Author: Patrick Dodd
A hauntingly beautiful and punishing experience. Can you conquer the vicious beasts of Yharnam? Can you end the twisted nighmare that plauges this dark Victorian land? Load your pistols, sharpen your cleavers, and dive into this can’t miss PS4 exclusive.
Bloodborne has been called the spiritual successor to Dark Souls. With the popularity of Dark Souls and its rabid fan base, this moniker placed a lot of pressure on Bloodborne. Fortunately, Bloodborne completely surpasses these expectations and manages to feel at times familiar and other times completely surprising.
The game takes place in city of Yharnam, a sprawling Victorian-like city. It’s the night of the hunt. All ordinary citizens lock themselves in the home while monsters and cursed villagers roam the streets. You are a hunter, apparently one of a long line of hunters. You’re task is to dispatch the monsters. For the first half of the game that’s the entirety of the plot. You explore the winding cities of Yharnam and it’s Great Cathedral searching for monsters to kill. As with Dark Souls, there’s a general feeling of hopelessness and despair. The people locked in their homes seem to blame you for their predicament. The cursed villagers you kill shout things like, “It’s all your fault,” at you.
I was thoroughly enjoying the story at this point in the game. It was simple, but it seemed to hint at deeper themes. For example, man’s inner struggle with his bestial nature. This struggle manifests itself in Father Gascoigne, a former hunter. In your fight with him he fully gives in to the beast inside. It’s tragic since after you defeat him you discover he murdered his wife. He stands as a warning of what may happen should you fail.
The plot becomes heavily Lovecraftian in the second half of the game. Enemies become more and more supernatural, and the game focuses on the Great Ones. The Great Ones are nightmarish creatures that appear throughout Yharnam. They are grotesque looking. One is even modeled after Cthulhu. The game becomes more horror than action at this point. The scariest part of the game is in the Upper Cathedral Ward. You wander through a pitch black room. Your torch is the only source of light. The enemies are pitch black wolves with red eyes and terrifying ‘brain suckers’ who walk around making slurping sounds. They defy description, so here’s a picture.
Bloodborne’s combat deviates heavily from Dark Souls. No longer can you hide behind a heavy shield when your opponent strikes. You hold a gun in your left hand and a weapon in your right. To survive in Bloodborne, you have to go on the offensive. You must strike enemies and then quickly dodge out of the way. The game rewards you for being on the offensive. If you are damaged, you have a small window to get the health back by striking the enemy. Parrying is also significantly easier. You can stun your enemy and deal a devastating blow if you fire your gun at just the moment. All this creates fun fast paced combat.
Like Dark Souls, death has consequences. Enemies drop blood echoes, which you use as currency to level up or buy items. But if you die on the hunt (and you certainly will), you lose your blood echoes. They are either collected by the enemy that killed you or are lying on the spot where you died. You can go back and retrieve them, but if you die on the way, then they’re gone forever.
Bloodborne also offers unique weapons. All of Bloodborne’s primary weapons are ‘trick weapons’. You can use their standard mode, or with a button press, switch to a different version of the weapon. For instance, the hunter’s axe can transform from a single handed weapon to a much larger two handed weapon. A sword can transform into a massive hammer. Mastering the different movesets leads to a variety of combos you can use to take down your enemies. Your weapons can be upgraded using blood gems.
Multiplayer is very similar to Dark Souls. Players leave each other messages on the ground that provide tips for upcoming areas. You can ring a bell to summon a player into your game to help you or you can ring a bell to be summoned into another person’s game. PVP is present as well. You can ring a sinister bell to invade another player’s world and kill him. Multiplayer felt much more necessary in Bloodborne than Dark Souls. I was only able to defeat certain bosses by co-op, whereas I was able to complete Dark Souls without requiring online assistance.
Bloodborne also offers randomized dungeons. If you’re tired of the story or want to try something new, you can enter a chalice dungeon. The enemies are randomly generated with a different boss fight at the end. There are special weapons and crafting materials you can find.
Bloodborne has phenomenal graphics and design. The gothic architecture of the cathedral is eerie. The shadows in all the buildings add to your feeling of dread and the areas with lots of color, such as the garden level, are beautiful. Enemy bosses are grotesquely and unforgettably designed, ranging from humanoid former hunters to beats and nightmarish combinations of flesh and bone.
As with all From Software games, the soundtrack is gorgeous. Each boss has his own unique theme and stands out while you’re fighting them. The hub world has a soothing theme, which is fitting since it’s the only place where you are in no danger. The weapons make a satisfying crunch when you hit an enemy, making your blows feel powerful.
Bloodborne’s faults, while minor, are still present. You can only heal through health potions. You can either purchase them at a high price or pick them up from dead enemies. This is fine in the beginning of the game when enemies drop them willy-nilly. But in the really difficult sections of the game, enemies rarely drop health potions. This requires you to go back to sections that are now incredibly easy and fight non-challenging enemies, hoping for health potions. It can really take you out of the game, especially when you’re trying to take down that one really tough boss you can’t seem to beat.
The game does feel short compared to Dark Souls I and II. There are less levels and boss fights, about half of them being entirely optional. This might just be part of the new console generation though. Game length sacrificed for better graphics.
Overall, I absolutely recommend Bloodborne. It’s arguably the best game of 2015 and certainly the best PS4 exclusive. The combat is exhilarating and tense. The enemies all designed well. The final boss fight is absolute masterpiece. There’s also plenty of replay value in new game plus and chalice dungeons
Pros: Memorable boss battles, unique weapons, gorgeous environments
Cons: Potion farming, shorter than other From Software games