Bloodborne is the result of what would happen if you were to take the “Souls” franchise, make some cosmetic and gameplay adjustments and release it as a PS4-exclusive. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a game developed by From Software feels like the other games by From Software, but I was honestly expecting a bit more to Bloodborne than “Dark Souls with Shotguns”. Now, don’t get me wrong – the guns are great and I’m a big fan of the “Souls” series – but too often did it feel like what Dark Souls 2 should have been instead of a fresh new standalone IP.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Bloodborne’s key mechanics are an exact replica of what we have come to expect from the Souls franchise: combat is hard and demanding, boss fights are won by learning the boss’ moves over several attempts, dying happens often and “success” is making it to the next
bonfire lamp before you go through your entire supply of Estus blood vials. Enemies reset when you rest and resupply, there’s a single resource for both character progression and currency, and the levels are huge and offer plenty of rewards to the attentive explorer. In fact, Bloodborne is so much like Souls that the two even share some of the same bugs (including one particular bug that existed since Demon Souls).
Now that the similarities are dispensed with, it’s time to look a bit deeper under the hood to really find out how Bloodborne is not like Dark Souls. The first thing that pops up is the game’s tempo. In contrast to Dark Souls’ slow and methodical pace, Bloodborne’s pacing is as different as different can be. For starters, if your view of Lordran or Drangleic was more often than not obstructed by a giant piece of steel while you waited for an opening in your enemy’s defense, you’ll be surprised to learn that Bloodborne has no shields at all. Well, one joke item with a quote from Hidetaka Miyazaki in its description, but really, that’s it. Instead, you’ll be playing a character fast and agile enough to dash, roll and generally move away from harm as opposed to the walking tanks of Souls.
Shield-less, gameplay is a lot more hectic already – but that’s not all the innovation Bloodborne brings to the table. When you do take damage, you have a small window of opportunity to strike back at your attacker and regain a portion of lost health with every hit that connects. If you’re fast enough, you can even negate the sustained damage entirely. Almost all damage can be negated or at least minimized this way – even fall damage. Furthermore, healing supplies are abundant and readily available in the form of Blood Vials. You can carry 20 on your person at once (which can further be upgraded by certain runes) and their healing scales automatically with your vitality. You’ll rarely have the time to use one mid-combat, though, as the constant dance of hit-for-hit leaves very little downtime until after the dust has settled.
Another major change to combat is the revamp of ranged combat. While Bloodborne does boast a rather large and fancy array of guns and gun-like projectile weapons, they’re not actually ranged weapons per se. Their range is rather limited and their main purpose isn’t even damaging your enemies but rather stunning them so you can perform a devastating critical hit, not unlike Souls’ shield parry. Ranged combat is basically nonexistent, again in the grand scheme of making combat more hectic and in-your-face personal.
While Bloodborne does borrow heavily from its spiritual predecessors, it’s still a game with its own identity, most noticeable in the less generic areas of the game. There’s obviously the mandatory “Crypts” and “Forest” levels but every so often you will return to the sprawling metropolis of Yharnam, where Bloodborne really shines. Everything from the tall spires to the winding streets feels well-planned and meticulously designed with both a purpose and to allow easy navigation. Every lamp will slowly become more central as you explore the level, unlock more shortcuts, then double back and take a breather to restock before moving on.
With Bloodborne’s gameplay and levels so meticulously planned and laid out, it will probably come as a surprise that the game also includes randomly-generated dungeons. Quite early on, you’ll receive an item that allows you to perform a ritual that generates a random-ish instance for you to explore. While the randomness is somewhat lackluster (it mostly consists of the same bits reconfigured in a different order), it’s still a first in this type of game.With Bloodborne surely to grow into a franchise, I am expecting additional polish to the Chalice Dungeon feature in the upcoming sequels. For now it’s a fun distraction and a good way to farm some levels, even if it does get a bit repetitive after a while.
With all the new and different features, Bloodborne is a must-play for every fan of the genre. The gameplay is innovative enough to appeal to both Souls veterans and newcomers to the genre alike, although it might be a bit on the hard side for the latter. Unfortunately if you did try any of the Souls games and thoroughly did not enjoy them, Bloodborne might not be right for you – it’s really too similar in its core to be truly different, even with all the new bells and whistles.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.