Game Rating: 4.5 Stars / 5 Stars
Release date: March 24, 2015
Platforms: Playstation 4
Genre: Action role-playing game
Designer: Hidetaka Miyazaki
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
He Did It Again!
Bloodborne is another masterpiece created by Hidetaka Miyazaki. Like the Souls series, Bloodborne is a grim, thrillingly immersive maze of death and triumph. If you have never played a Dark Souls games then I would suggest you take a inner look at your hardcore gamer ego; if you can find it then it’s time to face the challenges of Bloodborne. Miyazaki’s work is profound, encaptivating, and beautifully frustrating to boot. Not many games give me such a range of emotions where I want to throw my controller at the screen one moment, and 15 minutes later literally jumping for joy.
What’s a Yarnam?
To the newcomers, Bloodborne is essentially (unofficially) a sequel to Dark Souls 2. The souls series are role playing game that feature real time fighting with many different types of weapons, armor, upgrades, and magic. Bloodborne has a striking similarity to Dark Souls but is set in an entirely different universe. You start in Yharnam, a city obsessed with blood healing. The church is associated with a ritual known as blood ministration where villagers are given a blood transfusion to be healed from all ailments. Since Yarnam residents are suffering from widespread lychanism (turning into werewolves), it seems blood healing is pretty common. Your character is also sick and partakes in this blood healing ritual. As payment for this you must become a hunter, become obsessed with blood, and end the bloody nightmare. The story in Bloodborne is derived from your experiences and observations so pay attention on your adventure if you want to understand whats going on.
Guns, Not Shields
Bloodborne is stunningly smooth with polished mechanics. You are initially offered several “trick” weapons that can transform into a heavier form. My weapon of choice became Ludwig’s Holy Blade that transforms from a one handed blade to a two handed greatsword. As you proceed you will get additional weapons with different abilities. The unique contrast between each weapon is satisfying and leaves you wanting to try them all. Which one do you upgrade? I’ll leave you to decide that.
The movement in Bloodborne is more fast paced than it’s ancestors and focuses on strong sweeping attacks and dodging. Instead of blocking attacks Bloodborne contains a rally system that allows you to gain back lost life by hitting opponents. There is but one puny shield in Bloodborne and the flavor text gives you an idea of what From Software was thinking about shields. “Shields are nice, but not if they engender passivity.” From Software wants you to be aggressive and jump into the action. Retreating after every hit to heal is not going to do you any favors as it’s rewarding to jump right back in to the action to get the full effect of rally. I enjoyed the new system of fast paced action but it takes a bit of getting used to if you are transitioning from Dark Souls.
There are also guns that use quicksilver bullets as ammunition, and a stat that you can upgrade to increase their damage: bloodtinge. This is the first time that the franchise offers a gun as a weapon and they are used for more than just dealing damage from afar. With proper timing and patience a firearm blast can act as a “parry” and leave your opponent vulnerable to a ‘visceral’ attack. This is essentially a critical hit that can devastate most mobs, invaders, and even some bosses. A visceral attack may also be performed by hitting an opponent in the back with a fully charged heavy attack followed by a swift light attack. Visceral attacks are similar to riposte and backstab in the souls games.
Magic and Mechanics
The mechanics let you walk, run, jump, swing, stab, lunge, shoot, and use items, potions, and gestures. Magic is unique in Bloodborne since spells are lumped in with consumable items which must be mapped onto the item quick menu. Once a magic item is mapped, it is used the same way as any item and consumes quicksilver bullets. The ‘arcane’ stat strengthens the magical items and also increases damage on elemental weapons. You will not even see the first magic item until late game which is a serious flaw (not including molotov cocktails since they are a consumable item). New players may disregard the arcane stat as having very limited use because of this oversight. From Software designed the stats for some very diverse character builds but it seems that by the time you realize you can make a build you’re stats could already be messed up. Full disclosure: there is no respecing. I personally think that magical items that use quicksilver bullets are a bit cheesy and limited (especially since some magic attacks require 6 or 7 bullets out of a base 20 which means only 2 or 3 uses without having to restock). However I do like how bloodborne offered a stat for increasing magical weapons directly.
