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April 3, 2015

Bloodborne (PS4)

Bloodborne_box_artWhat’s Good:
-Wonderfully realized style and atmosphere.
-Firm but fair difficulty.
-Deliberate combat which
rewards aggression and reflexes.
-Dense environments filled with secrets.
-A varied range of interesting weapons.

What’s Bad:
-Lengthy loading screens in many areas.
-Unstable frame-rate.

What I thought: “A saving grace
for a generation starving for creativity.”

Murder Most Foul
The first thing anyone will talk about when it comes to the Souls games is their absurd difficulty, and while I think I may understand where the romancing of those games’ difficulty comes from, and Bloodborne is, in many ways, just as challenging as the games which came before it, that challenge is largely overblown, and Bloodborne more than the Souls games does smart things to alleviate some of the grind and frustrations associated with player death.
Enemies are powerful, and rushing into a new area with no respect for what horrors it hides is the best recipe for defeat, but Bloodborne finds the best middle-ground between progression and grind. Fallen enemies regularly drop healing items, and a large number of unlockable shortcuts makes the trek to your corpse far less tedious than before. If you are struck in combat, you are also able to gain back a section of your missing health bar if you land a few hits on an enemy, which gives you interesting short-term considerations to deal with in combat which weren’t found before.
If a particular section or boss is giving you an especially rough time, you are able to ring a Beckoning Bell to open your instance of the world up for other players. Typically this means cooperation, but beckoning players also runs the risk of summoning a hostile player.
Pvp has never been very well implemented in the Souls games, and thankfully, it wasn’t a huge component of my particular playthrough. While I did manage to stumble into Bloodborne’s designated pvp area without realizing it, and was invaded but a single time in the waning hours of the game, if you’re not into this particular aspect of the game, it is easy to avoid it altogether by simply playing the game in offline mode. Doing this will also remove player-created notes, however, which, while not necessary to progress, are invaluable for finding items or areas hidden off of the beaten path.

A Blade of Many Faces
When your feet rest on the streets of Yharnam, you are alone, and the best tools for dispensing of the various adversaries lurking about the world come in the form of trick weapons. While you find far fewer pieces of equipment in Bloodborne than in the Souls games, each item has a purpose, and each weapon has far more character, as each physical weapon can be switched to and from an alternate form at the press of a button.
This may imbue your weapon with a special property, transform it into a much slower but much more damaging variant, or give you additional range or speed among other perks.
Every weapon is interesting and different, and as you progress through the game, you will come across enough upgrade materials to beef up more than just one or two of your favorites.
Replacing shields from the Souls games are a small collection of ranged weapons which when brandished properly can create openings to attack, and if your timing is correct, can stun an enemy, giving you the opportunity to deal massive damage to it.
While the omittance of a shield means you can no longer rely on the turtle approach, this makes the combat much more edge-of-your-seat. Hunters are agile individuals, and dashing and dodging in battle brings a thrill to combat that was not seen in the Souls games.

A Horrible Night to Have a Curse
By terms of gameplay, Bloodborne is of course very close to the Souls games, but if I had to compare it to any other game, I would say Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. This is because, just like Lords of Shadow, Bloodborne is seeping at the seams with gorgeous visuals which just get more and more jaw-dropping the further you progress.
It is no wonder the load times are as long as they can be, and the frame-rate is as uneven as it is when almost every environment is a huge interwoven maze of side-routes, stairways and pathways littered to the brim with details large and small. It’s beautiful stuff, so much so that making your way through a new environment too quickly means you haven’t as much time to take in the visuals.
It’s gorgeous, and the creativity found in many of the game’s environments applies to the creature design as well.
The sound design is on par also, from the faint sobs heard near another player’s blood-stain to the scurrying of an unseen beast, to the soft, alluring melody which permeates the Hunter’s Dream, sound does an excellent job at pulling you into the world while at the same time giving you information to help you survive.

That Which Lies at the End of the Nightmare
Bloodborne is the most enjoyment I have gotten out of a big budget release in some time. The world is dark and disturbing but oddly alluring, and the gameplay mechanics have been fine tuned to a bladed edge from the Soul games which preceded it.
It took me roughly 18 hours to finish, and there wasn’t a moment that went by where I wasn’t motivated to progress, if only to see what sorts of gorgeous visuals or what kinds of vicious horrors lurked further down the road. New Game+ (which provides new items unobtainable in the first go), procedurally generated Chalice Dungeons, and the feeling that there’s always something hidden that you previously missed are all good motivations to spend more time in this world post credits.
If you so choose, the night can live on forever, and while you are unwelcome in it, it is a night well-worth experiencing.

From → Games

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