky Souls cousin. The game rewards and demands that you be aggressive and know when to rain the beat down. Bloodborne introduces a unique health recovery window where, once you’re hit, you have the chance to fill up the health by attacking the enemy. While some may consider it making Bloodborne easier than Dark Souls, you can make the same argument that it makes it more fast-paced and action filled. Combined with different weapon forms, those that stray away from the Souls series may find a home with Bloodborne as a game that suits their faster action needs.
Related: Dark Souls III Review
The transformation aspect of weapons in Bloodborne are introduced, and that changes combat from the Souls series. Each weapon you use has a second form that you can change to even in the middle of attacking. While the default form has a more balanced feel in terms of speed and power, transforming it allows for a different range of attacks and higher damage at a cost of speed that adds another dimension to how combat plays out. It’s a refreshing take that is worth mastering, and once again you need to master your weapon to survive the horrors out there. The inventory system is also fantastic, as the blood vials and bullets you gather in your journey go to your hub world, the Hunter’s Dream, if you reach your cap. Once you die, you will find it fill up again with whatever amount you have in storage. While you may find yourself sometimes going back to restock by killing enemies in the starting area, it’s still a handy feature to have to not break the pace of the game by travelling back to the hub world.
Something never before seen from the Souls series is the Chalice Dungeons. Chalice Dungeons are randomly generated dungeons that play no part in the main story but add re-playability to the overall game. While they vary in size and difficulty, it offers new bosses and gear that you wouldn’t find in the main game itself. While Bloodborne is more open-ended and spacious, the Chalice Dungeons are more closed in as you travel through the dungeons and feel more like Dark Souls. The objectives are always the same, however, find levers and progress by opening doors until you find the end boss of said area. While it is worthwhile to tackle the Chalice Dungeons for the exclusive, some players may not be interested and can settle with the main game itself.
If there is anything that From Software are masters of, it’s giving the player an atmosphere and emotions that are unsettling and disturbing. While the game could come across as a horror game, it’s the environments and enemy designs that truly speak to the dark reaches of the human mind. No cheap scares are used, as demonic and monstrous creatures roam the lands in a depressing setting. Early in the game, you explore the dirty streets of Yharnam, fighting zombie-like humans with rotting flesh surrounding bonfires, while inhuman beasts roam, hunting for their next victim, in order to eventually reach more distorted and disturbed environments that invoke the psyche in a way that few hope to achieve from games focused purely on horror. Bloodborne achieves those dark feels, and embraces them. You don’t have good feelings unless you cut down beasts in a bloody manner.
If there was a reason to buy a PlayStation 4, it would be Bloodborne. It holds you, grabs your full attention, and opens your mind to a world of horror and death. You will die, but you will embrace it. You will be disturbed, but you want to dive deeper into the madness. You will push forward to the brink of insanity but you will feel pleasure and be rewarded with each challenge you conquer. From Software has created yet another masterpiece that is more than just a game, it’s an experience that will make you remember it for a long time. With your typical game time being around 60 hours as well as New Game Plus, you’ll be stuck in Yharnam for a long time.
Gorgeous graphics and monster designs
Excellent gameplay mechanics
More aggressive playstyle a welcome change
Souls veterans may find it easier