By all accounts, Bloodborne is the PlayStation 4’s first great exclusive. Just about every major gaming outlet you can think of has been giving From Software’s newest IP heaps of praise. And for good reason! I’ve been loving it more than expected and I have put in probably around 10-12 hours or so and have only beaten four bosses. The game is packed with content and I won’t be able to beat it in a timely manner to write a full review. So here are some initial impressions of Bloodborne from someone who has never played a From Software game before:
- The first few hours of the game are brutal. Souls games are advertised as being extremely difficult and Bloodborne is no different. You know how most games will kind of hold your hand in the beginning and guide you until you’re ready to tackle the game on your own? Yeah, Bloodborne doesn’t do that. It drops you off in this world to fend for yourself. It almost forces you to die in the first five minutes. Get used to dying because it will happen frequently. For the first couple hours I basically did nothing. I couldn’t get passed the initial area with around twenty enemies and then had to go to YouTube to seek a walkthrough… only to see the player run past all of the enemies. Just a couple chased after him and then either gave up or were defeated. Maybe a Souls veteran would easily think to do that, but it never occurred to me and thus I was stuck floundering on my own. After runing past my enemies, I was able to find a shortcut back to the first lamp (checkpoint) and then I started getting into the flow of things.
- Speaking of those shortcuts, I am really impressed with the level design in Bloodborne. The city of Yharnam is very well developed the levels are just full of interesting pathways and shortcuts. There are several ways of tackling each area and exploration is key. However, even with all of these shortcuts, I do wish there were more checkpoints. Sometimes I feel like Bloodborne is difficult just for the sake of being difficult as opposed to being difficult to challenge the player. It’s especially annoying when you work your way to a boss, lose, and then have to grind your way back to the boss (probably to lose again). This results in completing the same areas time and time again, sometimes making the journey to a boss more of a chore. I would be satisfied if the game simply included an item or some game mechanic that would allow you to respawn right outside the Nightmare Fog and immediatley take on the boss again.
- Also, the game is downright easy on the eyes — Yharnam is beautiful. The Gothic architecture is fantastic and I would often find myself (if I was sure I was safe) admiring the detail and effort put into creating Yharnam. That said, there were a couple of times I’d experienced some frame rate issues, but those instances didn’t last but a couple seconds and were so few and far between that they didn’t really bother me. I haven’t experienced any technical glitches but there are a few glitches to exploit to easily level up your character — kind of defeats the purpose of playing the game, but if the easy route is your cup of tea, you do you.
- Bloodborne’s combat system is awesome. By now you’ve heard about some of the new things Bloodborne is trying out. I find the regain system to be especially rewarding — by staying aggressive, you can earn back whatever health you lose. Say an enemy sneaks up on you from behind and about a fifth of your health gets lopped off. The red health bar will decrease and leave a an orange bar of all the health you just lost from that hit. You can then turn around and demolish your enemy, earning back health with each hit. Even when the enemy is dead, you can still keep slashing at your enemy during their dying animation and continue to gain health back. Bloodborne also introduces trick weapons. All of the weapons I’ve used so far have been able to transform between states with a quick tap of L1. The first state has a short reach but can allow the player to get off multiple quick strikes. The transformed state will be longer and thus more suitable to “crowd control” and to keep distance between the enemies and the player. The weapons that I’ve used so far each have their own unique feel and I encourage players to experiment and try out different weapons. Instead of a shield, the player wields a gun in their off hand. These guns aren’t really for dealing damage but instead to stun your enemy, opening up and opportunity for a visceral attack, which deals an insane amount of damage. In a nut shell, Bloodborne’s combat is fluid and fast paced. There’s certainly a large learning curve in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very exciting and fun.
- I mentioned above how sometimes you can simply run past enemies and not worry about them any more. This is kind of common in Bloodborne — put enough distance between you and some enemies and they will simply give up on going after you. Enemies can also be lured into areas to exploit them, like luring werewolves into getting stuck in a doorway to be easily dispatched of. However, once you are in a fair fight with an enemy, they are great to fight. Each enemy has a unique fighting pattern that you have to learn and then decide what strategy to take against them. This is especially true of the bosses. I’ve only beaten four so far, but each has presented new challenges and difficulties. Father Gascoigne was very difficult and so was Vicar Amelia but I beat both of those bosses on my first try. I don’t know if I leveled up too much before facing them or if I was just really adept at figuring out their attack patterns. The Blood Starved Beast posed a bigger challenge and took multiple tries to learn its attacks and come up with a strategy to defeat it. Finally slaughtering a boss is insanely satisfying and enjoyable.
- Enough has been said about the long load times. They are long. The developers are working on a patch. They wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t required to go back to the hub world to level up and to travel to a new area. I understand why you have to go back to the hub world to level up (it makes staying alive and keeping Blood Echoes a challenge) but it still can get annoying. I also wish you could travel from lamp to lamp (checkpoint to checkpoint) so you wouldn’t have to go back to the hub world to go to a new area. These are just minor complaints though.
- My only disappointment in Bloodborne is its story. Basically, it barely has one. Cutscenes are rare and usually they are just used to introduce a boss. If you didn’t read about the premise of Bloodborne, you’d have no idea what’s going on. You get this strange blood transfusion and then are tasked with killing everything that tries to kill you in this city of Yharnam. You don’t really know why these enemies are out to kill you until you start knocking on doors and listening to people describe how a plague has taken over the city, turning its inhabitants into grotesque creatures. You really have to listen to these inhabitants and really pay attention to item descriptions and messages the game has left you to be able to piece together any kind of story. I really wish From Software had put more effort into developing a story to go along with this amazing world. Story is very important to me when it comes to video games and Bloodborne is severely lacking in this department. To really be able to love Bloodborne, you’ll have to look past the lack of story and just enjoy the gameplay and exploring Yharnam.
- If you’ve never played a Souls game before, but are on the fence about getting Bloodborne, I hope this helped you decide if the game is right for you. Everything that I read about Bloodborne before deciding to purchase it would constantly compare the game to Demon Souls and Dark Souls. This didn’t really help as I believe we need to judge games on their own. So, I don’t care if it’s known that Souls games aren’t heavy on the story — I’m still going to criticize Bloodborne for it because I expect a decent amount of story and character development in my games.
In the end, Bloodborne is fun in its own right and if you don’t mind the steep learning curve I recommend this game to all PlayStation 4 owners.