As the snarling beast enveloped its shadow over the landscape and thunderous tremors exude from every step it takes - I look to my Blood Vial count; just
three left and I grimace at the thought - Iíd replayed this moment numerous times, heck even dozens of times by now - if it was any other game Iíd
contemplate giving in. But itís too late, Bloodborne has already dug its icy claws into me - Iím addicted.
Iím a newcomer to this particular genre, created by the minds of From Software - that began with the PlayStation 3 exclusive Demonís Souls -
and known to fans as the Souls series of games. Hell, I own them all, but every time Iíve ever picked one up - tempted to put it in my disc tray -
I dreaded the potential amount of time it might take to ultimately master its mechanics, recalling horror stories from gamers of just how difficult
they are. Bloodborne is that perfect jumping on point. Itís the most refined both in terms of graphics but also with the gameplay mechanics it is
trying to convey; plus itís a whole new story, so past knowledge of any of the previous Souls games is not required - truthfully, it may even hamper
your initial experience.
Bloodborne begins with you awakening on a gurney within a clinic - that definitely hasnít passed any health inspections this millennium -
youíre seemingly the recipient of a blood transfusion; why are you here? Whose blood is now coursing through your veins? These are the type
of questions Bloodborne doesnít really reveal to you - nor will they be told to you through cutscenes - but through the Lovecraftian inspired
world itself. Bloodborne is not a game trying to regale you with a cinematic story, not unless you go searching for it of course; though your
quest for answers may actually be short-lived, as there is a giant Werewolf waiting down the hallway ready to eat you. Yeh, Bloodborne is that
kind of game.
Awakening once again after your sudden departure from this life (unless you somehow managed to best the beast singlehandedly,
then you can now name yourself John Rambo) youíll awaken in the ĎHunterís Dreamí a kind of hub-world where you can level up your character -
not right away of course, that would be too easy - buy and repair weapons, purchase various items, and visit previously discovered locations
through an assortment of tombstones - did I not mention this Hunterís Dream was a giant graveyard littered with the dead? Providing a little
foreshadowing of just how many times you might truly die.
But alas with your weapon now in tow, itís time to show that Werewolf whoís the boss around here.
After gaining your vengeance on the lycanthrope you will leave the clinic and the world of Yharnam will finally dawn upon you; a vast sprawling landscape
that can only be described as gothic-horror. Gazing into the massive amount of detail is astounding, with towers adorned with a myriad of church spires,
plastered with nightmarish statues and cobbled streets winding through them like rivers.
And at first you not only will find the world quite linear, but tough to get through, as plague-ridden vagrants amass on those intertwining alleyways
gathering towards a focal point - a burning monstrosity within a public square. But with a little patience you will progress, gaining not only knowledge
of battle but the environment itself, as it slowly reveals its many secrets to you. What was once linear, now becomes an interconnected open-world labyrinth, gates
that were once closed blocking you path, now accessible - allowing you to bypass the mass of monsters you once had to defeat.
With every death or traversal back to the Hunterís Dream through the various Hunter Lamps dotted around Yharnam, the world will Ďresetí -
meaning all of the monsters within it also return. So opening the various passageways is not only a must for progress further into Yharnam itself,
but it should also be your first objective when discovering new areas. The Hunter Lamps are safe zones within the world of Bloodborne, and like a
survivor in the zombie apocalypse you will want to know the fastest possible route to the nearest one at all times - especially to drop off those
precious ĎBlood Echoesí.
Whenever you slay a beast or one of the dreaded bosses, you will be rewarded with Blood Echoes - Bloodborne's in-game currency.
Using these Blood Echoes you can level up your characters statistics such as vitality, strength and endurance or even repair weapons and buy various
items - but only if you are within the Hunterís Dream.
If youíre killed whilst holding Blood Echoes they will not follow you into death, instead
they will be either awaiting where you died as a blood-stain - mocking your defeat - on the floor, or held by one of the now respawned beasts nearby -
signaling you with a glowing purple coming from their eyes. The risk comes in trying to retrieve those Blood Echoes; if in the process of retrieving
them you die once more, those Blood Echoes will be lost forever. Bloodborne reinforces the strategy of knowing what and when to risk.
The weapons of Bloodborne are something quite special; depending on your initial selection when you begin the game
(I chose the Saw Cleaver) each has a different range, speed and damage output - but the best part is the Ďtrickí associated with each of them.
A quick press of the L1 button will transform your weapon into its alternative form, which not only changes its appearance in real-time but also its range,
speed and damage - you can even transform mid-swing to add greater variety in your combo attacks.
And the combat is where Bloodborne truly shines - unlike most hack-and-slash titles, Bloodborne employs a Ďstaminaí meter.
This meter slowly drains with every swing of your weapon or evasion manoeuvre you perform, such as rolling - not to worry though, it quickly regenerates.
This mechanic generates more of a cerebral thought process when it comes to encounters with enemies, and especially bosses; as using up your stamina
and swinging mindlessly will get you killed in short order leaving you defenseless as the plague-ridden beasts tear into your flesh. There are two forms of
attack, a faster but less powerful using R1, or a slower but more damage-inducing with R2 - thereís even a special charge attack if you press and hold
down R2. Obviously pressing either of these buttons in quick succession will chain attacks together, but keeping a careful eye on that stamina meter
is a must.
