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LONG BLOG

Sustained by the Dream: Bloodborne II, and What I Want From It

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The prospect of a Bloodborne II has been quite a point of contention in the gaming community. In an age of countless sequels and content cut from final releases, Bloodborne came out and turned out to be one of the most perfectly complete and comprehensive games in recent history, both from a gameplay and story perspective.

Despite obvious flaws as far as the mileage you could get out of builds and a perceivably smaller overall amount of content compared to other entries in the Souls series, it felt complete and comprehensive with little filler. While the potential for build variety is comparatively limited, every weapon was unique and viable, and could even warrant its own playthrough. It felt like a full and complete gameplay experience. Then there's the story and lore...

The LORE. The STORY. Oh my, these elements alone put BB on a different level. It's all so understated that I couldn't blame people for thinking there is even a story at all. I was one of them, at first. Everything is so meticulously thought out (with the exception of a few elements, there always is in these types of things) that this game world IS real. Yharnam IS real. Despite being so vague and subtle, every aspect of the game, be it items, weapons or standard enemy, all have a logical and important place in the lore and story. Despite the typical Souls style of being very cryptic with its storytelling, BB sets itself apart in that it contains a very distinct beginning, middle and end. It feels complete.

I keep using the word complete, but it turns out to be very important when discussing a sequel. BB is a wholly and brilliantly complete game. Despite its flaws, it is a beautiful standalone experience. So does it need a sequel? I'm usually in the camp of leaving brilliant standalone experiences alone, but at the same time, I can't really say I would hate for any given thing to get a sequel. Look at it this way, if it ends up sucking, we can just forget that it even exists and pretend that the original remains untarnished. Afterall, people willfully ignore and forget stuff like that all the time to maintain their sanity.

Hey...kind of plays into some of the core elements of Bloodborne! I totally meant to do that.

"Bloodborne 2 sucked? Well fear not, for I will show you mercy. You will die, forget the Dream, and awake under the morning sun."

I recently realized that I had moved past just really liking Bloodborne to realizing that it is one of my favorite games of all time. Pretty high up, actually. With that being said, I feel that Bloodborne could do with a sequel and wouldn't be hurt by it. Its perfect, but I need more. Even a true masterpiece has flaws, and Bloodborne has them in spades. Some wonderfully endearing, and some excrutiatingly infuriating.

Here are some of my thoughts on what a sequel should improve on, in no particular order on how strongly I feel about them, just the order that they occured to me.

1. A greater number of more open and non-linear areas.

Despite being the only one I have actually beaten and sunk considerable time into, I have played enough of the Souls series to know that its approach to level design is one of my favorits things about it. Everyone likes to gush about how they love to go through an area and come upon a shortcut that leads seemlessly back to the beginning, and I'm no different. For being mostly action RPGs with mostly a point A to B level progression, the Soulsborne series has some of the greatest sense of exploration that even the most ambitious of open world games can't touch. They require you to pay attention and commit the levels to memory. You know, actually IMMERSE and involve yourself in this world. Central Yharnam is a great example of this environment in BB.

You have a whole city ahead of you and your character doesn't believe in maps. Figure it out, stupid.

That's the problem, though; its the first area and there is no other one as good as it in the entire game. The way it twists and turns and interconnects itself with shortcuts is just genius. Other areas by comparison feel more simple and, in some ways, rushed. In my mind, a lot of the areas give me a mental image of being either big circles or ovals. The Forbidden Woods and Nightmare Frontier are great classic Souls-y areas, but again, they're two of maybe 3 levels in the game like that, where pretty much all the areas of previous games felt equally large and labyrinthine.

Old Yharnam is a good example of this. The entire level is just a big rush to get to the one main shortcut that loops back to the beginning. There technically is another shortcut you can open up right in the middle but its only purpose, as far as I can tell, is exclusively to make it quicker to get back to fight Djura again when you die (and you will die). 

"Ah, you've found my shortcut. That's good. Then come as often as you like, and I'll show you another death."

Central Yharnam, the Forbidden Woods and the Nightmare Frontier are the best areas in the game. Besides those 3 all the areas, again, feel like a trudge to get to the one main shortcut back to the beginning, rather than an interesting and dynamic area.

2. Better pacing

If I think about it, I technically mean "late game pacing" but that sounds a little too specific for a sequel to improve, so we'll just go with overall pacing. 

Once you're done with Rom, the entire rest of the game feels like a mad rush to get through the remaining areas. Right off the bat, Yahar' Gul is filled with Bell Maidens that not only endlessly respawn enemies until they die, they open up the opportunity to be invaded. The next area, the Nightmare of Mensis, is the same deal, just without the respawning enemies. Besides the Nightmare Frontier which is an optional area, these are the only two areas in the main game that have forced PvP, and they're right after one another. It just feels like you're encouraged to sprint through the rest of the game, and the smaller and more linear areas compared to the first half compound that sentiment.

