Review: Bloodborne Is The Perfect Nightmare
A vile disease plagues the city of Yarnham. City folk lose their sanity, and in time, let go of their humanity. A plague so vile, it transforms men into beasts, forcing them to prowl the streets enraged with bloodlust searching for the next fix of blood. Men and women hide in their homes, others band together to hunt down the beasts and find a cure for their accursed city. While some care less about a cure, and use the plague for selfish gain. You, the player, arrive in Yarnham, but to what end? Become a hero, a villain, or a beast?
- Worth The Time?Every second of it.
- Things LovedThe Gothic-horror design of the world, character customization, multiplayer co-op and PvP, fluid combat, transforming weapons.
- Things HatedLoading times, frame rate drops noticeable in certain areas.
- RecommendationBloodborne is a masterpiece. If a Gothic-Victorian era game is visually appealing to you and you enjoy melee combat, then Bloodborne is the game for you.
- Name: Bloodborne
- Genre: Horror Role Playing Game
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Cooperative, competitive
- Platforms: PS4
- Developer: From Software
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Price: R750 / $60
- Reviewed On: PS4
You awake in Yarnham’s clinic moments before sunset, having undergone a blood transfusion. Sunset approaches and the city is preparing for a night of the hunt. Your mission is to, “Seek Paleblood and transcend the night”. A vague starting quest with the intention to let you find the answers on your own and explore the wonders and horrors of Yarnham. And what a world it is; from the moment you leave the clinic and as you progress further into the game, Yarnham is an absolute nightmare, but one you don’t want to end.
The story itself, in true From Software fashion, is heavily drenched in lore. The game begins at sunset, and as you progress further through the story, the night advances bringing about changes in the city. From twilight to full moon, expect an entirely new experience whenever you run through the same area. You witness the horror and sadness the plague has on some people and whether you play hero by helping them find a safe place to hide or hinder them for your own gain is entirely up to you.
Events may not have happened as they first seem. Throughout my first playthrough I often questioned why events were happening and if they were actually happening. Coming from a background of having played all three ‘Souls’ games, I found Bloodborne’s lore and story progression as intellectually satisfying as the previous games.
The level design is a hybrid of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. The Hunter’s Dream, where you upgrade your weapons, level up and buy or sell items, serves as the main hub of the game, like the Nexus in Demon’s Souls. The rest of the world is seamlessly interconnected like Dark Souls. Later areas in the game can be accessed from the first area by unlocking shortcuts. The level design is the best of both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. There is no map but you would be surprised how effortless it is to find your way throughout the world — or read: dying ten times in the same area makes memorising paths much easier.
The world is hellishly beautiful, from landscape to enemy design; I often asked myself how could a world so gorgeous be filled with such horror, and it’s that kind of question From Software wanted players to ask themselves when designing the world. You’re given a monocular in the game for a reason. There was a moment when I reached an open area guarded by a huge ghoulish-looking beast, and I was able to see the skyline and the city of Yarnham in its entire splendour, I let go of my controller in awe, eyes wide and jaw dropped. And then I died because the beast pummelled me.
There are a few glitches in the Yarnham matrix, with the frame rate dropping into the single digits in certain areas. This can be frustrating when you’re surrounded by enemies or when in one particular case, the frame rate drops during a boss fight which caused me to lose about eight levels of experience. Loading times are also an issue, taking up to a minute to load an area. When you consider the number of deaths you’re bound to suffer and the frequent need to return to the Hunter’s Dream to level up or upgrade your weapons, the loading times are something that needs to be filtered into your game time. From Software have stated that loading times will be addressed in patch 1.01, but it baffles me that this was not addressed prior to release.
Bloodborne’s combat style is fast-paced and aggressive. In previous ‘Souls’ games, the basic idea was to play passively, by keeping your shield up and countering enemy attacks. In Bloodborne, this idea has changed: attack first or risk death, gain an advantage on enemies by being aggressive. But that doesn’t mean the way to survive is by hacking and slashing, as is the norm in From Software games, learning enemy attack patterns and knowing when to attack is crucial for survival.