Adding upon the stamina mechanic is whatís known as the ĎRegain Systemí; every hit you take within Bloodborne - from one of the ferocious beasts lurking
in the shadows - wonít be instant health loss. Instead an orange bar will slowly deplete, giving you an opportunity to gain back health equivalent to the
damage you, yourself attack an enemy with. You have to be quick though, as the window of time to exploit this is small, but it once again adds to that
sense of risk and makes the game far more aggressive and fast-paced.
Ultimately success with the deep combat system Bloodborne has crafted, and therein success with the game itself, will depend entirely on your ability to
master three mechanics; the first is recognizing enemy patterns. Each enemy has a distinct set of moves, knowing when and where you can exploit them is
the key to success in figuring out the weaknesses of both the beasts that litter Yharnam, and the bosses you will come across - no enemy is unbeatable
nor do they possess a moveset outside of the carefully crafted limitations set upon your playable character.
The next is mastering your own weapon; you will come across a multitude of weapons during your journey through Yharnam, along with the ability to buy them
in the Hunterís Dream. I would recommend experimenting to see which of them suit your playstyle best. The most basic and obvious choice is the Hunterís
Axe, having a very good range, adequate speed and great damage output. Knowing exactly what your weapon does and how effectively you can use it,
is key in being able to time attacks and judge the distance between you and the enemy.
And finally the last key to success is being able to counter-attack an enemy using your trusty side-arm, the pistol. Unlike Demonís and Dark Souls,
Bloodborne has no way of blocking enemy attacks instead itís up to you to instead evade (using the circle button) or land a counter-shot with
your Hunter Pistol using L2. Timing is the key to a successful counter - locking-on to an enemy using R3 is a must - if you can successfully
hit the foe that slight moment before they attack - which will require practice - the beast will fall to its knees - chiming your skill with a
unique sound effect - allowing you to then perform a ĎVisceralí attack with a quick press of R1. Visceral attacks are the single most damaging
attacks you can inflict on an enemy, and will be a one-hit kill for most of the common beasts. Mastering these three aspects of Bloodborne are a
must to grant you success through this nightmarish creation.
But for as well-thought-out the game design in Bloodborne is, there are some odd slip-ups. Later in the game, within a certain area the enemies will
infinitely respawn, until you take out a particular foe ringing a bell. It feels like From Software squeezed this in - to create artificial difficulty -
as it goes against everything you had been taught up until now about Bloodborne; forcing you to change your style of play - adding further credence
to this fact is this particular bell-ringing enemy acts differently whilst in the optional Chalice Dungeons.
Likewise the camera is just not quite up to par with the rest of the quality Bloodborne exudes, easily getting lost in the fray, especially when locked-on
to the large bosses within the game - when a single hit can mean life or death, the last thing you need is the camera to be stuck behind some drapery.
Performance can also take a hit when facing off against these monstrous mammoths, especially if said beasts sport a lot of hair textures and particle
effects. But truthfully the slight niggles I have, pale in comparison to what Bloodborne offers, and it doesnít end there.
Once you finish the gargantuan task of completing Bloodborne, you now have those previously mentioned Chalice Dungeons to look forward to.
These specifically designed labyrinths involve you taking on foes from the singleplayer portion of Bloodborne - with a boss situated at the end of
each section - theyíre a refreshing change with each dungeon thematically different than the other.
They even contain bosses not found within the singleplayer portion of the game, and offer the perfect scenario to team up with a buddy for some
online co-op action. Completing a whole Chalice Dungeon with itís multiple floors with eventually unlock a ĎRoot Chaliceí - these dungeons are
dynamically generated, each one completely individual and can be shared with the wider Bloodborne community once completed, granting if you so
wish the ability to play Bloodborne ad infinitum. But that also brings up one of Bloodborne's biggest problems, the obtuse multiplayer design.
As you are creeping your way through Bloodborne youíll have the option to experience the game either online or offline. The advantage of playing online
are the numerous notes littered across the Yharnam landscape, which you yourself can even add to or rate accordingly. If you are stuck on a particular
hard boss, you can even ring your ĎBeckoning Bellí to summon a random player into your game for help - conversely you can be invaded by a random enemy
player, this only happens if you specifically summon them though - or if you are in an area with a bell-ringing enemy.
Playing specifically with PSN friends is especially confusing, with you both having to set the same password for the servers to connect you.
The whole aspect of the multiplayer is confusing design, especially when you can obtain an item in a Chalice Dungeon that gives you freedom pick and
choose from a list; other players games that you wish to help or invade. Why From Software chose to lock this functionality away instead of being
there at the offset is puzzling.
Truthfully, there really is nothing like Bloodborne, is it an open world hack-n-slash, role-playing game? Or an evolution of the hardcore dungeon
crawlers of old? Itís hard to pin down exactly where Bloodborne fits into the pantheon of the gaming world, and thatís perfect. It truly stands on a
pedestal of its own; From Software have moulded a masterclass of game design, and itís amazing to think of what dark and twisted place this all
If you own a PlayStation 4 and are looking to invest your time in something then Bloodborne is for you, and will be a rewarding
and gratifying experience - alternatively Bloodborne is definitely not straightforward, so if you're wanting to sit back and relax after a hard day
and mash some buttons, then Iíd definitely stay away. After gaining the platinum and seemingly uncovered all of Bloodborne's secrets - I just want
to play it even more.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
14th May 2015
- 5 Out of 5 Stars
One area felt cheap
Deep combat design