Bloodborne is the latest title from acclaimed Japanese game developer FROM Software, famous for their series of games most known for sending controllers to a shallow grave in the back yard.
The world that Bloodborne is set in is a delicious mix of Victorian era London meets Lovecraftian mystery horror. Cockney accents, horse and carriages, werewolves and a population of residents that are either stark raving mad, a bit of a dick, or some sort of infected beast man that will eventually burst out of a window and try and kill you.
Actually now that I mention it, pretty much everything tries to kill you in Bloodborne, which is a nice change from Dark Souls 2.. where everything tried to kill you. OK, so if you have played the previous games from FROM Software there is a good chance you know what you are in for, brutal combat, steep learning curve and a constant fear that something is about to jump out and kill you.
With that said, do not think that because you have sunk 50+ hours into Dark Souls 2, just finished a soul level 1 run of Dark Souls 1 and know more about Demon’s Souls that you care to publicly admit that you are going to steamroll your way through Bloodborne. Nothing is going to get you killed quicker than a misplaced sense of confidence. Do expect to die, because you will. It will be your own fault you probably zigged when you should have zagged. Either way, just take the death and move on because it’s going to happen a lot more before you get to the end.
The landscapes and set pieces that you traverse through furiously clenching your butt muscles are meticulously detailed. Abandoned medical clinics have shelves stocked with bottles and jars, coffins line the streets that are clogged with abandoned furniture and other items you would expect to see in a world gone mad with blood hungry beasts trying to kill everyone.
As with previous FROM Software games, you come to town as some sort of chosen one with no real idea of why and everyone seems to take exception with you being there. That won’t stop you showing them the errors of their ways with either your Trick weapon or your firearm. That’s right, Guns have arrived and they aren’t what you would expect – sure they fire a bullet into the enemy, but don’t expect it to be your ‘go to’ attack. This is because firearms are the new parry / interrupt attack, because in case I forgot to mention it.. Shields are so last year.. I mean come on guys, get with the #fashionsouls.
As with all things that FROM Software does, any weapon in the game is a perfectly viable weapon for you to use. Yes if you want to use your pistol wholly and solely you can, and yes it can make the end game amazingly easy. You won’t be able to rally with a pistol though and boy do you want to rally. Much like the revised parry system, the rally system is something that has completely changed up combat in Bloodborne.
Upon taking damage, you have a small window of time, say two to three seconds, where you can REGAIN that lost health by attacking the enemy. So sometimes getting greedy in Bloodborne won’t get you killed… I mean, most times it will cause you to cop a pissed off werewolf claw to the face because you have no stamina left to dodge, but hey – that’s what you get for being greedy mate!
Bloodborne also sees a return to the intertwined levels that the souls series was known for until Dark Souls 2 messed it all up. On so many occasions I found myself creeping cautiously forward worried I was about to stumble across a new boss, only to find myself unlocking another shortcut back to an area I had already cleared. It’s this kind of heart in throat moments that will leave you an emotionally drained husk of a person after an extended session of Bloodborne.
There’s also a really solid roster of enemies to kill throughout the levels, all of which have seem to have their own weaknesses. Whether it be a fear of fire, or a fear of your lightning mace being smashed into their ye olde face. Either way, I never found myself becoming bored of being killed by the same enemy over and over, which is always a nice touch and it keeps the game refreshing to play.
Partly I think this is because you progress through the levels quite swiftly, sure there may be a few spots you have trouble with – certain groups of enemies and the like – but for the most part you will move from lamp post checkpoint to lamp post checkpoint without too much trouble. As these things usually go though, eventually you will pass through some sort of suspicious looking archway and then its boss fight time baby! Gone are the days where you would need to pass through a fog gate to enter a boss area, now the boss battles feel like much more of a surprise when you stumble up a set of stairs hoping to find a magical lamp post only to come across a giant lightning infused bone dog, that is hungry for Hunter flesh.
The boss designs in Bloodborne are something truly amazing, a masterpiece in both form and function. No two boss designs are the same, or even have similar mechanics, apart from wanting to kill you. They range from the helpful axe wielding man who has a tendency to turn into an angry werewolf to others like a weird blobby tentacle monster or just a death metal singer who is having body image issues. All in all there is a large variety of bosses that will keep you on your toes and keep that PS4 controller worried about that ever looming shallow grave in the back yard.
Long story short, Bloodborne is an amazing game full of brutal combat slathered with a thick overlay of horror themed enemies and locations. There is no denying that the learning curve is steep, but now that the recent patch fixed the load times, you will be back on the streets of Yharnam ready to Zag, because lets face it, that Zig didn’t work out very well. The story takes a bit of a back seat, like all FROM Software games, but it is there if you wish to seek it out.