In addition to the level design in the second half, the bosses from Rom onward are just...jokes. They hardly even challenge you to utilize the techniques the game has been teaching you up to this point. It seems like the rest of the bosses have one attack that makes them actually dangerous. 

Rom: her spider minions that do obscene amounts of damage and can even one-shot if they body slam you with their head. Seriously, HOW ARE THEY MORE DEADLY THAN THE ACTUAL BOSS?

"Why don't you tell your spider homies to bounce and then we'll see who's really badass."

The One Reborn: his poison...puke. Piss? Whatever it is, I ain't cleaning it up.

Micolash: A Call From Beyond. There's nothing more annoying and humiliating than to go through the whole fight and being one-shotted by that cheap ass attack.

My point is that the overall game design philosophy, level design and bosses of the final stretch of the game don't feel as consistent and as polished as the first half. It feels rushed. If they can pace out the areas and bosses designed to pace add some variety more throughout the game, as opposed to all at once, I think the game will benefit greatly from it and at least feel a little more consistent.

3. Make transform attacks more viable

The transformation attacks of the weapons are one of my favorite things about the game. They're just badass, but most of them are impractical, and are only truly useful in PvP where they can bait and otherwise thow your opponent off. Most are just too awkward and/or slow in PvE too even consider using, like the one above with the Kirkhammer. It's too slow to be useful and just leaves you wide open to attack. Only a handful are universally useful as they flow easily and quick enough in between regular attacks and the transformed ones and have enough stun potential to be practical. One of my favorites is the Hunter Axe. It has speed, range, and stun lock potential that a good deal of weapons in the game don't have, and you can even chain transform attacks into normal ones and back again.

The Kirkhammer and Ludwig's Holy Blade have unique attacks that can be initiated when timed after a delay of hitting the L1 button. For example with the Ludwig, timing an R1 attack after tricking it normally results in a one-handed horizontal swipe. Only 2 weapons in the game implement this unique form of attack. Why? THAT's the kind of stuff I want to see more of.

4. Streamline (or even remove) backstep and sprinting attacks.

When you do a standard backstep, you can do two attacks, one corresponding to either the light or heavy attack buttons. First of all, why is this mechanic even in the game? Everything moves so fast and erratically that to completely stop moving (oh yeah, you have to be NOT MOVING and press dodge to perform one of these attacks) is a huge risk, and any benefit you might have used from the backstep attack would probably have been gotten easier by just dodging normally and then attacking. Same story with sprinting attacks. To add to this, like I said, there is a heavy AND light version of these attacks. Why? If you're going to the trouble of putting yourself at a tactical disadvantage by either stopping to move completely or running headlong at your enemy to close the distance, why would you NOT go ahead and use the most powerful attack of the two? I suppose the defense for this is "more options", but still, pretty dumb in context of how the game's combat flows. 

5. Allow Hunter Tools to be selected independently from regular items

I have to say, I'm not a fan of the spells (Hunter Tools) in this game on their own merits since I didn't find them all that useful, but it really didn't help that I had to add them as regular items on the item select bar instead of just having a seperate hot key button to select them. You know, like every other Souls game before it? The problem is that now the up button on the d-pad is assigned to your emergency reserve of Quicksilver Bullets, but come on, if that's the issue then just assign it to clicking the L3 button. Basically, having regular items share the same space as spells is a pain in the ass because of having to switch between all of them in the heat of combat. It's a problem when spells and pebbles can to potentially occupy the same inventory supply. God damn pebbles are nothing but trouble...

 6. Tone down the reliance on i-frames

Since the beginning, the Souls series has heavily relied on iframes for the combat, and Bloodborne is no different. For those that don't know, iframes (invincibility frames) are the point in an animation (in this case, dodging) where your character is momentarily invincible and is immune to being attacked. In BB specifically, despite your most basic instincts, the general strategy you want to do is to utilize that invincibility and dodge INTO attacks, since a common theme in the attacks of enemies is that they maintain forward momentum after they strike. A lot of the time you are actually putting yourself at a disadvantage by doing the logical thing by dodging to the side or backwards. Basically what is happening is that you are phasing THROUGH attacks. You are technically being physically hit by the enemy (you are actually in the hit box of the attack or projectile) but the i-frames are negating that damage. 

