Developer: From Software
Publisher: SCE Japan Studio
Distributor: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Following in the footsteps of the Souls games before it, Bloodborne presents a heart-pounding, monster-killing, blood-spraying action experience that will have you dying and resurrecting over and over again–learning from one failure, only to fall into another. Fans of the Souls games, and gamers who are generally looking for a legitimate challenge, need look no further: Bloodborne is here.
The story of Bloodborne is scarce, but more is given to the player than in, say, Dark Souls. While the initial entry into the game gives you very little insight (other than the fact that your character is going through some sort of dark ritual), tidbits of information begin to reveal themselves. Apparently the world falls into periods of “hunts” (but what exactly are these hunts?) where the world seems to be overrun by monsters (but where exactly do they come from?) that need to be killed by hunters (which you are now one of). Yet, as you play, you also come across those who accuse the hunters of being responsible for the whole mess in the first place. The true draw of the game is, of course, the gameplay, but there is enough story given to intrigue the player into wanting to know more.
Spiritual Content: In the beginning of the game, your character undergoes some kind of ritual or process to become a hunter. During this process, some demonic-looking beast emerges from the floor. Ghoulish looking monsters also hover over your character. Outside of that, there are monstrous-looking enemies to fight, imagery and scenery that suggest an occult-like feel, and at least one comment about “gods.” You will interact with creepy-looking, spirit-like creatures as a form of a tutorial, and some items you purchase throughout the game are unsettling; for example, a living doll allows you to level up. There also appear to be crucified… things… strewn around.
Violence: The gameplay revolves around violence. Your character wields a melee weapon in one hand and another item (typically a gun) in his/her off-hand. As you can imagine, you will use these weapons to hack, slash, and shoot your enemies. You also have access to torches, Molotov cocktails, throwing knives, and a host of other items with which to kill your foes. Similarly, your foes will attack you with a wide array of weapons, from swords to pitchforks to stones (and a host of other things). Visceral combat is the name of the game.
Blood/Gore: Well, the game is called Bloodborne! Your enemies will bleed when you hit them. You will bleed when your enemies hit you. Your clothing will also become more and more covered in blood as you continue to kill enemies. After defeating one boss, it appears to literally rain blood.
Language: None was encountered during the review playtime.
Alcohol/Drug Use: None was encountered during the review playtime.
Sexual Content: None was encountered during the review playtime.
Other Negative Content: You use items called “Blood Echoes” to level up, buy new items, repair your weapons, etc. What, exactly, a “Blood Echo” is isn’t specified, but in some capacity you essentially use blood to buy stuff. In general, it can be a bit of a creepy game. Werewolves, giants, and monsters galore will try to kill you, some of which will jump out unexpectedly.
Positive Content: The most positive thing that can be said about Bloodborne is that it’s a game that actually challenges the player and that makes the player actually feel like s/he has accomplished something when success is had. Other than that, it would appear that the player character is fighting against the forces of evil, but outside of that there don’t seem to be too many positive messages within the game.
Anyone who has played a Souls game should feel right at home here. Players start off by naming and designing their own unique character, with customization options going fairly deep. For example, players can just choose a pre-designed face, or they can start with one and then modify specific attributes of it to really create a unique look. This is one of those games where your first hour of gameplay could easily be spent building your character (if that’s your thing). Bloodborne does well by providing the option, but not forcing it. There’s no such thing as too many customization options, unless you are forced to utilize them when you don’t want to.
Once your character is created and you’ve actually entered the game world, you will quickly find that it’s not one to hold your hand. There is no official tutorial—the best the game gives the player is a series of little spirits that will give instructions for specific commands when spoken to. That means if you miss one of these little guys, then you may miss how to perform a specific action. In fact, the game doesn’t even tell you how to initially arm yourself! After your first death, you are taken to an area known as the “Hunter’s Dream,” but outside of that you are given no direction. It is very easy to simply warp back to the starting area and continue trying to take out the first enemy with only your bare fists. Take this as a freebie: run up the steps in the Hunter’s Dream to gain your first weapon and gun. You’re welcome.
