After around thirty hours of playing the PS4 exclusive ‘Bloodborne’, I feel I am ready to give my thoughts on the game.
Bloodborne is an amazing game to say the least. Combining stunning, gothic visuals with intense combat mechanics and an eerie storyline that has big parts of it discovered through pieces of lore, the game comes together extremely well. For many people they wonder if Bloodborne is alike other Souls games, and while I won’t be comparing the games much in this review, Bloodborne is like Souls games in many different ways. It also lives up to the very high standard that I hold the Souls games at also.
When I first stepped through the gates into the world of Bloodborne after the relatively short introduction, I literally got Goosebumps. The chilling aura of death that coursed through me inspired me to enter into the vast world and to try to conquer everything that developers From Software could throw at me. I stood and stared for a minute, taking in the gorgeous visuals of the death-soaked world that I was about to explore. These visuals were enhanced by the haunting sounds that emerged from my headset when those gates opened. I knew I was in for a challenge, and I was so ready to undertake it.
To continue with the topic of challenge within Bloodborne, it is something that can put many people off a game. If a game is so hard that it can take countless hours to perfect a certain area or to kill a certain boss, then many people may not want to play that game. There have been many times indeed where I have just had to put the controller down and return in a few hours time as I was beginning to get so frustrated with a certain boss fight. There are times where the fight seems impossible to win, but that is the genius thing with Bloodborne. Nothing is impossible and the feeling of accomplishment when you over-come struggles within the game, well let’s just say there is nothing like it. From Software really know how to make the player feel rewarded when they defeat a boss, and that isn’t always through obtaining useful loot, but just through the fact that the game acknowledges when a player over comes a boss as ‘Prey Slaughtered’ lights up your screen for a few seconds. Those precious moments really play a part in making Bloodborne so special. And with each struggle I overcame, I was only left wanting to play more.
My absolute favourite aspect of Bloodborne has to be the visuals, the design of the areas that From Software have given me to explore and the design of the enemies and characters you face within the game. The level of creativity is astonishing. Despite me having defeated maybe eight bosses and seeing many cut scenes before a boss fight and essentially knowing what’s coming, so many times I still am in awe at the level of disgust I feel when viewing these enemies and creatures for the first time. I feel disgust, however I also feel amazement. The creatures are so carefully designed in Bloodborne, and this gives the game the ability to not feel repetitive when playing. Of course it’s not just different looking enemies that makes game maintain a level of immersion when progressing through. And the developers of Bloodborne obviously knew this because each enemy you come across, whether it be a boss fight, a mini-boss or just a common enemy, they always have unique attacks and abilities that you must learn to work around and get the advantage over. There have been games where I could go through the entire game and every enemy essentially does the same attacks and it becomes tiring relatively fast, however Bloodborne always keeps the player on their feet. You may have mastered one bosses attack routine and defeated it, but nearly every time, the next boss will be so contrasting in the way that it moves, and the way that it attacks. It really gives the feeling of never knowing what you are getting into with a new area, and never really knowing your enemies. Unless of course, you fight the same enemy twice. This really adds onto the punishing design of the souls games in general, and also Bloodborne. You can’t celebrate for too long that you’ve defeated a boss that you spent ten hours attempting, because now you have even more bigger, and most of the time, harder problems at hand.
Of course learning your enemies attack routine is often essential to defeating them, as is patience. However a very large part of progressing through a ruthless world like Bloodborne’s is building your character effectively. There are multiple classes to choose from at the beginning of the game, each class makes the player particularly strong in a certain area at the beginning of the game. Thankfully, your class doesn’t necessarily determine the kind of player that you will be in Bloodborne. As you progress through the game and continue levelling up, you have the option to level your character in certain areas such as vitality, endurance, strength, arcane, skill and some other options. These level ups are done by acquiring the in-game currency known as ‘Blood Echoes.’ Blood Echoes are acquired in various ways, the most common being from collecting them when you kill an enemy. Each enemy gives a different amount of Echoes, and when you have enough you can spend them on a point in whatever skill you desire. Blood echoes have many other useful uses, such as buying useful in game items, upgrading you equipment and there are multiple other ways to spend them.
The way that you level your character up, spend your souls, fix and upgrade your equipment is all done at a place called ‘The Hunters Dream.’ This place is essentially the hub for the player and is a complete safe zone from enemies. From The Hunters Dream the player can also teleport to any area that they have discovered and lit a lamp-post at. This is a prime example of how Bloodborne differentiates from games such as the original Dark Souls, as there never was a complete safe haven that you could teleport around the world from. I like the idea of a safe haven however as it gives the players a chance to breath essentially and take a break from watching over their shoulder all the time.