It’s not far into the game that you will discover the crafting mechanics. Bloodborne offers an upgrade system for strengthening weapons using certain bloody crafting materials, and once they reach a certain level a ‘slot’ opens up where a blood gem can be inserted. The blood gem system allows for weapons to do flame or bolt damage, assuming you have the correct blood gems. They also allow you to increase damage, apply poison, or customize a weapon to slay certain enemy types. With this huge customization system, it almost seems like more weapon slots should be available (there are only 2 main weapon slots). Armor cannot be upgraded, however there are some variants to the same kind of armor/clothing. There could be additional weapons available, but the blood gem augmentation system really makes up for the lack of variety.
Give Us More!
Bloodborne features a great mechanics system built on previous games in the franchise, but going forward with any additional Bloodborne games they could definitely amp up the magic system and add more weapons. I also avidly think that a respec should be available, I know some people would disagree with me, yet a single respec option on NG+ would be nice.
Blood and Gravestones
Bloodborne lives up to its name in the intense graphics featuring bloody battles, grotesque enemies, and a generally morose environment. As you slay creatures in Bloodborne, you’re character will become drenched in crimson claret. When you have almost extinguished all of your blood vials and are drenched in blood, only then will you near the next lantern (checkpoint) which will offer solace in the Hunter’s Dream. This Hunter’s Dream is a lone island floating in a mist where you can warp to and from for refuge from the damning streets of Yarnam. It will give you access to shops, upgrades, leveling-up, chalice dungeons, etc. It is also stunningly beautiful with it’s own manor sitting atop a hill, overlooking a graveyard. This is an ongoing theme in bloodborne, as you can find gravestones strung across the game and even player made gravestones that have an alternate use. The strong contrast of grays and reds as Bloodborne’s primary color pallette evoke vivid emotional imagery and attest to the masterwork of Hidetaka Miyazaki. By no means does Bloodborne have a peerless or the most realistic asset quality, but the artistic style and terrain layout is something to marvel at.
Bloodborne is optimized quite well. While playing I did not see a single frame-rate drop, lag, or any strange artifacting. The world is created with both beauty and practicality in mind. Rarely did I feel cheated because of a graphical issue, and by rarely I mean not even once. When I died, it was all on me and my newbish inability. Even the PvP battles feel very responsive, despite issues with this in the past games where you would get hit from an attack that looked like it missed. Overall the game is smooth, beautifully grim, and very responsive. If you can get past the frustration of dying on the regular, spend a moment to take in the stunning scenery.
Music and Sound
In addition the game features an appropriate soundtrack for all parts of the game. It’s said for movies that if you don’t notice the background music than they are doing it right; the same applies for games and Bloodborne fits into this category. The music, ambiance sound, and sound effects integrate so well that you will naturally be immersed into the game. Eerie noises, and creepy sound bits (such as a crying baby) not only set the mood but can add to the game lore in interesting and subconscious ways. Boss battles are intense, and long hallways send shivers down your spine and I think we have the soundtracks to thank for it.
Bring Your Friends
Co-op and PvP
Throughout the franchise history, multiplayer has been a monumental success in both cooperative and competitive play. With the addition of chalice dungeons Bloodborne has embellished multiplayer content. There is no official matchmaking arena like Dark Souls III has, but there are definitely public dungeons that can be searched specifically for PvP purposes. Chalice dungeons are exactly as they sound, a short(ish) encapsulated gauntlet that allows you to gain rare items, blood echoes (xp), consumables, and to defeat unique bosses… all with the help of friends if you want. When you create a chalice dungeon using a chalice ritual, it gains a unique ID that other players can use to join, or random people can join if you make it public. The dungeons are premade by a developer the first go around, but you can obtain “root” chalices that allow for a dynamically created dungeon.
