There was a moment when I was playing Bloodborne that solidified the game’s status as a worthy, if not outstanding follow up to From Software’s Souls series. I was patiently waiting, hidden in a staircase, for the leaping werewolves in the next room to pass me by. While I sat there with my heart pounding and palms sweaty, the beams of light shooting through the broken masonry threw up a giant, exaggerated silhouette of a hunchbacked werewolf creeping along the room above me and I knew that even though it is just a game, he could smell my fear.
Fear not fellow hunters, Bloodborne is everything you’ve been looking forward to and more. The team at From Software have taken the lessons learned from prior games and crafted something that takes the best elements from previous entries and scraps everything that didn’t work.
As far as aesthetics go, the game is dark, gothic and super gory. Blood stains the walls and player’s clothes during and after combat, and attacks will splatter the red stuff everywhere. This is by far the most gruesome Souls game yet. The city of Yarnham screams gothic, with canes, top hats and leather overcoats as the predominant fashion theme, and coffins, carriages and empty baby strollers litter the Victorian era streets. The textures are fabulous and the game makes excellent use of water effects. Everything is wet, muddy or covered in blood and shines in a disgusting but very pretty way. I can’t count the moments where I had to pause and just soak in the incredible view of Yarnham from a roof top, and there were times where I could see items and enemies in areas so far away that wouldn’t be accessible until much later.
The framerate remained steady throughout the game, with no noticeable drops even during the boss fights with particle effects and flames everywhere. Everything looked crisp and smooth, but suffered from some minor aliasing issues that seem unavoidable with console games.
The only issue I had was the lack of variety in the different locations. Everything looks great, and crams a crazy amount of detail into every alleyway, but there isn’t much diversity and many areas begin to look the same after a while. The lighting is gorgeous, and depending on the time of the day the wet brick will blaze with the reds and oranges of the setting sun.
The sound is fantastic, especially if you have decent speakers. With little to no music, except during boss fights and other special event, there’s nothing to distract you from hearing the moans and groans of enemy monsters and the terrifying metal scrape of a cleaver being dragged across the cobblestones.
Now, onto the new gameplay additions. Gone are the days of humanity, human effigies and stones of ephemeral eyes. No longer will players struggle to stay human; when you die, which happens a lot, you remain as you are minus your “blood echoes” which are Bloodborne’s currency and equivalent of souls that are gained by slaying enemies. A nifty new mechanic in the game allows monsters near the site of your death to steal your blood echoes, forcing you to defeat them in order to get them back. No more quick and cowardly runs, Bloodborne’s mantra of pro-active combat and constant engagement forces you to man up and get right back into the thick of it.
On that note, the biggest change to the tried and true but stagnant combat tactics found in the game’s predecessors is the regain system. The designers took a bold move introducing this mechanic, which offers players a brief window during combat to regain a certain amount of health by attacking an enemy. Those of you who prefer to play a slow, hit-and-run tactical approach will find yourselves dying a lot more than someone who is quick on their feet and keeps attacking.
This is by far the most gruesome Souls game yet.
Oh, and there’s no shields. Instead, Bloodborne players equip a transforming melee weapon in the right hand, and a firearm or torch in the other. The guns, which are held in the off-hand, are mainly used to stun enemies. As far as a ranged attack option they’re pretty useless. In order to pull off a special attack, players can shoot monsters in the opening stage of an assault animation, and if timed properly, the monsters drop to their knees and a light melee attack will initiate the special attack and do extra damage.
The biggest change in multiplayer comes with summoning. Players are no longer able to summon an unlimited amount of times whenever they feel like it. Each time you ring the beckoning bell, which summons, it costs one insight point. This adds a big risk, as often times nobody comes to your aid and you’ve just spent a precious insight point.
Insight is another form of currency in Bloodborne. Players get insight points by defeating bosses, discovering and talking to new NPC’s, and by using certain items. Your current level of insight is indicated by an eye icon in the stat screen that shows how much you have, which will decrease every time an insight point is used; so it’s important for players to keep track of this number.
All in all, the game is exactly what Souls fans have been hoping for in this new generation of consoles. It’s gorgeous, terrifying, relentless and highly addictive. There’s so much depth to this game that it’s impossible to go over everything, and there will be many surprises in store over the next few months as swarms of Hunters descend on Yarnham and explore its twisted alleyways and endless secrets.
Umbasa my friends…