Reviews// Bloodborne

Posted 10 Apr 2015 11:06 by
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I donít really know where to begin.

Writing about Bloodborne is pretty daunting. Itís huge, challenging and is so deep that the majority of the lore surrounding the gameís many locations, characters and enemies are still a mystery.

Itís in complete contrast to my experience of playing Dark Souls. By the time Iíd gotten around to it most of the gameís quirks had been figured out. I had a narrative to follow as I was playing to explain why I was where I was and what sort of personalities populated its sprawling world.

I didnít have that luxury with Bloodborne. I felt clueless and isolated and after the initial fear of the unknown had passed, I absolutely loved it. It forced me to read every string of dialogue and every note. I explored more, took more notice of things that in other games wouldnít have even crossed my mind.

The genius of lead producer Miyazaki can be found within all aspects of his games. At a base level Bloodborne is an action-RPG that has an excellent combat system and challenging but logical enemies that hit hard but are dumb enough for you to figure out how to take them down.

That alone would be enough to praise the game for a thousand words and whack a high score at the end. But its not enough here. Bloodborne runs deeper than that.

The only game it can compare with is Miyazakiís masterpiece Dark Souls. From the outset itís clear how Bloodborne sets out to try and mimic the wonder of Dark Souls while at the same time setting itself apart from it.

This is more horror than fantasy. The setting is darker, the characters more sinister and the enemies bark at you. Theyíre more aggressive and their weapons more violent. Where Dark Souls had elements of horror in certain areas, this plunges you into the dark depths of hell with nothing but a sword made of ice.

It manages to achieve the impossible task of making a Dark Souls regular feel like a fish out of water. It takes away the crutches that you became accustomed too and forces you to change your style of play. Most importantly, it makes you feel useless all over again.

The gameís opening area batters you and fires a warning flare with its first boss. The Cleric Beast is a giant swiping monster. A reimagining of Dark Souls' first major battle with the Taurus Demon. But this one acts differently. Thereís no obvious trick to defeating him and although he seems familiar, heíll make easy work of you.

As you repeat your runs over and over to get back to him, you start to adapt and learn a new way of fighting and when he falls you canít help but put the pad down for a moment to slow your heart rate and stop your hands shaking.

It manages to invoke those feelings that Dark Souls players know well.

As you continue through the game it gets darker and weirder. Just as you feel yourself getting comfortable, thereís a new surprise around the corner, from haunting enemies, to being transported to an end-game area that gives you a glimpse of just how hard your journey is going to be.

Sometimes it feels as though booting it up is a weight on your shoulders. One you sometimes canít bring yourself to shift. But once you do, and youíre back in the intriguing world youíll remember why you love it so much.

Then you realise that itís got its claws into you. Youíll think about the game when youíre not playing it, and thatís the sign of something special. Whether youíre calculating a plan for your next run when you get home or wondering why certain enemies appear in areas that you wouldnít expect, itís never far from your mind. Youíll want to talk about it with friends, exchange battle stories and lore theories. Bloodborne runs deep and it seems so effortless in doing so.

In terms of mechanics, much has been changed to challenge fans of the Souls series, healing being the most important. Instead of a flask that fills every time you die, you now have to consume Blood Vials. At the start of the game you can carry up to 20 vials at a time but once they are used theyíre gone.

Blood Vials can be picked up from defeated enemies and dried up corpses of fallen hunters scattered around the world, and each one feels like a blessing. Run out and donít get enough from a hunt? Well you can spend your Blood Echoes (Bloodborneís answer to souls) in the gameís hub world to top up. You can bank more than 20 and they top up every time you die, but once youíre out youíre out.

This forces you to farm for items. Iíd be lying if I said it was an improvement over past games. Farming only adds to the frustration when youíre stuck on a boss that doesnít have as much respect for your Vials as you have.

However it does encourage taking a break from banging your head against a brick wall and, because you can warp from lantern to lantern, it will encourage you to go back to earlier areas to explore more and make you feel as though youíre not entirely useless.

Vials arenít the only way to replenish health, though. If you get hit, you have a short amount of time to hit back. If you manage to take damage, you steal their health. It forces you to take action instead of backing off and adds to the aggressive nature of the game.

If I had a choice though, I think Iíd rather the Dark Souls way of dealing with health. Although forcing you to farm for Echoes or Vials has its advantages, it can be a little irritating, especially when your last fall was one so close to success.

As Iíve mentioned, shields have been removed and replaced with guns. Although they offer you absolutely no protection and donít work as a valid weapon against anything other than crows and dogs, they still have a use.
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