Don’t Play Offline
You don’t need to play with others, but beware that some bosses are very difficult to defeat alone. Although sometimes you can summon an NPC to help in offline mode, they have sub-par AI, limited Blood Vials, they make the boss stronger, and can sometimes glitch (I noticed this on the vacuous spider boss). You also will not get hints that other online players write (the gravestone markings throughout the map that I mentioned earlier). You also won’t get invaded by other players, which can be a good thing or bad thing depending on your perspective of PvP play. I personally believe that Bloodborne should be played online to get the full experience, but to each their own.
Just Play It!
It’s more than just the sum of the parts that makes Bloodborne awesome. It’s the birth of a new setting and lore for From Software. The game begins and ends obscurely and the adventure along the way will leave you with questions, answers, and more questions. There are secrets, hidden areas, shortcuts, optional bosses, and side quests that build upon each other and intertwine to create a unique story that can be engaging in more ways than one. The game isn’t without its flaws but that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining and addictive.
That being said, I can’t suggest this title to the average gamer. It takes a special drive to endure death after death, evolve and overcome the many hardships of all games in the Souls series and Bloodborne is no exception. Yet I urge you to be brave! From the company that makes games that are labeled as “The hardest game ever”, picking up one of it’s titles can be intimidating for some. But as a long time player of Dark Souls I can definitely assure you that Bloodborne is playable and fun even for more casual players. With less opportunity to be struck down by invaders, more shortcuts, a rally system, and more fast paced/responsive action, Bloodborne seems to be a tad easier than previous games (at least I thought so). All it takes is some adaptation and willpower and you too can end the hunt.
Bloodborne does a lot of things right and is super fun to play. It can even be played with friends by passing the controller every time you die (this makes a fun drinking game too). Bloodborne features quite a few differences from previous Dark Souls games and mostly they are for the better. Here is a compiled list of the best features.
- Beautiful graphics and music with optimized FPS.
- Intelligent map designs filled with secret passages, shortcuts, and exploration (Miyazaki is a genius designer).
- Awesome combat system with fun melee weapons and guns.
- Interesting bosses and enemies.
- Co-op and competitive multiplayer options are augmented by the inclusion of chalice dungeons. Connection is smooth and intelligently designed.
- Fast paced action with a rally system that rewards aggressive play.
- Mysterious story that must be figured out by exploring, completing mini-quests, and picking up on little hints throughout the game.
The Not So Good
I can praise Bloodborne as much as I like, but it does have some undeniable flaws. The game can definitely be frustrating and there are a couple of improvements they could make if they decide to make a Bloodborne 2. Take a look at this list of Bloodborne’s worst features.
- The game is still pretty daunting for casual users, especially ones that have never played a souls game. This isn’t necessarily a flaw of the game but it certainly can limit the amount of online play. Note: I am not suggesting that the game becomes easier.
- Magical items are introduced too late into the game, and take up too many quicksilver bullets to be truly useful.
- There are far too few magical items even with the additional 2 obtained in the DLC. The magic system could definitely use their own slots and maybe even their own mana reservoir instead of using quicksilver bullets.
- Summoned NPCs are pretty dull and glitch on certain bosses. This can be especially annoying since playing against a boss with allies will actually make it stronger.
- More weapons and armor please.
- There is no warning before you end your playthrough. I accidentally ended my playthrough by picking yes. I should have been more cautious… but it would help if a warning screen popped up announcing that picking this option would end the game.
In Conclusion: 4.5 Stars
I would highly suggest playing Bloodborne (even to those who may not be heavy gamers). The dark and bloody world is enthralling and the combat is beautifully done and very satisfying. Everything in Bloodborne works together and integrates so nicely. So check it out! Don’t be shy! AbuttonGames ranks this title 4.5/5 – Beautifully done From Software.