Bloodborne: The Ultimate Joy of Dying... - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Bloodborne: The Ultimate Joy of Dying...

The concept of style, as it relates to a game as a whole, can be a difficult thing to identify for a developer, let alone truly attain. It’s a word bandied about a lot, but when it comes to actually narrowing it down, stating what makes, for instance, a Rockstar game a Rockstar game, inevitably the definition becomes elusive. We all know how an Assassin’s Creed game is supposed to play, but it’s something that goes beyond purely generic descriptions like open-world or parkour. Yet despite its difficulty to characterise it, style certainly exists, and anyone who has picked up any one of the three Souls games will know that From Software has it in spades. It’s relevantly recent meteoric rise to the heights of triple A development have seen it attract a huge amount of fans, especially since last year’s Dark Souls 2 hit the shelves, and when the developer announced that it was working with Sony to develop a new IP, the gaming community exploded with rumours and anticipation. Well Bloodborne’s release is just around the corner, and once again masochists the world over are preparing to endure yet another round of continual death screens.

From Software’s releases weren’t always met with such widely spread excitement. While the studio made a name for itself with the King’s Field and Armoured Core series, it wasn’t until the launch of the action RPG Demon’s Souls in 2009, itself a spiritual successor to King’s Field, that word of the developer began spread amongst western gamers. Noted for its dark, foreboding atmosphere and brutal difficulty, Demon’s Souls was a beautifully conceived and executed title that wasn’t heralded by any noticeable fanfare, but quickly garnered popularity by word of mouth. It was a game that aimed to really challenge its players, with even common enemies able to quickly dispatch you if you became to cocksure, and hugely memorable boss fights that you could see you die and respawn until your world was blinded by a rage-filled haze.

It was a philosophy of design that carried through to its spiritual successors, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. Set in a different world to first the game, the two titles yet again forced players to become intimately familiar with their bloodied entrails, repeatedly punishing any mistakes and flaws in combat. It also employed the same narrative structure as the first, stranding you in a world with almost no clue as to what was going on, then leaving you to make sense of the grim landscapes that greeted you through brief and sparse dialogues with the few friendly characters you could find. Backed by a fighting system that demanded not only precise timing with blocks, dodges and attacks, but that you learn from every encounter, the Souls games quickly garnered a reputation for being “hardcore” titles that only the persistent could master.

It’s this reputation that has created a large amount of expectations for Bloodborne, especially considering that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the famed director of the first two Souls game, is once again at the helm. From Software though have been quick to point out that Bloodborne is not a sequel to any of its previous titles, being fashioned as an entirely new IP in collaboration with Sony’s Japan Studio. To begin with the setting has shifted from the medieval fantasy realms of Boletaria, Lordran and Drangleic to the Victorian Gothic city of Yharnam, a location inspired in part by Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Players will take the role of a hunter who has come to the city in search of a cure for a mysterious affliction, only to find it being overrun by frenzied humans, lycanthropes and other terrifying creatures, all suffering from an illness known as the “plague of beasts”. Plot details beyond this have been scarce, though the developers have stated that there will be a greater focus on narrative this time round, aided by a deeper mystery at the heart of the story.

To complement the dark narrative that From Software have crafted, the studio has taken full advantage of the PS4’s hardware capabilities to bring the city of Yharnam to life in all its horrific glory. Gameplay trailers have shown Yharnam to be dilapidated and decaying, rent by signs of madness as ghoulish townsfolk prowl the streets and wait in darkened corners, while ominous gothic architecture looms high above. It’s a feat of graphical prowess that is only made possible by this generation’s hardware, according to Miyazaki, and one of the reasons that he chose to depart from the usual fantasy setting. While the surrounding area outside the city will be explorable, including a forest location, the developers have stated that the majority of the game will occur inside Yharnam’s walls.

The backdrop of Bloodborne is not the only thing that the developers have changed, and those who have played the Souls games will instantly notice that combat has seen an overhaul. The game will feature a faster-paced, more aggressive approach to battles, with players being required to be proactive in their methods. To further this goal, Bloodborne will not allow players to block blows and in fact will feature no armour at all, which the studio claims is appropriate for the setting.

Additionally health can be regained during a fight by counter-attacking within a certain time period, once again forcing players to take the offensive. To aid this the game will feature firearms, though Miyazaki has been quick to state that Bloodborne will not be a shooter and that ranged weapons, as was true for the age, will only become effective at short distances, allowing players to stun foes before moving in for the kill. As for the melee weapons, the trailers have a shown a few unusual choices including a saw that for all intents looks like an oversized straight razor and sword that has the ability to become a chain. In fact all weapons will be capable of transforming into a different state, allowing tactics to be adaptable to the situation at hand.

One of the main questions that many will have is whether these changes to From Software’s past works will have an impact on Bloodborne’s difficulty, and fans of self-inflicted torture will be delighted to hear that the answer is no. Death will still be treated as a mechanic rather than a fail state, and players can expect to experience it often. While this might sound ludicrous to gamers who have never touched a Souls game, there are two ideas at work here, the first being that every death is an opportunity to learn from, and secondly the joy of overcoming an obstacle is far greater when the challenge is genuine. Make no mistake, if past experiences are anything to go by Bloodborne will do its utmost to kill you time and again, but when you come back you will be wiser to its tricks, and the ecstasy of conquering a hurdle is all the more sweeter for it. From grunts to gigantic boss fights, nothing will just lie down and die for you, and perseverance will be the order of the day. You are the hunter though, and now soon it will be time to study your prey.

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