PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne: Review - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne: Review

From Software made a name for themselves when they released Demon’s Souls in 2009. They, in the form of this game, produced a title that was unforgiving, deep, mysterious and extremely challenging… the combination of which resulted in a game that felt very traditional in terms of challenge, while offering many new and fresh ideas to the action adventure genre. Following two years later, Dark Souls was arguably a better game, once again taking the player to a strange, near deserted fantasy realm to do battle with extremely tough foes and unravel pretty much everything in terms of the narrative.

With their latest attempt, which comes in the form of the PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne, From Software have made a few departures from what they did in the past. The biggest change is that Bloodborne leaves behind the near-deserted fantasy wastes of the previous titles and travels to the city of Yarnham (initially, at least). This is a place plagued by beasts torn from the fever-dreams of gothic horror, and it is up to the player to hunt them and help bring the curse that grips Yarnham to an end.


And what is this curse, exactly? Well, that’s part of Bloodborne’s charm and frustration. The story reveals itself in bits and pieces, with the player never really having a clear sense of what’s happening until much later on. In fact, when you start off, you pretty much know nothing more than you have been given some strange kind of blood transfusion by a dodgy dude in a wheelchair, and that you are now called a hunter. You are told to go hunt monsters and that’s about it… and then you die. Like the Souls games, player death is a pretty common occurrence in Bloodborne. But unlike the previous titles, Bloodborne’s resurrection system is a bit different. Your character doesn’t become a mouldering member of the undead society… rather, you pretty much spring back into action exactly as you were, minus the blood echoes (the game’s currency) that you collected. Death takes you to a safe area called the Hunter’s Dream, which is as mysterious as the rest of Yarnham, and it is here that the player can store stuff, buy stuff and upgrade stuff. It will also (during your first inevitable visit) provide you with the first weapons your character uses. You will have choices, although limited, that work towards your anticipated playstyle.

These weapons mark another massive departure from the formulas used in the Souls games. The first weapon the player gets to pick from is the right hand main melee weapon. It is a trick weapon that doubles as a light and heavy implement, which can be switched at the press of a button. That adds instant versatility to the weapon, and allows the player to immediately take on different approaches, as the situation dictates. The second weapon is a fire-arm. This ranges weapon doesn’t pack a lot of punch, but it does come in useful as a quick interrupt device, or for picking off weaker enemies at a distance. With a melee weapon in the right hand and a firearm in the left, there is no space for a shield. That’s the big departure I mention: Bloodborne doesn’t make use of a block and parry mechanic. Instead, the player needs to rely on quick reflexes and a combination of flurry attacks, dodges and rolls. Thankfully the character in the game is quick and agile, and this makes Bloodborne’s combat extremely exciting particularly when compared to the often slower fights in the Souls titles.

To support this, the player character is quick and able to string many attacks together before the stamina bar wears out and it recharges quickly, too. Health vials are found on numerous enemies early on in the game, and the whole thing is geared towards taking on a more aggressive approach than one might have used in the Souls titles. Rather than skirt around things, Bloodborne loves it when you take enemies down head on. What’s the worst that could happen? A trip to the Hunter’s Dream.

When you lose your blood echoes, the creature that killed you takes possession of them. Rather than just have them lying around, Bloodborne actively promotes retribution with this system, even if it takes time to stock up on new equipment and improve existing tools.

It’s a great mechanic that fits perfectly into the typically dream-like quality of From’s games, which sees all enemies respawn when the player kicks the bucket. There is a complaint to level at Bloodborne, though, and that’s the frequency and length of loading times. The game world is complex ad beautiful, and it obviously requires a larger load, but these come up a little too often, and last too long to maintain a feverish pace within the game. You get used to them, but there are a hell of a lot of them to get through even when just moving from one quick-travel point to another, which has to be done via the Hunters Dream. So, in other words, getting from one lantern checkpoint to another requires a trip to the Hunter’s dream (one long load screen) and then a trip to the desired point (for a total of two long load screens). It could have been handled a bit better.

With a massive, rich world and interesting narrative (which you will have to slowly put together as you half-fumble, half-explore your way through the twists and turns of Yarnham) Bloodborne is a great experience. And aside from the challenging game dynamics and tons of exploration that Bloodborne has on offer not to mention more than a little frustration it also bring with it co-operative multiplayer, which is a big bonus. Exploring Yarnham with up to two others is equally rewarding, and the overall experience is heightened by it. Not that the single player game is anything to scoff at; the dark overtones and horror feel to the title make a solo experience an incredibly intense one.

However you choose to experience Bloodborne, it offers great reward. It will frustrate you, it will puzzle you and it will challenge you. But overcoming these bring with them a sense of reward thanks to the difficulty levels of the game that isn’t often found anymore. This game is about beating extreme odds, bout digging through dense piles of puzzles and clues, and about visceral, fast-paced third person combat. And it stands strong testament to the fact that From Software understand that some gamers want more than just hordes of mindless enemies to wade through… Bloodborne is as thought-provoking and mentally stimulating as it is challenging to the reflexes.

If you enjoyed either Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, or if you enjoy a challenging, often frightening and sometimes frustrating title, From Software’s vision has resulted in a game that looks and feels great in the form of Bloodborne. This PS4 exclusive is well worth the effort, and will provide many hours of riveting entertainment.

9.5/10

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