Adding onto building your character to suit you, there are multiple ways to build your character up. This includes through spending Blood Echoes on skill points as I mentioned above, but also through acquiring weaponry and armour that works well with your strongest skills. You may want to build a slow moving, high vitality character that hits hard and slow, or you may want to build a character that hits extremely fast, with low vitality, but is highly resistant to fire damage. There are multiple ways to build your character in Bloodborne and these different builds can be discovered and experimented with as you progress through the game. In addition, it also gives an incentive to play the game again. You may want to start a new save and try building up your gun attacks this time to try and stagger your opponents affectively in battle instead of using two handed attacks constantly like you did in the last save. Whatever you want to experiment with you can, and this is adds re-playability to the game which is very important to many people out there, me included.
Something that I have always been a big fan of within the Souls games is the way that the map ties together. In Bloodborne there is still a very well designed map. What I admire most about From Software’s created world in Bloodborne is the way it all ties and flows together. For example, there are multiple occasions that you will come across a door that you cannot access at the moment. You naturally just leave that door behind and keep progressing through the game. After a couple of hours or so, or after a few big events occur, you will pass through a different door which will actually be the same door you left behind long ago. It’s like you feel you’ve drifted so far away from a certain area over-time, only to realize you are actually a lot closer than you think when you re-emerge from a different entrance. These moments are very epic to me and I do admire them a lot. The map is very cleverly and carefully crafted with lots of detail to go alongside it.
Continuing on with positives of Bloodborne, something that gives the game re-playability alongside other traits such as various classes to play as etc and the available new game plus mode which lets you re-start the game with the same character after you finish the game, is the fact that Bloodborne isn’t linear. Of course, most open-world RPG based games aren’t linear and Bloodborne is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, linear games are not boring and don’t make them completely unplayable after one or two play through however with Bloodborne it really is great that the game isn’t linear in my opinion. By linear I mean you don’t have to progress through the game like From Software designed it. You can skip many bosses out and leave them behind without giving them a thought and just go right ahead to the 4th or 5th boss if you are confident enough. You can use your gathered map knowledge to instantly run to a certain location as soon as you start the game after the introduction, and this is a really nice feel to the game. It adds more re-playability to it as I mentioned earlier.
A very talked about topic within the gaming community these days is whether certain games have enough content to their base game or not. It is very popular to see a game stripped of a lot of content and then have that content sold back to the player in the form of a season pass. Of course, not all games with a season pass option are bad or stripped of content but it does happen often. In From Software’s punishing RPG, there is a lot of content which makes me happy to be able to say. In addition to the main world you have to explore, the fact that the game is relatively long and full of the lore that you can piece together, there is something called chalice dungeons. These are very fun and offer something slightly different to the game of the main world. There isn’t a whole lot of difference between dungeons and the main world however it is often quite refreshing I feel to try and clear a dungeon instead of trying again and again to defeat a certain boss fight that I am stuck on. Each dungeon has around three or four sections, or floors. Each level has a boss fight like any other boss fight at the end of it, and then a reward is collected at the end of the dungeon as well as loot being collected during the dungeon itself from common enemies. As I mentioned it’s nothing extremely different however even so, it’s still relatively refreshing.
In terms of downsides to Bloodborne, I haven’t mentioned any as of yet, and that is simply because there isn’t much to mention. The biggest downside but often upside is the amount of glitches and exploits in the game. Since its launch there have of course been patches to improve on this however there are still available exploits to defeating certain bosses which can often easily be accessed and this takes away the proposed challenge to the game. Of course, initiating an exploit is generally player driven and not accidentally triggered but even so, it can still be done. In addition to this there are very occasional frame rate dips which I felt during moments of high memory usage. For example when fire consumes my screen and multiple enemies are on screen the frame rate may momentarily dip however this is relatively rare and doesn’t really effect the game too much in a negative way.
In conclusion to this review, Bloodborne is a game that I believe fans of previous Souls games will enjoy as well as new players to the series. The game has a slightly more casual feel to it in comparison to games such as Dark Souls but this doesn’t lessen the quality of the game that From Software have delivered. Bloodborne has a gorgeous, well put together world that is brimming with secrets, unique enemies and characters with stories to tell in it. The game offers various ways to tackle your enemies and various ways to progress through the game itself which adds an element of re-playability. I love Bloodborne for its impressive character and map design and for the challenging nature of the gameplay. I absolutely recommend this game to anybody looking to purchase it, for the reasons above, but also for the reason of an expansion pack called ‘The Old Hunters’ which has recently released.