- Excellent Level Design
- Brilliant Combat System
- Amazing Sound
- Long Loading Times
- Occasional Frame Rate Drop
Bloodborne is the latest glimpse into Hidetaka Miyazaki’s weird and wonderful mind. It’s safe to say that Miyazaki has left quite the legacy to follow up on, after the disappointment that was Dark Souls 2. I’m happy to confirm Miyazaki has yet again blown me away.
Bloodborne has a very different setting to its spiritual predecessors. It is no longer focusing on fantasy/medieval that the series has become well-known for, instead choosing to focus more on a Gothic, lovecraftian setting made immediately apparent by the central area that is Yharnam.
Yharnam is a dark dingy place filled with vast Victorian structures. The mutterings of it’s borderline insane residents are enough to put you on edge alone but as you creep along every street listening to the strangest sounds you’ve ever heard (particularly good with a headset.) you can’t help getting least a little bit scared. That is the first major difference between the souls games. Bloodborne is a horror game, whilst it’s not the usual in your face with gore and jump-scare crap you usually get. It’s more than capable of making you so uneasy that you end up jumping at the first sign of an enemy running at you.
Like most of Miyazaki’s master pieces the world design is key to what makes Bloodborne so special. Demon’s Souls had a hub-world and allowed you to warp between locations which allowed each world to have vastly different designs to the previous. Dark Souls favoured the interconnected world by unlocking short-cuts back to previous area’s and seeing how it all tied together was one of the best parts of the game. Bloodborne has ingeniously created a hybrid of those methods. The Hunter’s Dream is the hub-world of the game allowing you to warp between locations but each of those locations are connected to the others. It’s much more of a web like system, each location leading back in some way to the previous and even back to the first area of the game in one case.
The basics of a souls game combat style are still present in Bloodborne but with a few fundamental changes. The biggest (and best) change by far was removing the shield. Most people played through a souls game for the first time by finding the biggest shield they could and hiding behind it until the brief moment they could get a swing in. Dropping the shield has changed things up, now we have been given a gun. Acting as a way to parry or interrupt enemies shifts the way combat works, instead of backing away until the correct moment. You take the fight to the enemy interrupting their attacks and making them pay with a visceral attack (Bloodborne’s equivalent to backstabbing.) dropping their health quickly and maintaining yours. When you take a hit there is a brief window in which if you hit the enemy back you can regain some of the health, the more you land swings within that window the more health you will recover.
Dodging has also been slightly reworked. Whilst locked-on to an enemy you’ll perform side steps and dashes forward instead of endlessly rolling, this has sped up the combat allowing for aggression to be worth the risk of death. When you aren’t locked on rolling is still an option making dodging regular enemies instead of fighting a viable option.
Boss fights have always been the staple of a souls game and Bloodborne is no different. Featuring all sorts of different beasties ranging from humanoids to creatures made entirely from the limbs of others. Each boss fight brings something new to the table. Forcing you to adapt to their move-set or die trying. There are a few memorable bosses that I won’t spoil but nothing quite as special as Ornstein and Smough from Dark Souls.
Much like the souls games, you too can engage in jolly co-operation. Introducing a new (complicated) bell ringing system in which you can search for a friend using a password or call upon a randomer to enter your world and assist you with a boss. When a friend does manage to join a ‘bell ringing woman’ will appear in the world inviting other players to invade your world and kill you instead. Whilst this is frustrating to some there’s nothing more satisfying than shutting down an invader. You can see me ambushing my first invader with a friend below.
Bloodborne introduces a new dungeon system known as “Chalice Dungeons”. These are optional dungeons consisting of three layers and three bosses. Some of these dungeons have their layout set in stone however you are able to get partial procedurally generated dungeons. Some of the toughest bosses in the game have been locked away inside these dungeons which can be a tad frustrating at times but is definitely worth a shot. You are able to share the chalice you are in via a small code or a “glyph” ensuring your friends can go into the same chalice as you and be summoned to help. However they are unable to get the rare items from that chalice or have their progress saved, unfortunately that means if you are trying to do the dungeons together, you’ll need to do it twice.
Bloodborne does have a few minor issues such as lengthy loading screens upon death however From Software has said they are working on a patch to reduce that. There is also the occasional frame rate drop during co op sessions however nothing too significant.
Overall Bloodborne is a magnificent game rich with lore for those who want it and a fantastic setting and combat system to back it up. It’s clear Miyazaki has created yet another masterpiece. This is the first essential game of the new generation.
It took me 56 hours to finish the game.