Review: Bloodborne (PlayStation 4)

Bloodborne: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation 4 3,234 views 2 likes 26 comments
Reviewed by Jakub Kowalski, posted Apr 10, 2015
The Souls series is often touted as a return to the roots of video games. People love those games because they hate them, torture them with a high difficulty level out of the gate and provide a a real challenge to the players. Some say it's just the right amount of difficulty, others that it's artificial difficulty, but whatever the case may be, nobody can deny that they took the world by storm and accumulated a large following of fans. Bloodborne is a spin-off of that series, a series I'm a fan of, so needless to say, I couldn't wait to grab a saw blade of my own and venture into the city of Yharnam to start a hunt of my own.
Apr 10, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): March 24, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): March 25, 2015
  • Release Date (JP): March 26, 2015
  • Publisher: SCE Japan Studio
  • Developer: From Software
  • Genres: Action RPG
  • ESRB Rating: Mature
  • PEGI Rating: Sixteen years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Bloodborne is an Action RPG by From Software available exclusively on the Sony PlayStation 4.
Jakub Kowalski

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A Traveler Amongst The Monstrous Unknown

Once upon a time, there was a city called Yharnam, famous for its miraculous remedy for all ailments. Travelers from all around the world journeyed there to find respite - you are one of those hopeful travelers. Unfortunately, Yharnam is not at all what you expected. The days of prosperity are in the distant past as the city was taken over by the mysterious plague. You find yourself in Iosefka's Clinic, one of the only safe havens left in this forsaken city, where you are told what you must do to obtain your prize - unravel Yharnam's mysteries and vanquish the plague. You sign a hunter's contract and in exchange you receive a transfusion of Yharnam's blood which imbues you with power like you've never felt before - you begin to see... things that should not be, things that you can only find in nightmares and then... you fall unconscious. Once you awaken, you are all alone in the decrepit clinic. You venture on only to be met with a cruel fate - a werewolf stands in your way. Unarmed and helpless, you are killed within mere seconds, unable to defend yourself... or are you?

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Your hunt begins - will you persevere?

As you stand to your feet you quickly realize that you are no longer in the clinic, you are... somewhere else, somewhere far, far away. You have a nagging feeling that you'll be visiting this place more often than you'd want to. In front of you is a closed hut surrounded by... weird creatures. You approach them cautiously, speak to them, you learn about this realm - the Hunter's Dream. They quickly show you the ropes of your new profession, give you the weapons and equipment you need, prepare you for what is to come. Once you are ready, you touch one of the many headstones found outside the hut and within a blink of an eye you are transported back to the clinic. The werewolf is still there, but now you are ready for it. Your fingers cling to the grip of your weapon, you muster your strength and strike. The beast has fallen - but one of the many monsters that await you, no doubt. Courageously, you step outside and take in the vista of the city. Your hunt has begun.

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You are not the only hunter in Yharnam... and that's not necessarily a good thing

The story of Bloodborne is a great spin on Cthulhu mythos. It has everything you'd want from a gothic horror setting - a plague turning people into shambling, violent murderers or worse, nightmarish beasts, a beautifully-depicted city destroyed by its citizens driven to insanity, stomach-churning scenes of public executions and cleansings, alien monsters that gradually become visible to you as your mind becomes twisted by what you witness and so, so much more. If you're a fan of Lovecraftian horror, you'll feel right at home with Bloodborne. Much like in the case of the Souls series, Bloodborne doesn't serve its story on a silver platter - a big portion of the fun is piecing the plot together from bits and pieces sprinkled in character dialogue and inscriptions. A lot is left to the player's interpretation and I feel that this was the developer's intention as it further enhances the atmosphere of mystery surrounding the plague.

Diet Souls

Gameplay in Bloodborne is an evolution of the Souls formula and the best term to describe it that I've come up with is Diet Souls. The Souls series was both praised and criticized for its level of difficulty and I feel that this game is a big improvement in this regard. Unlike Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, Bloodborne is much more lenient and fair - the enemies you face drop plenty of useful items so as long as you're not reckless, staying alive is not as big of an issue. Of course that's not to say that the game is easy - it's still hard as nails, but it's definitely more balanced than its predecessors.

