I love From Software's various souls games-excluding Dark Souls 2 I really like all of them and I’ve managed to beat every single one including Dark Souls 2. So you can imagine my sadness and frustration when I learned that Bloodborne-a game with an amazing trailer that immediately caught my attention-was going to be on PS4 only. While I was upset that the game would be exclusive, to be completely fair Sony was helping make the game, helping fund the game and needed an exclusive to help sell their system. It was unfortunate but not unreasonable occurrence and eventually, it did end up working at least in my case for I now possess a PS4. After getting my hands on the imported GOTY version of Bloodborne I managed to beat it, as well as getting a platinum trophy for it. This is something I’ve done for no other souls game and something that required a lot of effort in certain areas of the game that were perhaps best left alone.
With the game finished and with some time to muse on it, I think it would be worth taking a look at the overall package and giving my thoughts on it-covering my experiences and issues with the game. After all this time waiting it's time to collect my brain eggs and let them hatch, having sampled basically everything it had to offer.
And before we get too into this, I do want to try to make clear something that has come up on other posts or statements I’ve made criticizing the game. If you found a boss easy or had an easy strategy to beat a boss or didn’t find it hard that's perfectly acceptable but in the same way I’m willing to understand and respect your perspective, please try to do the same for my perspective. I’d also ask that you refrain from just assuming I suck at the game and that's why I’m leveling so many complaints as that isn't a good counter to my arguments nor does it provide any particularly worthwhile insight into your divergent opinions. As for my ability level, I will be including an embedded link to my LP so you can decide for yourself. And understand that although I’m going to be hard on this game...I got the platinum for this game as mentioned above. If I hated this game, I wouldn’t have gone to the effort to get those trophies, purchase the artbook and grab the soundtrack. I do love this game-but I think you should be willing to criticize what you love to try to make sure it can improve in future and prevent stagnation.
Bloodborne plays pretty similarly to its predecessors-it's a tough as nails 3rd person action game with lots of weapons and abilities. However, it does diverge from its predecessors in several key ways with the main point being the speed and pace of combat. In this game, your armor doesn’t prevent a huge amount of damage and shields are basically useless. Instead, the game relies on and encourages aggression and speed as opposed to slower caution and defense. Yes, you still have to exercise a fair bit of caution, but the game will heavily penalize you for being too cautious or not pushing forward in fights. Certain bosses are even designed to fake you out and scare you into keeping your distance/the worst place for you to be in terms of getting hit but will go down easily if you just wail on them and keep on them while making sure to avoid their retaliatory strikes.
Theoretically, this isn’t a bad idea and it isn’t a bad differentiation between games in terms of playstyles. Having gone back and played Dark Souls its relatively slow, and I think the pacing of Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne may have been a better route to go in the long run. I do like the flow of Bloodborne's combat-the weapon transformation combos are in keeping with the lore and allow you to pull off some cool and not too difficult combos that look pretty cool and do some hefty damage. Many of the weapons are visually appealing and the weapon transformations tend to look pretty cool, as well as giving you the utility of two weapons packed into one.
The speed also forces a veteran souls player to rethink how they play and adapt to being more aggressive and in motion as opposed to being slower and tankier, and being far more cautious with movement. Excepting the problems I have with the gameplay that I’ll note below, I generally enjoyed combat and the focus on parrying gave the game a unique flavor. The parrying system feels a lot more necessary but it also tends to feel a lot more responsive and useful, as well as the game having runes that allow you to make it even more beneficial.
However, Bloodborne has some notable problems in the gameplay department that I took some issue with. First of all the rally system-this system is supposed to allow you to get health back from enemies and bosses if you attack within enough time of your health bar being orange to get some health back before it's gone and you need to use a blood vial. You can even get almost all of it back if you manage to land a visceral on a boss by stunning it or doing the same via parrying, as well as getting them via the secret backstab system wherein you charge attack an enemy from behind then a normal attack. This makes sense on paper, and incentivizes keeping close to a foe and trying to keep attacking it to get some health back, preserving blood vials for the fight.
