A Hunter’s Guide to Surviving in Yharnam
From Software return after successful titles Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, with gothic RPG Bloodborne.
Developer: From Software/Sony Japan Studio
Price: £46.00 (Amazon UK),
Bloodborne is beautifully grotesque and brutally hard, whilst at the same time clawing you back for more and more punishment.
The game is instantly recognisable to Souls fans as most of the core mechanics are the same, the differences being the use of special weapons and the healing process, which now makes use of the triangle button. However the game is not set in the Souls universe, and has its own original story.
The reason for it being quite similar to From Software’s previous works is because the genius behind Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, Hidetaka Miyazaki is the games’ director. This is the other project he was said to be working on when he told Edge Magazine back in 2013, “I want to clarify that I will be a supervisor, not the actual director or producer (of Dark Souls 2).”
“The game takes place in the gothic, ruined city of Yharnam which is rumoured to house a potent medical remedy. Over the years, many travellers make pilgrimages to the city seeking the remedy to cure their afflictions; the player takes the role as one of these travellers. Upon arriving in Yharnam, however, it is discovered that the city is plagued with an endemic illness that has malformed most of its denizens into bestial creatures. The player must navigate the streets of Yharnam and overcome its violently deranged inhabitants and horrifying monsters in order to survive.” – taken from Bloodborne’s Wiki page.
The game therefore keeps to its grim roots and is unforgiving, the same as what we are used to seeing; however the setting has shifted away from knights and dragons to focus more on beasts and hunters in the gothic city of Yharnam.
The plot, which suggests that you are searching for a cure for your disease is also really intriguing as, though turning into a werewolf-like monster sounds badass, you don’t really want to become the thing which other travellers are stalking.
This brings me onto the gameplay, which has been slightly tweaked to match the setting. For instance your shield (heavily featured in Souls games) has been replaced with an offhand gun, used for defensive purposes while promoting a more fast-paced combat system. This also rewards players for taking chances and playing aggressively as you can regain lost health by quickly slaying enemies and absorbing their blood.
Bloodborne retains the gruelling RPG elements of From Software’s previous titles whilst also looking visually amazing, albeit gory and gloomy. The game is difficult but not unfair as you learn from mistakes and find new ways to tackle foes, for instance using special items like Molotov cocktails to deal extra damage, just be cautious that there will be easy ways for your character to die.
Bloodborne also has the same feeling of victory upon conquering an area boss that Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls had, and the sense of wanting to explore the unknown, at the risk of losing blood echoes.
There are also new ‘trick weapons’ which featured in the trailer and gameplay demos. These can be altered by tapping L1 to deal with situations as required and each is unique, viable and fun to use, just pay attention to your build if you want to use specific weapons. These contribute to the fun, engaging combat and to the deep lore, which can be partly obtained via item descriptions.
Speaking of weapons, they are lacking at the moment, especially when compared to Dark Souls 2 which seemed to have tons of, quite frankly, un-viable options. However ‘trick weapons’ do more as all of them have unique move sets instead of just copy-paste for each class. For example the starting weapon I went with, the threaded cane, is a short sword which then turns into a whip – very cool and useful as a skill weapon in the early game.
There is back-tracking in Bloodborne, however it is done excellently as you will notice locked doors to come back to, or quests that you need to progress in. Just a warning on this however, an NPC called Eileen the Crow actually disappeared on me in my first playthrough, destroying one of the side quests, so be careful.
Despite there being multiplayer in Bloodborne, there is a greater focus on the single player experience. The inclusion of having to find 1 point of insight before you can activate multiplayer and level up makes it so everyone is on their own for the first section of the game, giving the community that great sense of dread.
The online element to the game will be recognisable as ‘signs’ (now ‘notes’) and ‘bloodstains’ (now ‘tombstones’) show player to player interaction, and summoning a player to help rid the city of deformed creatures, or to duel works with the use of a beckoning bell.
Overall PvP is pretty good; however the biggest downside to the game if I had to pick anything is that being a ‘beast’ was over-hyped. Bloodborne was originally titled ‘Project Beast’ in production and the hope that you could run around as a werewolf was there for many fans.
Although a few weeks after release we still know virtually nothing about the ‘beast hood’ stat or what it does; apart from determine how much damage you do when ‘temporally transformed’ or when using a specific weapon. It is still a bit of a mystery though I can’t say I’m not a little disappointed that we didn’t get the whole hunting beasts online experience that was teased.
To make up for this there are now things now called Chalice Dungeons, which can be created and explored with a friend (if you share it and use the same glyph) which include a wealth of enemies to fight and loot to raid. These are a very interesting addition to the game as there are 4 different Chalices each with a few different dungeons to keep you occupied whilst playing through the story.
For me the most gripping thing about Bloodborne is the environment; it doesn’t just look cool but it’s fleshed out and familiar whilst being completely different to anything we’ve seen before. This then complements the games’ lore filled story and makes boss battles even more epic and actually pretty scary (the Cleric Beast is a good example of this).
Taking into account the story, setting and gameplay, Bloodborne gets a solid near perfect from me. It has taken what worked well for Demon’s and Dark Souls and has applied it in a unique fashion which has made it one of my favourite games, and definitely a candidate for game of the year.
If you didn’t like the Souls games then Bloodborne probably won’t be for you, although you’ve read this far so you must be at least a little bit interested. My hat is off to From Software and Sony because Bloodborne is simply a fantastic experience, and I would recommend it to any Souls fan, if you haven’t yet played it now is definitely the time.
Bloodborne is out now for PlayStation 4. For more information visit http://www.playstation.com/en-gb/games/bloodborne-ps4/?emcid=ps-pl-43419