Bloodborne’s enemies are tougher and much smarter; their attack patterns vary and can sometimes be difficult to predict. In most encounters, I used the fast pace of the game to my advantage and outmanoeuvred them with quick dodges and counter attacks. Every encounter with a new enemy is a memorable one; these beasts are weird and awe inspiring, I often found myself screaming, “what the hell is that thing!” The boss battles in Bloodborne are all unique and have their own identity. It feels as if From Software wanted each boss battle to be as memorable as the Ornstein and Smough fight from Dark Souls.
The default difficulty setting of the game can be described as challenging but fair; I’ve played the previous ‘Souls’ games about a million times already, while my brother played only a bit of Dark Souls. We’re both playing Bloodborne and coping, not having any trouble beating it. Enemies are challenging but not at all unfair. The game caters for veterans and newbies alike.
Each weapon has a unique moveset and a transformable state, for example, the Threaded Cane can be used to attack enemies at close range with slash and thrust attacks, and transform into a whip to attack a wider area — useful for enemies who attack in groups. Weapons like the Threaded Cane are called “Trick” weapons and will probably be used as your primary melee weapon. There aren’t as many weapons in Bloodborne as there are in Dark Souls 2, and I believe the reason for this is because each weapon has two states and can provide more attack diversity when transformed. This diversity in attacks encourages players to hone their fighting style and master a weapon that suits their combat style. It’s an innovative feature that deserves applause, a breakaway from the bore of the Souls games where every weapon type has the same moveset.
When Bloodborne was first announced, a major talking point was the introduction of firearms. Firearms are equipped in your left hand and replace shields. Firing your weapon at the moment of an enemy’s attack disrupts the attack, allowing you to perform a critical attack. Weapons like the Blunderbuss act as a crowd control weapon, with short and wider bullet spray; it’s useful when you’re surrounded by enemies. Weapons can be upgraded with certain items to enhance your style of play, which once again, gives each player their unique combat style.
Bloodborne’s online play is similar to previous ‘Souls’ games. You can summon a player to help you defeat a boss or invade a player’s world to challenge them to a duel. The Beckoning Bell and Insight is required to summon players into your help for co-op. One point of Insight is consumed when summoning a player into your world. To improve cooperative play between friends, From Software has introduced the “watchword”, it’s simply a password which you enter into your online settings, and it allows players with the same password to join your world. It takes about a minute to find a co-op buddy using the watchword and I haven’t had any issues with co-op thus far.
PvP in Bloodborne is similar to Demon’s Souls, where invaders have access to their healing items, which often drags out a fight for longer than it should. I’ve heard of fights lasting up to an hour. The only item that prevents healing isn’t as effective as it should be. I then realized that using my firearm to stun and finish off enemies when they’re at low health is probably the best way to win a fight. But doing high damage with a firearm requires a high “Bloodtinge” stat which can spoil plans for creating character who make use of “Arcane” attacks rather than blood attack because you’re forced to invest stat points into Bloodtinge.
The Chalice Dungeons is an optional area in Bloodborne that generates randomized levels. The area contains traps and a few bosses and the potential to offer endless replayability as players are able to share their unique dungeons online with other players. It’s an area where players can escape Yarnham for a bit and have fun with online play. You can perform a Chalice Ritual after the third boss and share your dungeon with the world. These areas will become the perfect spots for hosting private fight clubs as well.
My overall experience with Bloodborne was a fulfilling one. It met my expectations as the best offering from From Software, having played the previous ‘Souls’ games. The world of Yarnham is immersive and it’s easy to get lost in. The soundtrack compliments the ghoulish atmosphere, with sounds of horror and tragedy at the appropriate moments. When you’re not playing Bloodborne, you’re thinking about Bloodborne. You’re thinking about upgrading your weapon, or that boss you can’t defeat, or improving your PvP technique. I struggled to find issues with Bloodborne, but besides the poor frame rate and odd glitch there are none.