Now, in a game with such tight and nuanced combat, where's the sense in being encouraged to have to use something as vague and esoteric as i-frames? Not to mention that it is not apparent at all in the dodge when the frames actually start and end. Countless times I have been playing where an attack clearly hit me, but I phased through it, and I try the exact same thing but it fails the next time. The Souls games already are famous for terrible and inconsistent hit boxes (shit boxes), and I'm supposed to be a genius on knowing what millisecond before (or even during) an attack I should be dodging for the iframes to start? No. Stop it, FROM.

Just tighten up the hit boxes and tone down the reliance on iframes to make it so that I either dodged an attack or I didn't without having to take into account what millisecond the iframes did or didn't kick in. Fair enough. 

7. More gender specific armor.

I love FashionBorne. Like...REALLY love it. I've even dedicated whole playthroughs of having my character wear one outfit I had brainstormed.

The thing is that most outfits are tailored for the default male appearance and looks exactly the same on female characters. It kind of defeats the purpose of rolling a female character when 90% of all the outfits make it so you can't even tell if you're playing as one. Actually, most of the outfits that do have a distinctive female version are some of the most gimmicky (garbage) armor sets in the game.

The Yharnam Hunter Set looks really cool on a girl, huh? You just have to buy it.

 Guess what? You can find another set in the first area, for FREE, that pretty much outclasses it in every way except for a few resistances that are highly situational and hardly ever appear anyway.

Might sound like a very dumb and specfic complaint and probably only 2 other people ever have complained about it, but hey, that's why this is called "...What Want From It".

 I just want more options to make my lady hunter look cool!

 Looks pretty cool, huh? Actually, its a girl. Did you just assume her gender? I know you did.

8. Make NG+ and beyond actually worth playing

Oh my god, NG+in BB is so dumb and poorly thought out that it boggles my mind. 

"It makes my head shake uncontrollably."

It is almost insulting how completely pointless it is. First of all, NOTHING changes. Just...nothing. No new characters or encounters, new areas, or new weapons. You don't get diddly dick. 

The only thing that DOES change is that the enemies are more powerful and have about quadruple the amount of health as they did on the first run. Unless you just can't resist going through the game again and starting out with your badass +10 weapons doing crap damage to the weakest enemies in the game and fighting huge damage sponge bosses, you have ZERO incentive to go back. Oh, but the enemies drop more blood echoes so you can keep leveling. Again though, if you're not interested in playing through with no tangeable reward, why would you want to level more?

What's even more absurd is that the gems you find don't even scale to NG+ level! You find the exact same kind of gems as you do in NG, which is to say, will be utterly worthless if you bother to pick them up again. Not even Coldblood pickups (free blood echoes) scale. Why?

Why doesn't ANYTHING scale?!

You know why? To justify the existence of Chalice Dungeons so you have to farm them to get more gems that are actually worth a shit. 

Oh, speaking of...

9. Chalice Dungeons

I hate them. I really do. 

They are cool from a lore perspective and have some unique bosses, but they just blow overall. Hard.

Somewhere along the line From thought playing with the idea of turning BB into a dungeon crawler would be cool. Hey, fine, they were trying to do something different. You know what sucks about dungeon crawlers. though? They're tedious. By their very design, even. This is especially egregious in a series that is known for excellent level design.

"Oh gee...This hallway again...for the 40th time. Oh, no. It's great! Really. Can't wait."

The problem is that they took an experimental idea that should have been a bonus element to prolong the life of the game and made it into a core pillar of it. Just think about how much time and effort went into these. They're basically a seperate campaign from the base game. They require materials to even start doing, and a lot of them aren't exactly easy to get. What's worse is that the dungeons are important, no, ESSENTIAL to the lore of the game. 

The thing is though, it didn't have to be like this. If they took the time and effort spent on the dungeons and spent it on the main game, they could have added so much more to it. 

So the basic idea of this section is to get rid of the friggin' Chalice Dungeons and focus more on fleshing out the main game.

10. Make Regain more useful

The Regain System in BB took the basic risk/reward element of Souls combat and added to it in order to fit the more aggressive and faster style of combat. When you get hit, that health you lost is no longer gone forever. You have a small window in which you can counter attack in order to "regain" some of that lost health. It encourages going in and trading hits, making you be more active and involved in the fight, rather than just backing off and waiting for enemies to strike and get that easy attack in.

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? Well, the problem is that most of the weapons have such little rally potential that its not even worth it to try and get it back. You're usually much better off just backing off and healing. Why would you risk going back in and regaining a pitiful amount of health and risk getting attacked again if you can just back off and heal all of that lost health, guranteed?

