Bloodborne Game Review
Smart level layout
Consistent, satisfying mechanics
Thick, darkened the air
Obscure style may annoy
About The Game
Purgatory. Getting the opportunity to relive every painful moment, every mistake you ever made, a million of days. The time your first pet died, that day you realized Santa Claus was not real, the first time you have dumped: every traditional stomach-sinking moment on a continuous loop. Bloodborne’s world is somewhat like a skewed version of that specific hell.
Sounds awful, does not it? Well From Software has once more proved there is a masochist in us all because Bloodborne is among the most persuasive PS4 exclusives of the generation up to now.
Bloodborne already has a guaranteed audience, being a sequel to Dark Souls II in all but name, but for the sake of argument, we are going to assume you are not yet convinced.
So just how hellish is Bloodborne? You are a lone warrior, a hunter who wakes up in a city where everybody not shuttered away has been infected with a lycanthropic disease. Not a part of the Twilight fans’ support team? This means werewolves. The first enemies you will meet are the townsfolk at the early stages of the transformation.
You are on your own. Individuals are out to kill you or will just talk to you through closed doors. It is a lonely, doom-laden world whose soundtrack is inhuman groans and menacing drones as opposed to rousing strings. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim that isn’t, and the Bloodborne leans more towards terror than From Software’s previous games.
Grim? Absolutely. Playing Bloodborne whilst knee-deep at a regretful weekend hangover is not the best idea, but there is something intoxicating about the air. It is quite unlike anything available for the current consoles, its strategy quite different.
The absence of a conventional score a part of it, but the entire setup is unusual: if extremely similar in style to that of Dark Souls 2 and another Souls games. Bloodborne does not so much have a narrative as a mythos. You are not given a plot or pursuit to follow, but a wealthy world begins forming in the event you focus on your environment and the snippets of dialogue you get from the few characters that do not need to tear out your throat.
None of it makes any sense by itself, but try to decipher it in Bloodborne’s wider world and you can not fail to get sucked in. Bloodborne’s swimming pool might be full of blood, but it sure is hot.
This deep-diving does not only apply nerd-out obsessives either. It’s not tough to wind up discovering a lot of what is there to find in Bloodborne’s surroundings as you’ll meet them over and over. And again.
Its difficulty level is significantly closer to a traditional game like Megaman as opposed to the more recent third-person action games it may initially seem to have more in common with. Dying a dozen times an hour isn’t unusual, after which you will reawaken in the last continue point you saw, with all enemies completely stocked-up again.
Watch a couple of minutes of Bloodborne gameplay and you will see our hero running around slashing at enemies in a way that may appear brainless and button mashy. That strategy will get you nowhere, however. When some conventions of this third-person action RPG genre apply: you have several attack strengths and can roll out of the way of enemies, giving you the dexterity advantage over most, you will need to study Bloodborne in rather an active manner.
Input a new place and an enemy will, often as not, ambush you from the side and immediately lop off half your health. Next time, you will know the location of the enemy. Perhaps there is a new type of enemy is in this area also, and its attack pattern outfoxes you. Again: dead.
But, there are a few new twists for the lovers. Bloodborne eliminates the safety net of a defense. It is possible to carry a weapon in each hand, a gun/firearm in one and an and ax, sword or hammer and so forth in another, but the sort of active defense you might have relied on in Dark Souls two is absent. When there are various character classes, all need to handle close-up combat. A lot.
This forces you to take an aggressive battle style, especially because most of any health lost from assault can be recovered by fighting back in a brief window. Ranged weapons are for the most part not powerful enough to rely on either. You need to get stuck in or run.
As ever, an evasion is generally an option too. It is possible to run through groups of enemies in most circumstances, and leaping out of the way of strikes plays just as significant a function as attacking in combat. Its style is a bit different to the preceding Souls games, but the texture is comparable.
But, Bloodborne’s action-heavy approach puts much more of a focus on timing and technique. This is as important for game balancing as providing the fighting a distinct personality. Unlike Dark Souls 2, enemies don’t begin to disappear after you have mined an area a lot of times. This was used as a means to discourage players from just leveling-up their personalities to minimize the difficultly of what was to come ahead in Black Souls 2.
As you can not really take on enemies from a distance and are always vulnerable, this is not so much of a problem in Bloodborne. You still level-up stats, with a currency called Blood Echoes, recovered from enemies, but the process of studying and learning environments and enemies is mandatory.
The only times this gets really testing is when up against boss opponents. You will encounter one of them in each area and will need to take them to advance to new areas. They are not discretionary and are frequently nightmarish giants that may take you around 15-20 minutes to kill.
Boss battles often find the generally-high frustration level of Bloodborne reach new heights, particularly as the failure to property that critical hit can come down to the primitive way your character interacts with the environment.
Take the next boss battle for instance (minor spoilers): it happens in a graveyard and is very reliant upon you dodging attacks. However, the collision detection is so easy that you will need to be doubly careful about your environment. The principles Bloodborne lives by are constant but seldom forgiving.
A few times we wondered if From Software was carrying a bit too much glee in these repeated deaths — Bloodborne: Schadenfreude variant, anybody?
But, these small slips are rare. And otherwise, the area of Bloodborne has an unusual consistency. It is a mystery block that fits together perfectly. Have a lift up a ground and you are not simply whisked off to a different area, with the elevator acting as a concealed loading screen. You will really be taken up a floor, and what’s there will be connected to where you were before.
This attention to detail and an above-and-beyond architect-like approach to world-building another major area of the game, however, not only the level designers displaying. Continue points are scarce, and Bloodborne frequently routes you back to an unlocked before. They are called Lamps here, a slightly more contemporary spin on the bonfires of Dark Souls 2. That feeling of being ‘back at square one’ is a deliberate oppressive move, but each unlocked door is an advancement.
By routing you around the exact alleys, Bloodborne also makes you comfortable with its world because its founders are. Rarely does a game cause you to have this intimate a connection with surroundings this awful.
There is beauty in them also, naturally. This is far from one of the PS4’s best-looking games, but there are loads of grand vistas that act both as eye candy and a means to prevent Bloodborne’s oppression from weighing too heavily. It is a dungeon crawler in certain respects, but its surroundings are as frequently epic as claustrophobic. From Software has been very cautious about that specific balancing act.
And while portions of Bloodborne’s levels link back to each other, there are also quite clear wider zones. You do get to close the book on every tormented chapter in the long run. There’s not much likelihood of you having a neutral reaction to some of these, either. Even if there are things when you breathe a sigh of relief and think (or shout) “thank god that’s over”, they do challenge and meet.
The worst things have the most satisfying resolutions also, as you have inevitably win out with a particular technique instead of pure luck. Whether that is of your own devising or something you appeared on YouTube barely matters.
One provides you all of the glory, the other hooks you into a type of collective battle against Bloodborne. For a game that is stylistically a very lonely experience, there is a strong community element to it also. You can watch specters of different players around with hotspots that show up on the earth, and read notes they have left giving clues about what traps or snacks are ahead. You can leave your own notes too.
While we could not get this feature to work pre-release (possibly the world was not populated), you may also summon other players that will aid you in Bloodborne’s trickier battles. Again, as in previous Souls games. If this sounds like diluting the grief a bit too much, you may even play offline, leaving you well and truly on your own.
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