Bloodborne is a Hack and Slash RPG developed by From Software, a company named solely for the purpose of spawning an Abbott and Costello sketch, “It’s a game by From Software.” “From which software?” “No, it’s from Softwhere.”.
Bloodborne is a spiritual successor to the Dark Souls series, which was a successor to Demon Souls, which was possibly a successor to Soul Eater. However since I have played neither series before this I will be judging this game on its own merits, therefore the argument that “yeah, but it is an improvement from Dark Souls in this way…” will hold no weight here. And yes that excuse has been used before on me. So you take the role of a hunter who is tasked with killing demons….that’s pretty much it. Well there is more to it if you’re interested, with multiple endings depending on your choices and how you play the game. For the most part however you’ll just be finding and killing the bosses. The game is mostly focused on gameplay rather than telling a story, which in no way dilutes the experience thankfully.
Gameplay involves exploring the map and killing enemies, ranging from possessed villagers, to giant trolls and werewolves which can kindly go fuck themselves…stupid ass, ganging up on me, cheap wolf ass mother! You explore this world, finding new weapons and items and ultimately seeking out the powerful boss battles. As you kill, you earn blood echoes, which act as currency in the game to buy items, repair equipment and level up your stats. However if you die then your blood echoes go down to zero, yet they will either be in a puddle where you died or possessed by the enemy that killed you, giving you a chance to get back your hard earned blood.
Combat is strategic in the sense that you have to carefully time your attacks and watch your enemy’s movements, since your attacks and dodges use the same energy meter. However if you take damage you have a chance to hit an enemy multiple times to gain back your health, keeping you on the attack. It’s not fast paced like Ninja Gaiden, but instead its slow and deliberate. Your weapons will typically have multiple forms, like a cane that turns into a bladed whip, if you want to get your Castlevania on, and a sword which becomes the handle to giant hammer.
Some of these are creative and cool, while others feel some what lacking, like the hand blade that folds out into a longer blade, or a hand blade that folds out into a spear, and yet feels pretty much the same as the other saw blade. I honestly wouldn’t notice if you didn’t have cool weapons that show off actually creativity game; a giant barber razor that folds into a slightly smaller razor won’t cut it when you compare it to the rapier that is also a pistol is all I’m saying.
The game is fiendishly difficult however, and demands your full concentration; planning and patience are rewarded while rushing in and wasting your stamina will lead to your demise.
The games design looks amazing; Yarnham is a city apparently constructed entirely from gothic cathedrals. It’s dark and awe inspiring, distracting you from the games shitty facial hair. That’s not an exaggeration, all the beards in the game really stand out and look awful, but are thankfully optional. I won’t be taking points away from this by the way, unless I’m feeling really petty. However it’s also somewhat cluttered and feels very crowded; a little too detailed, but at the same time it does its job and creates this decaying atmosphere.
So everything seems pretty good so far, right? Pretty much a perfect game right? Let’s talk about the first section of the game. So the first area is a large courtyard, swarming with standard enemies. OK, so lets get good at fighting this group, use our brain. Then you’re met with a giant troll wielding a cinder block. So lets apply our knowledge to beat it. Done, feeling pretty good about that; biggest enemy yet and they’re a dime a dozen.
Then we follow this up with two werewolves that wreck you, causing you to have to go through the courtyard and the troll all over again. These you can avoid, but not the werewolves. Cross the bridge and fight a troll, done! Now you go up against the Cleric beast; this is a huge deer horned thing of matted hair that just owns you. So you lose, big surprise, taking you to the hub area, where you can now level up.
So let’s recap, you spend ages going through the first section, learning the moves, only to be placed in a situation that is designed to beat you, taking away all the blood echoes you had earned up until that point…seriously? Literally hours of my life felt wasted; I shut that game off and played something else. I understand that the game requires diligence and skill, but the slow game mechanics, coupled with the fact that everything I had earned was just taken away left me feeling bored and annoyed.
At first I thought “This game is hard, so I must get better”, but apparently according to some walkthroughs, this part of the game is ”designed to break you.”. Breaking me with difficulty is one thing, speaking from my experience with Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden Black, however when I am bored enough to not want to play the game then it’s impossible to ignore this as a flaw. After this the game becomes actually fun, as you grow stronger and get better. But the fact that the game “is actually good after a few hours” still implies that I spent a few hours not having fun.
Now for Online. You can leave notes in the game for other players, as well as reading their notes, either warning people about an upcoming ambush or lying to troll your fellow hunters by making them think that an area is all clear. You can also see how someone died. For example there was section where a note said “Secret ahead”, while a specter showed that the “Secret” was actually a death drop. It’s a really cool aspect to the game that makes the world feel more connected than playing offline.
You can also summon players to your game, however they leave once the area boss is defeated, and you cannot summon them to a location you have already beaten. However teaming up also means that other players can invade your game, creating a PVP aspect that reminds me of Watchdogs. At any point you and your friend could find yourselves in conflict with a hostile hunter. That would be all fine and good, if you could actually get into a game with your friend! The way it works is one player uses a beckoning bell to summon a player to their game, while the other player uses a conjuring bell to enter that game.
However the game doesn’t give you a conjuring bell when you are given the beckoning bell, or the silencing bell which kicks the other player out of your game. In fact you don’t even realize right away that you need this third bell. But where do you get it? The game doesn’t tell you. You have to gain ten insight before you can see the person who you buy the bell from. If you were presented with the option to buy, which is locked off until you have 10 insight that would be one thing, but you don’t even know that the messenger exists before then. The only way to figure it out is to get 10 insight and find out by chance, or use the internet. And the fun doesn’t stop there!
You can’t use a bell in an area you’ve beaten, which the game doesn’t tell you. A simple error message and my complaining will stop, but no, you have to figure it out yourself. Not holding my hand is one thing, I’m fine with that so long as I can actually figure it out, but when you make something so convoluted and unnecessarily awkward that I am actually contemplating breaking the bloody disk, then we have a problem! You can frustrate me with a devious boss battle or swarm of enemies all you want; that’s part of the game and is actually fun to tackle, but the method with which the co-op is presented is inexcusable.
Bloodborne is like a cake where everything works. It looks fantastic, the gameplay is solid and difficulty challenging and punishing, but leaves you feeling triumphant. Then we throw a nail into cake to represent the first few hours of the game.
Want co-op/whipped cream? Well that’s locked in a safe and placed in maze. I wanted this game to be perfect, because it has so much going for it. However the way it introduced gameplay elements is needlessly complicated and only makes me want to shut the game off less I take a hammer to the TV. If you like a challenge, it is a must own! But if you want to play online, have a walkthrough ready.