You are here
Home > Reviews > Bloodborne

Bloodborne

It’s hardly a secret that Miyazaki and his team at From Software have made some difficult games in the past.

The reputations of Demons and Dark Souls as being some of the toughest titles in the business are well known; and most gamers will at some point, have played one of them if only to test their own mettle. From’s latest title, Bloodborne, is no exception. And eventually, everyone who plays it is going to feel like they’ve hit something of a wall…

For some, this may be at the Cleric Beast – the rams-skull faced colossus that guards the starting area’s central bridge. For others, it may be at the gates of Old Yarnham where the retired beast hunter, Djura rains down hellfire on anyone bold enough to approach him. A few may even get so far as the electrified Darkbeast Paarl, before succumbing to defeat one too many times, and hitting the wall that halts their progress.

Bloodborne

But Bloodborne is a game that rewards persistence. And what the team at From have done, is crafted an experience so utterly captivating and grimly beautiful, that with clenched fists and gritted teeth, the player stands at their wall and shouts, “I need to see what’s next, and this terrifying, eldritch nightmare isn’t going to stand in my way!”

This is what makes a Souls game. This is Bloodborne.

Misty-eyed glamorisation aside, let’s get down to business. At its core, this is another third-person RPG with a dark fantasy aesthetic. But while it might be a spiritual successor to the Souls series, it plays and feels like an altogether different beast. Gone are the undead hollows and sun-praising bro-knights, Bloodborne takes place in its own universe of Gothic/Victorian horror.

You begin play as a foreigner in the city of Yarnham, come to find a cure for a mysterious epidemic that’s sweeping the land. Story details are typically sparse however, and you’ll spend most of the early game as confused and uncertain as your character. Most of the exposition into what’s going on is gleaned from item descriptions and a few chatty NPCs, but don’t worry about the plot so much to begin with. From’s non-linear storytelling is subtle, and all does eventually become clear. Your immediate objectives are simply to explore and survive.

Bloodborne

Combat is fast and furious, and players of Demon/Dark Souls will have the hardest time adjusting to the new, aggressive style of play. Rather than just defending and dodging, Bloodborne positively encourages you to go on the offensive. Most enemies will stagger with repeated blows and it’s essential to press the advantage to finish them off quickly. Getting hit will see your HP drop, but it can be quickly restored by ‘rallying’, a system that allows you to earn back lost health by successfully landing your own attacks in the few seconds after being struck.

There’s no more hiding behind shields, Bloodborne trains you to retaliate instinctively in order to minimise the damage you take.

Bloodborne

To do this effectively, you’ll need weapons of course, and the fifteen available are some of the most entertaining we’ve ever played with. They’re referred to as ‘trick weapons’ by the hunters who use them, as with a tap of your L1 button, your chosen tool of destruction will take on a brand new form.

The Hunter Axe for example, can be used one-handed for quick, light swings, but transforming it will extend the telescopic handle, turning it into a long-reaching halberd. The Threaded Cane has one of the smartest transformations, as it switches from short-range bludgeon to ‘Ivy’ style barbed whip. And our personal favourite is the Kirkhammer – a simple sword that can be locked into a chunk of gravestone to become a powerful greathammer.

Each weapon form has it’s own unique moveset, and you can even swap between modes mid-combo – initiating a transformation attack. The result is a combat system with a tremendous amount of depth and a brilliantly entertaining gimmick. Believe us when we say that repeatedly swapping between weapon forms never, ever gets old.

Bloodborne Kirkhammer

If your chosen hunters’ tool is in its one-handed mode, you can also carry a firearm in your off-hand. These can be used at range, but they play a crucial role in melee combat. Parrying a strike in the conventional sense isn’t an option in Bloodborne, and you instead interrupt enemy attacks with gunfire. Timing is absolutely critical, as firing too early (or too late) will leave you wide open. But time the shot just right, and your enemy will immediately sink to their knees. Press the advantage, quickstep in and tap R1 for a ‘visceral attack’, a mercilessly gory riposte that sees you plunge your fist into your opponent’s chest and tear out the squishy essentials inside. These do massive damage and are tremendously fun to pull off. Against tougher enemies, they’re downright essential.

The gothic smorgasbord of creatures and beasts is an impressively diverse mix, and becomes increasingly ‘Lovecraftian’ the further you explore. Eventually, the werewolves and rabid humanoids of central Yarnham feel almost pedestrian in comparison to the genuinely unsettling horrors of the late game.

But they’re all part of a much larger aesthetic, and it’s the game world and level designs, which are the real highlights here.

Bloodborne

Exploration takes you from claustrophobic city streets to titanic cathedrals, and to edge of reality itself at the surreal ‘Nightmare Frontier.’ What’s all the more impressive is how organically each of these areas link with each other. Dark Souls 2 suffered from a lack of cohesion, and the sense that each zone may well have been from different games altogether, but Bloodborne does level design right. Time after time, you’ll push open a door or climb a ladder and let out an “Ohhhhh” of realisation as you recognise where you are. The world is grim and gritty, but beautiful. And it feels like a place, not levels in a videogame.

What Miyazaki and From have achieved with Bloodborne is truly staggering. The setting and the lore make up the bulk of this painstakingly crafted experience, and the impeccably conceived combat system is the icing on the cake. There’s PVP and a refined co-op system, which makes it easy to connect with friends. And ‘Chalice Dungeons’ provide semi-randomly generated new areas to give the game some impressive longevity.

Bloodborne

When you’re not playing Bloodborne, you’ll be thinking about it. You’ll be thinking about what character build you’ll use for your next playthrough. You’ll be thinking about the multitude of different paths and zones you’ve opened but not yet explored. I guarantee you’ll be thinking of the eerily off-key singing of the ‘Winter Lanterns’ as their discordant song keeps you awake at night.

Had we reviewed Bloodborne at launch, we would have marked it down for one thing only: its load times. They were uncomfortably long and often ran to thirty-seconds or more with nothing but the game’s logo to anxiously stare at. But as of the 23rd of this month, patch 1.03 has been released and has done a brilliant job of correcting the issue. Load times have been cut by as much as half, and the screens themselves now show item descriptions and lore to keep you entertained while you wait.

We’re more than happy to give Bloodborne a perfect score. It’s a game which is practically impossible to flaw and an experience like no other. If you were looking for a reason to buy a PS4 then here it is. Just remember one thing: when/if you hit that wall, hit it hard and push through. The view on the other side is terrifying, but it’s well worth a look.

10/10

John Hatfield
There are two things in life John enjoys more than anything else: gaming and writing. In 2014 he decided to combine the two, and Level-Clear was born!

Leave a Reply

Top