Published on April 9th, 2015 | by Hoops
Summary: Reading like a nightmarish bedtime story and playing like a dream, Bloodborne appeases Souls tragics while welcoming new fans to the fold. The fold of death.
Concept: Bloodborne is a mechanically-driven third person dungeon crawl and trawl, where veteran director Hidetaka Miyazaki returns to the helm for the fourth instalment of a now beloved genre. Ditching the obtuse narratives of Dark Souls and Demon Souls for something simpler; Bloodborne casts the player as a hunter who must defeat the darkness to free the land. Sounds simple enough.
Graphics: Bloodborne lauds an ownable art style over the muddy looking Souls series, set within a twisted and grotesque gothic landscape taking visual cues from the Victorian era. Set within the sprawling metropolis of Yarnham, Bloodborne is built upon a variety of levels, giving rise to captivating vistas with draw distances to instil fear and wonder. You can tell Miyazaki is back in charge because the enemy design is on point, and while enemies may not be as visually confronting as past Souls games, a loving level of detail is shared from mook to boss alike. Yarnham and her children are gorgeously realised.
Gameplay: Categorising the difficulty of FromSoftware’s Souls games as punishing is fair, dismissing them as cruel is to misunderstand their point. Bloodborne will reward patient play, however by ditching defensive weaponry like shields in favour of the new firearms, aggressive play is incentivised. Damage dealt by enemies can be replenished with a well-timed counter attack, and as a result I found I spent less time dying and more time killing. Bloodborne will continue to kick you in the balls, but your licks are easier to take, perhaps because we’ve been on this road before in Souls games, but to me it felt in equal parts forgiving and rewarding.
Sound: I’m not sure what your nightmares sound like, but Miyazaki does. Grunts, growls, splutters and gnatters will fill your ears. You’ll twitch and jump, audio cues will reveal an attack of opportunity against a boss. Bloodborne also uses silence incredibly well, cleansing the soundscape at save spots signified by glowing lanterns, providing a brief respite before the onslaught continues.
Multiplayer: The experience of having your game world invaded remains one of the greatest experiences made possible by FromSoftware’s series. If you’re facing a tough section, you could try your luck by summoning another player into your world. Which could end well, or very badly. To date, Bloodborne’s approach to multiplayer has been met with mixed response, as the summoning mechanic has been paired back leading to players being summoned to assist in a boss encounter. As such, the feeling of being hunted is gone, and with it, the terrifying creeping fear we’d expected. Disappointing but not a deal breaker.
Awesomeness: Bloodborne wants you to love it. It flaunts its innards, exposing all the moving parts, aching for you to get better. Moments of self-discovery are frequent, and it is apparent from the opening moments you won’t be punished for mistakes like past Souls games. Some might feel this design removes the magic of Souls. Sure, this can at times feel like an illusionist who laboriously explains his tricks, but if you’re caught napping, he’ll punch you in the face and steal your wallet.
Final Word: Games brave enough to offer a detailed world, deep mechanics and sod all narrative should be applauded. Bloodborne will be the entry point for Souls for some people, and they will be better people for it.
Paul ‘Hoops’ Houlihan
Paul “Hoops” Houlihan is host of The Fourth Player Podcast, and ex-PR manager for publishers including THQ, SEGA and Capcom. Connect with Paul on Twitter at @paulyhouly or The Fourth Player at @PlayerFourth
Score out of 5 bugs
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