This lack of direction is one of the highlights of the game, and also one of its more annoying aspects. On the one hand, the game does not hold your hand and make you feel like an imbecile by making you go through simple, mind-numbing exercises to learn the basic controls. On the other hand, it just throws you right into the mix of things. Imagine never being in the water at all, yet your parents decide that throwing you into a lake is the best way to teach you to swim. It’s kind of like that. Gamers who do not appreciate a steep learning curve will likely find this aspect of the game frustrating.
The game itself can be generalized into two categories: exploration and combat, and the two often intersect. As players wander around the various in-game areas, they will do battle with various hordes of enemies, some of whom will drop items, such as the all-important Blood Vials (necessary for healing) and Quicksilver Bullets (necessary for using your gun). Unlike some games, these guns actually have limited use! Players can also find items scattered through the world, usually on random dead bodies that are strewn about.
While the levels themselves can be a bit maze-like and long, they are ultimately fairly linear—point A inevitably leads to point B, and there’s usually a lot of space in-between. Thankfully, the developers saw fit to include shortcuts that players can unlock if they care to explore enough, making the journey from the player’s spawn point to the boss that caps off an area less arduous. That is ultimately the summary of the game’s exploration: enter an area, make your way through it while finding all of its cracks and crevices, locate the boss, and defeat the boss to move on. It may sound stale, but it’s not, as there are plenty of enemies to slay and traps to avoid along the way. Levels are kept fresh precisely because players never know what to expect around the next bend, and there is no such thing as “clearing” an area, as enemies will respawn when you die, at the very least.
Combat, the other crux of the game (or, perhaps, the crux of the game) is challenging in its simplicity. At the end of the day, the controls are fairly simple: you have a regular attack and a strong attack that can be performed with a melee weapon (along with a charge attack if the strong attack button is held in). Your other hand can shoot your gun (or otherwise manipulate the item being held), while a third item slot allows for consumable items to be used. Ultimately, every button on the controller has a purpose, but this isn’t a game about flashy combos—it’s about using what you have wisely, because no matter how many weapons you have (or how powerful they are), you only have so much in the way of endurance, as represented by a green bar below your health. Once that’s depleted, you have to wait until it recharges before performing another action (thankfully this doesn’t take long). Just about the only thing you will do that won’t deplete these gauges is walking; rolling and dodging enemy attacks uses endurance, as do any of the aforementioned attacks. The stronger the attack, the greater the use of endurance. This requires players to be somewhat strategic and mindful of their attacks, as it does no good to almost defeat an enemy, only to be crushed because there wasn’t enough endurance to dodge its next attack. On the other hand, when players take damage they are offered a small window of opportunity to regain some of the health lost by dealing damage back to the surrounding opponents. This creates an interesting risk vs. reward scenario that gives an all-around more challenging experience than a simple button masher.
Players can also level up their characters within the Hunter’s Dream. By using Blood Echoes, players can strengthen individual statistics, such as health and endurance. Leveling up isn’t simply a haphazard premise, though, as different stats affect different things—some weapons, for instance, cannot be wielded unless the “Strength” state has reached a certain number. This, coupled with the generally high cost of increasing even a single state by one point, means that players will have to carefully consider how they spend their points to shape their character.
Perhaps the only downside to the game is its long loading screens. If you play this game, you will quickly become acquainted with the “Game Over” screen, which isn’t terrible in and of itself; however, the following “Bloodborne” screen will overstay its welcome every time. As of the time of this review, the developer has announced a patch to fix the loading times, but said patch has yet to be released.
Bloodborne’s presentation is excellent. The enemies and environments are suitably creepy for the dark premise behind the game. Players will encounter all sorts of creepy decorations around the various levels, and the monsters themselves are quite creative. Graphically, this may not begin to push the limits of what the PS4 can do, but it certainly doesn’t look bad by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that your character continues to be covered in more and more blood for a period of time is an intricate (if disgusting) detail, and the overall presentation is enough to creep out even a grown adult, who may choose to play the game late at night before going to bed.
If you’ve been looking for a way to justify your PS4 purchase, then look no further than Bloodborne. With excellent graphics, addicting and challenging gameplay, and plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, Bloodborne will easily keep you busy for hours. From Software may not deviate too far from the formula that was set down in the Souls games, but they operate within that formula very well, creating a game that feels familiar, and yet manages to stand on its own two feet instead of feeling like “just another” Souls title.
The Bottom Line
Bloodborne is the perfect game for the hardcore gamer seeking a rewarding challenge.