There is incredible power in Bloodborne, the new PlayStation 4 exclusive from the legendary Hidetaka Miyazaki. This is not just an amazing dance of parrying and blows, pushing the boundaries of reflexes and stamina, it is a new gaming experience that penetrated my mind and melted my determination. But thanks to perseverance, patient growth, and certain skills, the game has established itself as an unconventional, hardcore adventure. After spending more than 60 hours fighting horrors, monsters and the environment itself, I was stunned by the ability of Bloodborne to evoke incredibly strong emotions in me that I will remember for many years.
There is a fine line between total enthusiasm and hopelessness in the unconventional ARPG approach to gameplay because it takes us on an inspiring journey through the highest peaks of satisfaction but also the deepest, blackest pits of tormented despair. The balance is slightly disturbed as a consequence of painfully long loading screens after death or while traveling to different areas, but the joy of defeating one of the many frightening bosses compensates for all these shortcomings.
Bloodborne is very similar to Dark Souls in all respects, but it brings original topics and storylines that players are not able to ignore. Dark Souls and its sequels made it possible to describe the troubling stories about sword fights, leaving the entire backstory on atmospheric tapestries which reveal secrets just with very careful study. There is no lack of mystery in Bloodborne, yet its interpretive formulations are inevitable, as well as clerical subjects are indisputable. The Dark Souls series guided you through temples and churches, however, it hasn't ever made such an impressive declaration. FromSoftware developers have created a truly fabulous religious parable, that is reflected in the mechanics of death and rebirth in the video adventure.
The terrifying beasts of Bloodborne are breathtaking: from crazy village pedestrians to huge monsters. Creature design engenders horror in many ways - huge, ax-waving skeletons or the peculiar translucent ghosts of children - each creature is well thought out and triumphantly menacing. All this is best illustrated by bosses who are able to mystify, terrify and infuriate. In the end, I found that many of the bigger fights are much easier than random battles with some smaller rivals. However, no matter who I fought with, the satisfaction of every victory brought me incomparable pleasure.
The progression that follows these stubborn victories is a well-designed treat at Bloodborne. Firstly, luminous pale purple lamps that serve as a checkpoint rarely appear. Surviving long enough to reach the next point is not an option you can count on, but you can always take a chance and look for a secret path back to a safe place.
After arriving at their destination, almost every cautious, blood-soaked step through invariably stunning surroundings reveals something new in the vague and mysterious Lore of Bloodborne. Clues will accompany you everywhere. Despite problems with the frame rate, which too often becomes slower while loading new areas or intense action, the atmosphere retains its full effect of being in the mysterious gaming universe. One gets the feeling that this strange and dark place is actually alive.
Like in the Souls series, Bloodborne doesn't usually show destination to a player or what to do when you reach the place. You have been given several ambiguous, overarching goals. You reach your objective by following hazy visual clues. If you get stuck, most likely you selected the wrong logic for this game. Scanty dialogs and several cutscenes are not used just to create atmosphere: they are pieces of information that you must keep in mind and revisit it later.
Fortunately, the kingdom of Bloodborne is worth getting acquainted with and discovering it. During the first hours playing the game, you stay in the city of Yharnam and its environs, which are more reminiscent of the Victorian British capital, in contrast to the gloomy medieval locations of Dark Souls. The location "Victorian Werewolves" was presented in many different variations, but, as any Dark Souls player will tell you, you need to investigate the kingdom before you can expose its real nature. The virtuosity of Bloodborne is admirable: ornate stone carvings, statues portraying the despair and hardship of the citizens, and the continuous visual transformation of the center of the game, known as the Hunter's Dream.
After Bloodborne immerses you in its first iron foundry, it introduces a larger graphic variety. Dark Souls II often changed its appearance, but its districts did not share a common theme: there was an area of lava, poisonous forests and so on. The various areas were linked by paths, but not by a distinct visual arc. Bloodborne, contrarily, tells the story, wielding the environment as one of the storytelling tools. You walk back to earlier places and find that they are not what they were before, and the border between reality and the nightmare becomes more blurred with each boss you kill. The way these places come together increases the joy and interest of research. You come upon a path leading from a muddy cave; this path, in turn, leads you to a series of stairs. At the top of the last step, you understand where this path leads you, and you can only be surprised at how these two seemingly isolated places were combined.
Your diligence is the price to pay. Bloodborne is impressive in how much it is similar to Souls-like, and how different it is from its ancestor. Your Dark Souls fighting skills apply to Bloodborne, but only to some degree. If earlier you relied on a shield to protect yourself, then this number will not work. The game requires flexibility, not stamina. Once you enter Yharnam city you will meet stray squads of tormented dogs and torch-bearing sectarians who own firearms. Their shots cause you not only physical damage but also stun. Avoidance tactics are a prerequisite because sometimes even a fight with the weakest opponent can lead you to a fatal defeat.
If you suffer damage, you have a restricted time to recover part of the lost life force, dealing with your own blows. This system may seem inconsistent with the rhythms of a typical battle in Dark Souls, but it is perfect for Bloodborne, as it complements not only your flexibility but also the mobility of your enemies. You see, your opponents are as agile as you are. The boss's arenas are usually large and provide you with enough space to escape the wrath of these terrifying creatures. This may seem like a slight adjustment to the established practice, but it changes the way you exercise basic skills.
Other elements of the gameplay complement strength. Ammunition is a limited resource. Typically you can only carry 20 bullets, and some types of weapons fire more than one shell at a time. Bloodborne does not have the equivalent of spam spells, although a rifle or drummer is a great addition to any blade you own. By the way, melee weapons are being transformed. The cleaver is convenient for melee and quick damage, but its secondary mode expands the range due to speed - and transformation during an active battle provides a third type of attack when a weapon changes from one state to another.
Bloodborne also takes the classic specifics of the survival horror genre to the next level. Part of antagonists is frightening not only because of their size or strength but also because of the disgusting sounds they make. Crows hide in corners in groups of four or five, covering the ground with their black wings and emitting disgusting screams. An insane student with a repellent yell breaks into a boarded-up doorway - and who had just rushed past the door? And also, what kind of monster is it hanging on the walls of the chapel, whose huge head turns behind you as you run past? Bloodborne strives to astound you - this is the goal that the game definitely achieves, many times during the time spent in its gloomy world.
In terms of co-op multiplayer, Bloodborne is also very similar to Souls. A video game allows you to call for help from another player when you need it most: during a particularly difficult battle with the boss or fight with a large group of enemies. In such moments you ring the bell; any players answering this bell will be in your world. The catch (since it always exists in Bloodborne) is that at the same time you open up for the invasion of hostile players who actively seek to hunt and kill other hunters. But FromSoftware developers have wisely included a password-protected game feature so that you and your friend can consciously join together, eliminating some ambiguity of anonymous collaboration.
Bloodborne is an amazing, discerning and grueling pilgrimage through magnificent land that evokes a sense of madness. Although the increased loading time and slight delays with the frame rate affect the pace of the story, otherwise it is a very interesting, albeit sometimes very hardcore, game. An incredible attractive force is present in it, and you will need a lot of effort to reveal all its secrets and achieve success, but it will be worth it.
- fast, accurate battle makes even the most difficult meetings exciting
- a surreal story about religion
- flexible, energetic boss battles involving phenomenal creatures
- an interconnected world makes every new discovery a miracle
- long loading screens
- frequent frame rate subsidence