Bloodborne, for many, was the first PlayStation 4 exclusive that made the console a must-buy platform. The title stands as a shining example, with its gameplay mechanics, art, and sound design demonstrating why video games are such a creative and fascinating medium.
FromSoftware are best known for the incredibly punishing Dark and Demon Souls games, and have split audiences in the past with their difficulty, but it is evident that they wanted to try a different approach with Bloodborne. Gone is the traditional sword and shield combo that saw players ‘turtling’ their way through previous games. Instead, the combat system is revitalised to be much more action-based; players are given the ability to move much more quickly than you can in both Demon and Dark Souls, requiring the player to dodge attacks rather than block them with a shield. The parry system is as equally difficult to master, but now requires the player to shoot the enemy at the right time to stun them, which then allows a powerful attack. The most important and most effective tweak is how the player’s health functions. As normal, the aim of the game is to not get hit, as many enemies will hit you particular hard, but in order to encourage a more aggressive and action based style of gameplay when the player is hit, he or she is able to regenerate a percentage of the health back by chaining a few hits back against the enemy. This is a very subtle but clever technique used by the developers; it teaches the player that they should be aggressive, and to utilize a different play style compared to other From Software games.
As well as superb gameplay mechanics, the art, enemy and level design have to be appreciated. The nightmarish world that has been created is as beautiful as it is terrifying. Old Yharnam specifically hints at you that something terrible has happened that has caused the inhabitants to become rabid and wild. I particular remember letting out an audible scream when a barking flightless bird jumped out at me, catching me off guard (players of Bloodborne will know exactly what I mean), and there is, of course, the vast in scale boss fights that are equally as challenging as they are rewarding. The sense of achievement when defeating a boss you have been stuck on for hours is second to none.
The varied environments and the enemies that inhabit them aren’t just creepy eye candy, they are also intricately designed; each area is a maze of hidden and unlockable paths that will eventually lead you back to an area you thought you had lost. This type of attention to detail is one of the reasons why the game feels so brilliantly paced. After braving it through hazardous and unknown environments, the brief relief that you get from finding yourself back at a familiar location, having unlocked a shortcut, helps breakup the intense and harrowing gameplay.
Although the story of the game is at face value pretty thin, if you look closely into the items, characters and environments, you will begin to realise that there is a deep and twisted narrative being played out, which gives the more inquisitive gamer an added layer to the game and your role within it – which somehow allows to make the game even darker than it is already.
For PlayStation 4 owners, Bloodborne is a must buy. If you originally gave it a miss as you thought it would be “just another Souls game”, then I urge you to reconsider and give it a go. The changes made to the gameplay really opened this game up to a wider audience, now allowing those among us who aren’t sadists to actually enjoy a From Software game.