The Hunter Axe and Burial Blade are the only two weapons I know off that have actually good rally recovery. Actually, the regain system isn't even consistent in how it works. The Hunter Axe is explained in the description as having good rally recovery because of its high blunt attack, in which only some of its attacks are considered blunt. Ok, fine. Then why does the Beast Cutter, which deals blunt 100% of the time on 100% of its attacks, have some of the worst potential in the game? The Burial Blade, on the other hand, has just a few blunt attacks yet gets huge recovery on normal swipe attacks. It doesn't even make any sense.

The system just needs a little revamping and it will be perfect.

11. Less cryptic questlines

On the one hand, this is one of those endearing quirks I love about the game, but on the other, I really have no patience for them. I think Eileen's questline is the best example. At one point in the quest, it is required that you open all three main gates in the Cathedral Ward. Then and only then are you allowed to progress the quest...

(rubs temples)

Alright, a few things here...

(deep breath)

1. WHAT? WHY? What does that have to do with anything?! Why does she only appear under those extremely specific circumstances, especially when its not actually required to open all of them (you only need to technically get through one to reach the boss and progress the main game)? Why couldn't she just appear the first time you enter the area?

2. The spot where she appears makes it REALLY difficult to see her.

3. Even if you did manage to see her, how would you know for sure that you even completed any certain conditions for her to appear? For all you know, and since she's so hard to see, she could have been there the whole time and you just didn't see her! I came upon her completely by accident the first time since, naturally, on your first playthrough you're going to completely clear out the whole area to find out what's there, so I unknowingly completed all the conditions (and assumed there weren't any to begin with) for her to appear and just assumed she was there all along. On further playthroughs I tried to find her right away and didn't, so I assumed the quest was glitched (which it actually WAS at one point and they patched it) and I was screwed out of it for that run. 

" Oh, hello th-"

"HOLY S***! When did you get here? WHY are you here?"

"You opened all of the gates in Cathedral Ward. What are you, stupid?"

"I hate this place..."

 12. Elaborate on the Insight mechanic

Insight is such a good mechanic. Ugh, it's so cool. For one thing, it plays seemlessly into the themes of the game. It reflects your character's descent into madness as the game progresses after the witnessing of things and events never meant to be seen by human eyes. On a gameplay level, it allows cool things to change in the world. One enemy gets a weapon buff, some formerly invisible things can now be seen, and low insight can completely alter how one boss fight is handled.

That's the problem, though. ONE enemy gets a buff. ONE boss fight is affected. The things that it does change are few and far between. Not enough is done with the system, there needs to be more. Maybe some of your weapons and armor get a buff or debuff depending on your insight level. Or some secret areas only being able to be accessed with high insight. There's so much potential to change the system from "really neat" to "freaking awesome". 

13. Allow R1, R2 and L2 attacks to flow together more freely.

All of the different types of attacks (normal, heavy, and two handed weapons have special attacks) are too compartmentalized and can't be chained freely and naturally together. For the most part, at least. Some weapons have a follow up R2 attack after a charged attack, a couple have a 2 hit R2 combo, etc. There is one exception...

...the Rakuyo.

R1, R2

R1, R2, L2

R2, R2, L2

L2, L2 (dat double pirouette attack)

They're ALL viable, and awesome to look at.

From definitely enjoyed experimenting with this one and, with any luck, this will be the norm going forward for all weapons. Can you imagine if Bloodborne went full Metal Gear Rising/Bayonetta? Light, heavy, charged and special attacks all combo-able together? That's not even including transform attacks! The number of possibilities are staggering. 

Conclusion

 Those are just all of the main points I can think of right now, or at least feel are the more important ones. I could go into rants about the questionable return of damage types along with blood gems, but I feel like all it would amount to is "just make them better".

All of this may be for naught since there's not really any indication that Bloodborne II will even happen, but it sure is fun to speculate on potential improvements.

For what it's worth, I agree with those who won't even entertain the thought of a sequel...

"A masterpiece should be left well alone..."

...but I love the game, and it makes no sense to not want more of something you love, even if its not as good as the first.

I guess we'll just have to wait and...see...what the future brings.

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About Nathan Done of us since 12:58 PM on 08.19.2014

"Anywhere can be paradise as long as you have the will to live. After all, you are alive, so you will always have the chance to be happy. As long as the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth exist, everything will be all right."
- The End of Evangelion

Video games are love. Video games are life.

something... something... lollipop...

Favorite games (in no particular order):
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil Remake
Half Life 2
Metal Gear Solid 2-4
Dead Space 2
Dirt 2
Forza Horizon
Persona 4
Shadow of the Colossus
Silent Hill 2
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Metroid Prime
Mass Effect 2
Journey
Bloodborne
Nier
INSIDE
Portal 2
Far Cry 2
Max Payne 2


PSN: THE_EDGE_923