Bloodborne is a PlayStation 4 exclusive Action RPG from legendary Dark Souls developer FromSoftware. The game has a much faster and more brutal combat system than the Souls series and features a gothic horror theme as opposed to high fantasy. The majority of the game’s setting and enemies have clear inspiration from H.P Lovecraft as well as from 19th-century horror stories. It contains open world elements despite each area having a defined start and end point from which you return to a hub area. The difficulty of From Software’s games is renowned and Bloodborne is no exception. This is a true challenge. The game originally released in 2015 and was one of PlayStation 4’s first flagship exclusives, going on to sell over two million copies. A DLC expansion was released in the following year, The Old Hunters. This will not be covered in the review. In March 2018 the base game was made free for all PlayStation Plus subscribers.
Feel free to check our Bloodborne’s beginner’s guide.
Release Date: 24th March 2015, 6th March 2018 it becomes free on Playstation Plus until April.
Price: $59.99 but often on sale
Size: 25.3 GB
Genre: Action RPG
Developed By: From Software and Japan Studio
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Bloodborne has very deep lore hidden throughout its world. In order to truly piece together the entire story, a player would have to search through item descriptions for clues and really search each area thoroughly. The game opens with your created character awakening in a clinic in a hospital bed. There are hints you have survived an attack of some sort but nothing concrete. From there the responsibility is on you to do the only thing you know how: hunt. Your character in Bloodborne is a hunter, and it just so happens that the game is set on the night of the hunt. This prompts many different reactions from the residents of Yharnam, the game’s opening city. Some hide themselves away, barricaded indoors, some join in large groups to participate the hunt and some hunt alone. You are one of the lone hunters, feared by man and beast alike. Yharnam’s locals attack you on sight, as do the region’s many creatures. In the very first area, you’ll encounter werewolves as well as mutated humans and get a grasp of the severity of the hunt. These beasts are very real threats.
Very quickly you’ll visit an area called the Hunter’s Dream. It features a graveyard that is connected to the game’s areas and a workshop where hunters can upgrade tools, level up and customize their stats and weapons. This is all overseen by a man named Gehrman. He is old and crippled and describes to you the importance of the hunt. With his advice in hand, you set out to deal with Yharnam’s beast plague. As you progress through the game you’ll make many interesting discoveries. Bloodborne really explores the relationship between man and beast and how fragile the separation between the two really is.
Bloodborne’s gameplay is the true gem of an already shining package. Newcomers to From Software’s games will find an action-heavy RPG with intense combat and a variety of weapons to choose from. Series’ veterans will find a streamlined version of the combat from the other games. Moment to moment gameplay is a lot more vital in Bloodborne, every dodge feels last gasp and perfect, every attack feels absolutely brutal. You move a lot faster in Bloodborne than other games, the introduction of a sidestep during combat, as opposed to the famous Dark Souls roll, is a huge innovation. It means you’re constantly on the move. It only takes moments to be behind an enemy in a position to deliver a battle changing blow. The combat has many little nuances, but the majority of the fights will be similar. If an enemy hits you it’ll take a chunk of your health, you won’t be able to take more than 3 or 4 consecutive hits without encountering the famous ‘You Died’ screen. Upon this death, you are returned to the last lantern you visited. These lanterns act as checkpoints and allow you to travel to the hub area.
Another consequence of death is that you lose all your Blood Echoes. These function as both the game’s currency and experience points. In order to retrieve these, you return to your point of death and kill the enemy who killed you. One of the nuances in combat is the importance of visceral attacks. If you use a charged heavy (R2) attack to the back of an enemy you will stagger them. Get close and press R1 quickly to unleash a violently magical visceral attack, depleting a chunk of a boss’ HP or killing most small enemies in one hit. It is wildly satisfying to pull off. Another even more satisfying way to stagger an enemy is parrying. In Bloodborne, you have your weapon in your right hand and a gun in your left. By shooting an enemy at just the right moment, just before their attack hits you, you stagger them. This doubles in effectiveness as it allows you to deal massive damage while also negating the enemies’ blow.
Following this, there is a new Regain system. After you take damage you are able to deal damage quickly to the enemies around you to recover what you lost. This makes fights a lot faster and adds an element of risk/reward to even the most basic encounter. Finally, there are trick weapons. Every weapon in Bloodborne has two forms. One of the starting weapons, the hunter’s axe is a good example of this. Originally it is a one-handed axe with okay reach, good damage but slower attack speeds. By pressing L1 it is extended into a two-handed weapon. This gives it a much longer range while maintaining the damage. It gains a whole new moveset, such as a new charged R2 which sees your character spinning to send nearby enemies flying. It becomes excellent for crowd control. As you progress further into the game the combat will become more varied. There are Arcane abilities that can be learned as well as a bigger variety of guns, some of which have a longer range or higher damage. The main depth and gameplay lies with the melee weapons though, finding your favorite is a huge part of Bloodborne’s gameplay.
