Bloodborne, unless you have been away for a few weeks, you will know this is the first big exclusive for Sony in 2015. There has been universal praise of the game in the media and no doubt every other twitch stream is of some poor souls journey into the mythical town of Yharnam. But for me there is no point reviewing the game, instead all I can do is give you an idea what it’s like to play, because I will never be good enough to review it and I don’t know how so many ‘reviews’ are already out there.
If you have any experience in From Software’s other games, such as Dark Souls, then you will probably have a good idea where I am going with this. Bloodborne is hard. It is hard in a number of ways, for me the combat is the least difficult part of the game. You are dumped in a horrible setting to do battle with the demonic residents of the town, with a fearsome combination of guns and blades. Easy right? Well unlike the Souls games, this may be the first emotion that sets in. Without spoilers, the first few enemies are challenging but dumb, allowing you to hone your skills in right hand blade weapons, left hand guns and evasion. This brief feeling of hope is what will kill you in the long run.
The macabre mechanic of collecting souls, or Bloodborne’s version of them is still perfectly implemented here. The more enemies you kill, the more currency you get. The currency is vital for levelling your hunter up and buying new gear. Like before, if you go back to level up, all the enemies you killed respawn and of course if you die, you lose all you have collected. This simple mechanic is the heart of From Software games and despite many imitations, has yet to be bettered.
From an initial five hours, Bloodborne has a few differences from the rest of the Souls series. For one, the removal of a shield, changes the combat beyond recognition. No longer can you creep through levels, behind your trusted shield, waiting for a chink in the enemy’s defence to exploit. Now you have to be the aggressor. In a style akin to Devil May Cry, you need to go on the attack from the first moment. Laying into the enemies with your sword, then blasting them back with your shotgun before going again, is a heart-racing experience. The previous games didn’t allow many moments respite, in this there’s none.
This is where the description of the game stops. In the paragraphs above I have probably got the gist of what goes on across. But for this piece I really want to talk about what the game is like to play on an emotional level. For me From Software’s games are torture. I can only compare them to my favorite children’s T.V. program Knightmare. For any international readers unfamiliar, check out www.knightmare.com. I used to sit glued to the screen, watching as one brave, blinded adventurer set off on the quest , guided by four friends back in the studio. The adventures against demons, monsters, insects and other terrors were enough to keep me entertained. Never though did I want to be the boy in the mask. The feeling of total helplessness that Knightmare put on me remains to this day and is triggered every time I fire up one of these games. The enemies bear more than a passing resemblance to the horrors from my childhood, but there is one vital element that makes them worse. There is no guide.
Of course people can sit with a walk-through from their favorite web source, but even this may not help. In Knightmare there were your friends in the studio, guiding your actions along with the dungeon master Treyguard, meaning you were never alone. In Bloodborne, loneliness is what gets you killed. The world may have a few online components, notes for other players, invasions and assistance but you never feel as if anyone can come to help you through the nightmare. You walk slowly from one near death encounter to another hoping that you will soon be in a place of safety. This rush will cause you to make a mistake. The previously easy villager with a torch, who fell in one blow, will this time kill you. You swung from too far away, it missed, he moved in, and set you on fire. Thirty minutes work gone all because you were rushing back to the safe area. You have nobody to blame but yourself and so the circle of pain begins again. You rush to get back to your killer to avenge your death and recover your souls but are killed by something even easier. In Bloodborne you can never relax, never show emotion and never lose heart.
If I haven’t put you off, you will find a game here that is a thing of beauty. The enemies are designed to be disgusting yet functional. You see a legless corpse and immediately you know what way he is going to attack .It’s up to you to counter that. If you play this game long enough, you will be a master at it. The question all these games have asked of me is the same. Are you willing to put the effort in?
I thought the pinnacle of gaming was mile high club on Modern Warfare, you can check my achievements, I have it, but I was wrong. The pinnacle of modern gaming is being competent at these games. That is why I keep buying them, I want to test myself against the hardest, most unnerving, most difficult challenges out there. Bloodborne is the nastiest foe so far. The feeling of power it gives you is intoxicating. After seeing your way through a horrible dungeon you emerge into the setting sun to see a lone enemy with his back to you, you get cocky thinking about taking out the nervous tension that has built-in you through the last while and you charge at him killing him easily. Unfortunately his death alerts a larger foe who was around the corner, your joy is short-lived, you die, you go again. Welcome to Bloodborne.