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Suited up and ready to rock!

Combat in Bloodborne is different than that found in Dark/Demon's Souls and it definitely puts more emphasis on offense rather than defense, and it only makes sense considering the change of setting. If you've ever played a Souls game before you know how much emphasis was put on shields, correct timing of parrying, blocking and the process of hit and run combat. In Bloodborne the only remnant of that style of gameplay is a raggedy good-for-nothing shield which is practically an inside joke. Even its description leaves you with no delusions - "Shields are nice, but not if they engender passivity". Instead of a plethora of defensive items the game employs firearms of all sorts, all powered by Quicksilver ammunition - after all, what better metal to use against werewolfs and other otherworldly creatures? This change makes combat in Bloodborne much more dynamic and I find that change refreshing. As a hunter you have to mix close quarters combat and ranged combat efficiently in order to defeat your enemies and amass Blood, Bloodborne's equivalent of Souls and the currency of the game, used to level up your character as well as purchase equipment and upgrades to your weapons.

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Ah, yes, you seem pretty trustworthy, monster-lady.

The selection of weaponry in Bloodborne is modest, but relatively varied. Each weapon requires employing somewhat different tactics and although some share similar movesets, each has to be mastered to be used efficiently. On top of that, most are so-called "trick" weapons with two different modes of operation. For instance, one of the starter weapons, the Saw Blade, can be used closed as a fast-hitting blunt weapon or opened for slashing damage like as a sword. Firearms are equally varied, ranging from small pistols through shotguns and rifles to the more exotic choices like the hand cannon or the flamethrower. In addition to those equippable weapons you also have access to offensive items such as Molotov cocktails, throwing knives and the works. Yharnam is a low-magic setting, so you don't have access to spells per se, however you can obtain ancient relics of the Great Ones allowing you to summon some form of otherworldy help. All equippable weapons can be upgraded by fortifying them with Blood Stones as well as bestowing additional effects on them by applying Blood Gems. All this allows for lots of customization - Bloodborne really lets you create a unique hunter suited to your preference.

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Listen lady, I was just jumped by an angry torch-wielding mob, I have the right to be slightly offended.

Much of the attire you can obtain in the game is also varied, however as it was the case in previous Souls games, the enemies you encounter in Bloodborne are either grossly overpowered or attack in large mobs, so it provides minimal protection. Your armour isn't as important as learning how to dodge efficiently or how to handle engagements with multiple enemies by, for example, luring the enemies out one by one using pebbles or gun fire. The clothes you find or purchase in Bloodborne never seem to become obsolete and their function is almost entirely aesthetical aside from a couple of outfits designed specifically to counter status ailments such as poison which become more important in areas where you are exposed to environmental damage.

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The gothic environments in this game are both chilling and gorgeous at the same time.

Another interesting factor of the game is Insight, a statistic that could be likened to the level of insanity in Call of Cthulhu-style games. Certain events such as encountering a boss monster, using items that were bestowed with ancient knowledge, killing a player invading your game world and others provide your character with inhuman knowledge represented by Insight. This statistic determines various elements of the game such as enemy scaling, the type of enemies you encounter, their abilities and even things that you see or hear in the environments. This statistic is constantly balanced against Beasthood, the closeness of your character to becoming a monster just like the rest of Yharnam's inhabitants, which in turn increases your offensive capabilities while decreasing your defense. These stats are in constant fluctuation as you gain or lose Insight, making them a pretty interesting addition to the Souls formula.

For Whom the Bell Tolls?