After you have murdered your way through Yharnam and gathered a lot of Blood Echoes you can return to the Hunter’s Dream. From here you can use those Blood Echoes to purchase new weapons, consumables, upgrade your weapons or level up. Choosing each skill point as you level is important. Making sure you don’t become a tank capable of withstanding every hit but with Strength too low to deal any damage or wield a weapon that you have your eye on will lead to a very unbalanced experienced. Unfortunately Bloodborne has no respec system. Once you spend the Echoes that’s it, no going back. I made the mistake of wasting 20 points on Arcane only to never use any magic. The consumables are an important part of the game, but not worth spending your hard earned Echoes on. You can carry 20 blood vials which replenish health and 20 bullets for your gun. These are easily earned from killing enemies though. Weapon upgrades are performed using Blood stones; shards, chunks and a very limited amount of actual stones. These are also obtained through enemy drops.
Bloodborne’s bosses are the true highlight here. Each one will be an absolutely brutal encounter, whether it’s the terrifying creatures like Amygdala or the other hunters like Father Gascoigne. Each fight moves at a blistering pace with very little room for error. At the first encounter, you could use 18 of 20 blood vials to heal and still only get a quarter of the enemies’ HP gauge down. Eventually, you’ll find form, blazing through the fight taking almost no damage with perfectly timed parries and dodges. It’s this sense of progress that really makes Bloodborne a special experience. You feel yourself improving and you’ll have a marked increase in confidence as you move forward. Of course, if the game is too challenging every boss can be tackled in co-op with friends or other players online. I do not suggest this though on a first playthrough, the sense of achievement just is not the same although you’ll have a blast taking down enemies together.
Graphics and Sound
Bloodborne truly embraces the power of next-gen hardware. When it released it was an absolutely stunning game, from the way the moonlight shines over the landscape to the beautiful vistas you experience as you make your way through the environment. Even now it is still a jaw-dropping game. Every enemy looks incredible, brought to life by clever design choices. They feel like they belong in the world thanks to tiny detail on their clothing or in the weapons they use. Yharnam residents have objects such as rakes or axes, items that most people would have in a shed, whereas hunters have a varied, complex arsenal at their disposal. The beasts are all brought to life spectacularly, creatures like Vicar Amelia’s fur moves independently of its body while remaining cohesive to its movements. There can be the occasional frame dip, but never during combat when it matters. In the most intense moments, the game runs incredibly smooth. Considering the amount of action on screen and the detail of every texture it is a very impressive technical achievement. Load times can be a little long but this is something that you’re unlikely to notice, often a break in the action is appreciated.
The character design is immense. From the Doll to Gehrman to Eileen the Crow, every character has a unique look and voice that really works to set them apart and give them a place in the world. Every character’s dialogue and voice acting introduces a new perspective on the story as you discover the variety of motivations that the world of Yharnam has to uncover for the player. As you progress and learn more and more of the world you will really start to appreciate a lot of what these characters set up early in the game. The fact that every actor absolutely nails these lines helps them stick with you all the way through. This extends to character who doesn’t get a lot of lines or screen time, such as bosses. Micolash has a handful of iconic lines that will come to you in your sleep and really gives the one on one boss fight a new dimension. Another thing that will haunt you in your sleep is the blood curling screech of the Cleric Beast. It really solidifies the monster as a force to be reckoned with. When you reach the last boss and the solemn, epic orchestral music kicks in you will really feel the weight of your quest and survival on your shoulders. The sound design absolutely complements the atmosphere of the game. You will always feel under pressure thanks to the music, you’ll be able to hear enemies lurking nearby and feel absolutely surrounded. One hunter against the hordes of Yharnam. That is what the game is, the sound, world design, and graphics being able to emphasize this without any gameplay is a truly impressive achievement.
Bloodborne is a game I genuinely struggle to find any flaws with. The co-op can be cumbersome, the load times can be slightly lengthy and there is an occasional performance issue. However, the gameplay is as near perfect as any game gets. You feel like every action is performed at 1000 miles an hour, every moment is accelerated in a swirl of button presses that somehow coordinate into an epic combat display on screen. Bloodborne will make you feel like a God. You’ll feel untouchable at times. However, the game’s challenge will always creep back and remind you that this is a difficult experience. Once you get into the game’s new game plus mode you’ll really encounter the brutal difficulty associated with this series. But again the game finds a way to make you feel powerful and to make you feel progress. I can’t recommend facing this challenge enough. The sheer euphoria felt after taking down a boss in Bloodborne is enough of a reason to play, the fact that you’re getting a beautiful, richly designed world with an incredible soundtrack and atmosphere as well as one of the all time great action RPGs is all just the ribbon on top of a spectacular package. Play this game ASAP.
- Exhilarating Combat
- Stunning Environment
- Intriguing Characters
- Intense Gameplay
- Genuine Feeling of Accomplishment
- Cumbersome Cooperation
- Slightly Long Load Times
- The fact that you're reading this instead of playing Bloodborne
- Seriously stop reading, go play Bloodborne