In practice, however, this leads to some problems in the way combat operates. I cannot say this for 100% certain, but enemies in this game seem to hit harder than in previous games especially as you go along and I think part of that stems from this system being in place. The idea is that presumably, you’ll be able to gain back enough health by aggressively attacking them back so they can be allowed to do more damage. However, the game also has enemies do long combos that can stun-lock you and allow them to kill you if you manage to get stuck or caught relatively easily. This type of attack isn’t new to the series but due to the health and defense you have being lower it's a lot more likely to really fuck you up, especially when the enemy can vary up how long their own combo goes on. Additionally you can be attacked while down which means that if you don’t get up fast enough you can easily get hit again by certain bosses or enemies. As for the rally system, it isn’t always as useful as it could be and doesn’t restore enough health on tougher enemies or bosses to make the harder hits work correctly which makes you have to be a lot more cautious-which plays the game against its own systems.
And then there are the one hit kills that this game is full of-an ability that even some bosses have which is a decision I heavily disagree with. While you can mash the R1/L1 buttons to escape faster, the game never tells you this so you can go through the whole game having to deal with the full consequences of these attacks. And for more than a few attacks, it's basically a one hit kill if your health isn’t high enough which is something that can be very frustrating if you’re near the end of a boss fight or are robbed of progress in a level because of it. There's also an enemy that exemplifies this issue as well as demonstrating an added annoyance-the Brainsucker. The Brainsucker has a grab animation that is unstoppable by attacks, a close range stun spell that traps you in place for the grab and a long range attack that traps you in place for the grab. It steals valuable insight and if your health is too low it’ll kill you. It's a horribly unfun enemy to deal with and it's one I dreaded coming across less from fear than from wanting to avoid the irritation.
There's also the issue of blood vials and quick silver bullets which are items you have to replenish on your own. And unlike in Demon's Souls which had a similar system of healing items as opposed to Estus flasks, the need to grind in this game feels constant and far more demanding. If you get into a tough area or onto a rough boss and lose a few times, which you probably will because it's a souls game, you need to grind for souls to buy blood vials and bullets-the price of which goes up after a certain boss which makes grinding for them even more of a pain.
It's such a boring aspect of the game to have to grind for stuff, especially as later in the game you start getting fewer blood vials and bullets from enemies. It kills the pacing completely and can make getting stuck on a rough boss all the more aggravating. It also diverts a lot of your souls into buying those things, making leveling more difficult unless you grind even more. Never did I feel the need to have to do this so much in even Demons Souls, and perhaps that's a perception thing but at the same time, I think it feels like a bit of a step backward from Dark Souls handling of health items.
Another thing this game does share in common with Demons Souls is the hub layout. Instead of clever integration into the world where everything ties together and is interconnected, with a teleportation system introduced at the point that no longer is it feasible to just walk everywhere like Dark Souls, Bloodborne has a hub that teleports you to parts of the world and lanterns that function as checkpoints with the hub itself being entirely separate from the game world proper . These lanterns don’t seem to be easily activated as checkpoints after you unlock them the first time-and they offer no services other than going back to The Hunter's Dream. This can lead to a lot of transit time as you have to warp back and forth fairly often which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that they also kept from Demon's Souls the long loading times.
They were far worse before being patched-in my desperation to finally just play it I just started playing it without patches and then after that made sure the patches installed, so I saw how long they used to be. It's really just an extra rubbing of salt in the wound to have to wait so long after losing to a boss as well as the concerns over supplies-and from what I understand the game loads pretty much everything at the same time which is part of why the game takes so long to load. Add in some frame pacing issues and some technical issues with certain areas of the games-even patched certain bosses in the Chalice Dungeons have massive slowdown during certain parts of their fight-and one can also be a bit confused at why an exclusively one console game seems to have a fair bit of technical issues.
And that's the end of part one of this series! I had quite a bit to say so I had to split it into two so keep your eyes peeled for the second part which should be arriving two weeks after this one goes up. Thanks for reading, feel free to let me know what you think and your own thoughts on the game-next time we’ll be looking at bosses, the chalice dungeons, the lore and music and so on.