The Multiplayer model of Souls games lives on in Bloodborne in a slightly modified state. As it was the case in Souls games, hunters can travel to each other's game world to either co-operate or fight one another which to many is the main focus of the game. Invaders could be quite problematic in Demon's Souls or Dark Souls and often caused much grief to newbie players. This isn't as much of an issue in Bloodborne as From Software addressed many of the concerns regarding Multiplayer. Players communicate online with the use of bells - the Beckoning Bell for peaceful communication and the Sinister Resonant Bell for invasions. Unlike in Souls games, the Beckoning Bell can be set up with a password that allows you to summon specific players in case you want to play with your friends which makes co-op gameplay much easier. On the flip side, the Sinister Resonant Bell has numerous restrictions - it can only be used in areas where a Chime Maiden enemy is spawned and can only be used by players who are past Level 30. The players also have the chance to repel an incoming invasion by killing the Chime Maiden before she finishes her ritual which cancels the invasion process. Chime Maidens can be freely summoned by players interested in engaging in PVP combat, but are otherwise rare in most areas of the game - this allows players interested in the single player component of the game to avoid PVP almost completely. Unfortunately, changes to the single player campaign also had some negative effects on the multiplayer experience - the presence of Blood Vials which allow near-instantaneous healing causes PVP engangements to stretch out substantially - to some this is a pro. Expect invasions to be much lengthier than in other Souls games specifically for that reason.

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Sure, let us engage in jolly co-operation!

In terms of Multiplayer, Bloodborne also features an interesting mode which feels like it was dedicated specifically to players who enjoy co-op, namely dungeons. When in the Hunter's Dream you have the option to perform blood rituals using chalices collected in-game. These rituals allow you to enter the procedurally-generated catacombs beneath the city of Yharnam, either solo, with your friends or, depending on the type of chalice used, with strangers who also want to explore the endless tunnels below. Since the dungeons are dynamically generated, entering them will be a different experience each time, so they're sure to provide plenty of replayability.

Is Bloodborne Worth Spilling Blood Over?

Bloodborne is a game that's incredibly close to perfection. The way the setting is presented is stunning, the combat mechanics are tight, the difficulty of the game is "just right", the enemies vary from mere humans to huge hulking beasts from your worst nightmares but most importantly, the game is fun - lots of it. Three different endings, randomly-generated dungeons and the New Game+ mode will keep you coming back for more - the PVP and co-op aspects of the game alone guarantee the longevity of this title. Bloodborne satiated my thirst for blood, I'm sure it will quench yours too.

Verdict
Pros
+ A beautiful setting of gothic Lovecraftian horror
+ Well-balanced difficulty which provides a fair challenge
+ Lots of replayability thanks to New Game+, three different endings and procedurally-generated dungeons
+ Strong Multiplayer component, both in terms of co-op and PVP gameplay
+ The title plays great via Remote Play, especially now after the feature was updated to 60FPS
Cons
- The selection of weapons, although interesting, is rather modest
- Armour is almost entirely aesthetical and serves little practical function
- PVP engangements can be lengthy and bothersome due to near-instant healing
- The game doesn't offer too many side quests which is a bit of a shame
- Bloodborne suffers from slow loading times - here's for hoping that the issue will be addressed in future patches
10 Presentation
The presentation of Bloodborne deserves top marks. Both the visuals and the audio are stellar and greatly enhance the atmosphere of gothic horror.
9 Gameplay
Gameplay in Bloodborne is challenging, engaging, fun and fair. Aside from a few hiccups in PVP the game never feels too clunky, overly difficult or too easy - it hits a near-perfect balance and provides hours upon hours of enjoyment.
10 Lasting Appeal
Bloodborne's lasting appeal is through the roof. With three different endings, randomly-generated dungeon instances, New Game+ and great co-op and PVP Multiplayer components this game is definitely a keeper.
9.6
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Bloodborne is a game I was looking forward to since it was announced and only a few titles hyped to that extent deliver on their promises - From Software delivered. This Souls spin-off is near-perfect and it's exclusives like this that can be platform-defining. If there's anything I could complain about, it's the fact that I already want more Bloodborne and anxiously await DLC - I'll be the first in line for it. The game established a solid foundation for a series and any expansion or sequels are most welcome.
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