To begin with, this review is a tad late. Bloodborne was released a couple of months back and the reason for the lack of a timely review was due to the fact that I did not have a PS4 back then. With the accompanying temptations and the pressure of playing a well-received game, I finally gave way. And boy, was it worth it.
Bloodborne is a new IP from developers, From Software, creators of the Souls series. The game is an exclusive title for the Sony PS4.
What is Bloodborne?
Everything begins in the city of Yarnham. Here, everything is all about blood. Blood distributed and administered in Yarnham cures diseases and like your character, people flock to this city for healing. But the method itself has a disadvantage: it transforms people into beasts. And that is where you, the player, get in.
After signing a very vague contract from a very mysterious man, the player is then propelled to a task that nobody wants. Alive and kicking, the player’s new mission in exchange for his initial rejuvenation is to take down people that succumb to their animalistic nature. In short, you are a hunter.
Again, as with recent From Software games, everything is not as simple as it seems. Your character has an innate ability of drawing bad luck from the heavens and it truly shows in the encounters that you come across with in Bloodborne. If you’re thinking that things are as simple as some bad guys doing devious stuff, then you’re at the wrong. Bloodborne delves into the horrors that take inspiration from Lovecraftian lore wherein what’s already unusual gets weirder.
I won’t delve more into the plot as it is as hard to tell as it is confusing. But the vagueness should not be an indicator of something light or half-hearted. Bloodborne offers a plot that’s knee-deep in fear and the unknown. It is further complimented by the fact that the story is told in a sparse manner, with a large overall outline bombarded by numerous blanks and spaces. It is then up to the player to piece together clues if he/she wishes to have at least a semblance of a concrete tale. And with that, it’s not hard to find various articles and videos of people that share their take on what’s happening in Yarnham. Nonetheless, the story leaves a lot to the player’s imagination.
Fighting in Bloodborne
Combat in Bloodborne encourages speed and timing. Here, there’re no great shields that exist to defend you against that wild pommeling beast. Victory is determined on how well you can dodge and how well you can dish out damage.
A hunter’s tools of the trade are the Trick Weapons. These crude looking tools can be used in two ways, both of which differ in form and shape, but are the same in the goal of inflicting pain. For example, a weapon doubles as a sword, and when replaced into its scabbard, acts as a large weighty hammer. Others double as serrated saws that extend as spears when jolted by the hunter. It’s kind of a Swiss knife that’s heck of a lot bigger, but with only two functions.
On the other hand, literally, the player holds a gun for stunning and range attacks. Guns themselves dish a damage that’s negligible, only showing use as a deterrent to possible attacks through the use of its stun. Impeding a creature from fully acting on an offensive leaves it open for a Visceral Attack, a large damage similar to a backstab strike in Dark Souls. I like this feature since stunning opponents is a gamble. Failing means immediate death or struggling with a low health. Succeeding however, does the opposite and may reward you with a sense of superiority, inciting you to spout some testosterone filled lines.
True to their intent in placing importance on mobility, Bloodborne employs a regain system for health. Once the player is damaged, a set amount can be regenerated by attacking any opponent in the immediate vicinity. This gives a short window for the player to regain what is lost by going on the offensive.
To complement that kind of fast-paced behavior in terms of practical design, Bloodborne foregoes heavy armor in favor of light clothes. These 19th century apparels, aside from being fashionable in their own right, highlight mobility and evasion. But it does suck if a large monster manages to claw, maul, crush, impale, and lacerate you.
Blood in Bloodborne
Whenever the player strikes down a creature or hunts down a boss, Blood Echoes are rewarded. They act as in-game currency which can be expended in the Hunter’s Dream for additional stats or weapons and items.
If the player is felled, all current Blood Echoes will be removed and placed as a blood stain on the ground. The player must then find his way back to the stain to recover the lost points. If felled again before retrieval, those Blood Echoes are lost forever. This feature is undeniably the source of all pains in this game. Struggling to grind for half an hour and having it lost due to sheer stupidity and negligence is a heavy handed way of the game saying that the world is unfair and you suck it in.
Sometimes, the creature that delivered the killing blow consumes the Blood Echoes and are denoted with glowing gray eyes. To add challenge to an already challenging game, the player must then eliminate his killer before he regains the points. Talk about harsh.
Design and Other Things in Bloodborne
Bloodborne’s charm lies in its design. Its ability to capture the player’s imagination and submerge him into a world that’s dark and gritty is already admirable and it does so in splendid manner. The well-designed gothic city of Yarnham is filled with dark spires, a warning to newcomers that there’s already a vile evil that has itself buried on its very foundations yet act as a testament to what it once was: a city of grandeur and splendor. Its 19th century vibe helps in portraying a town where technology and commerce once bloomed but stricken down with a plague-like corruption.
The game’s approach in visual design finds itself lacking in the latter parts, specifically those found outside the city proper. Although that distinct dark façade is absent, each level is well thought of and carefully planned to inspire player curiosity while balancing stress and reward. Shortcuts find themselves available during opportune moments when the player has extended his reach away from the lamps. That feeling of depravity and fear of unknown adversaries versus the craving for newer equipment and blood echoes are present all throughout the journey. And it does make one wonder of how the designers and programmers managed to cleverly convey that feel without overdoing it or flipping to the extremes.
Bloodborne is packaged with a feature that makes one irate with random people across the world. On a positive note, it can also save time since other players can help in solving problems meant to be solved alone.
Bloodborne requires a PS Plus membership for online play.
As it goes, Bloodborne follows the same character of its spiritual predecessors. It has that hard but satisfying touch in it wallowed in a vat filled with misery and silly disappointments (or broken controllers). Bloodborne is a game that makes you work for every inch of progress, be it by brains or by brawn, or simply by luck, and it rewards the player accordingly.
If time is a concern, Bloodborne is a very lengthy game with high replay value. Going through the same paths yet getting beaten by them is a challenge to one’s mastery (and bragging rights). The optional chalice dungeons also lengthen the fun.
Be it as it may, I had tons of joy in playing Bloodborne. I left quite a lot in writing this review just to save some from reading or viewing spoilers to a game that banks on surprises to great effect. With that, I highly recommend this game to be part of any PS4 user’s library. It may not be the game for everyone, but there will come a time when you’re depressed and heartbroken, and Bloodborne may be the answer to your ailing heart.