Bloodborne is From Software’s latest creation, and a standing testament to the popularity that they garnered from the Souls series of games, as well as acting as a sort of spiritual successor in many ways. While Bloodborne is in the same vein of gameplay, the setting is far removed from what Souls players are used to, dropping the dark fantasy world for a gothic, dark and dreary London-esque setting.
Looking at the setting and designs alone, the game is stunning. There is something very distinctive and striking about the scenery and the dilapidated city you’re left to explore, let alone its asinine surroundings. Truly, From Software has yet again crafted an insane world for us gamers to explore at our own peril – something that you’ll be definitely acquainted with by the end of the game.
The enemies and game world are only the set-up, though. The finishing touches are in the atmosphere and overall mood that permeates every bit of the game. Similar to the Souls franchise, Bloodborne has a heavy atmosphere full of isolation and futility about it. The game does a fantastic job through its atmospheric effects, music, graphical design and even its gameplay to help the player feel in danger and completely alone; something From is clearly good at.
The story of the game takes a similar approach to the Souls series as well, leaving the majority of the world and lore building to item descriptions, leaving the player to piece most things together on their own. The story does take a turn in the later portion of the game where it is more traditionally told; while perhaps unexpected, From Software has proven that they are capable of crafting an interesting and consuming narrative, despite the lack of such a story in any of the Souls games.
The gameplay is, of course, Bloodborne’s claim to fame, following the same basic formula as the infamous Souls titles. At first glance, the game seems to handle virtually the same, with most of the same combat mechanics in place, as well as a few distinct differences. Despite this, As you delve deeper into the game, it’s clear to see the Bloodborne really is different in its own right.
There are several clear cut new additions and tweaks to the combat system. For example, when you take damage, a fair portion of that damage is able to be recovered by hitting an enemy. This rewards aggressive gameplay, as opposed to the more measured, defensive style that Dark Souls, in comparison, heavily rewarded. However, there are more tweaks that even further push being aggressive.
Rolling while locked on has been replaced with a sort of hop-like motion, and without equipment burden to worry about, movement becomes far more instrumental as opposed to general positioning. A forward hop has a fairly large number of invulnerability frames, which actually makes dodging directly toward your enemy more effective than back- or side-stepping. Again, rewarding aggressive play.
Of course, the lack of shields push this even further. Without shields, typically armed with a gun in the off-hand instead, the game doesn’t really offer a ‘defensive’ style of play at all. You can no longer ‘turtle’ as many did in Dark Souls, which changes things dramatically. Instead, a counter style is offered – it’s fully possible to make use of a gun in the off-hand to essentially parry and riposte. Hitting the enemy during some attack or wind-up animations will trigger a stun that allows you to pull off a finishing move, usually dispatching more enemies rather quickly. This type of attack is often high risk, high reward though, so it’s best used after some practice.
The trick weapons that are used in your main hand also offer a variety of combat styles, often allowing two types of weapon in one. Almost all of the main hand weapons transform in some way, leading to a nearly entirely different weapon, or a variation on the base. There’s an axe with an extendable handle to make it a halberd, a cane-sword that can become a whip-sword, or even a spear that becomes a rifle mixed with a bardiche. Aside from most of the weapons just looking and feeling downright awesome, the ability to cater to more than one playstyle with a single weapon is greatly appreciated, and makes the gameplay even more fun.
While some weapons don’t have as flashy a transformation (like the katana that, when transformed, instead saps your hp to deal more damage), every weapon has a second form of sorts that can be utilized on the fly. Changing modes during a combo is even rewarded with a special attack that will damage the enemy as well as transform the weapon, allowing for fast swaps between forms, as well as easy adapting to new developments in combat.
Weapon upgrading and leveling up are done through the cost of ‘Blood Echoes’, Bloodborne’s version of Souls. These can spent in any number of ways, from levelling, to upgrading, and buying things from the merchants throughout the game. Of course, weapon upgrades also require various types of blood stones to advance a given weapon.
However, an additional upgrade comes in the form of Blood Gems, which can be affixed to weapons in various shaped slots that will boost different things, like damage, the number of Blood Echoes gained from a kill, HP Regen, etc. They are reusable, too, which means you can affix and remove without penalty.
The Chalice Dungeons are also a very interesting and fun new addition to the game. With the ability to have procedurally generated dungeons with traps, tons of enemies, lots of levels, and plenty to do, they will likely take the place of endgame, keeping people playing well past the final boss. They also allow for co-op, so if you have friends around your level, Chalice dungeon-delving is a great way to have fun together.
Unfortunately, there are a few changes that didn’t feel as well implemented as the improvements. Covenants make a return in a seemingly hollowed out form, giving you bonuses to certain aspects for joining, but not having as large of an effect on co-op or pvp as they did in the Souls series. There is also a significantly reduced number of available covenants, with only 3 being known at the time of writing this. You can also freely switch between groups, called ‘Oaths’, by switching out which group’s rune you have currently equipped.
If you’re coming from a Souls game, it’s also likely that the lack of availably weaponry and armor will put you off. With a grand total of 15 main hand weapons and 11 off-hand weapons, the game’s armory feels sorely lacking. While I do applaud that every weapon plays very, very differently, the amount of choice is upsetting, having come from a Souls game, which can offer 15 types of longsword alone, each with slight variations on movesets.
Another major letdown was the assortment of Attire, which takes the place of armor. With 22 known available sets, you’re free to mix and match pieces as you see fit. However, since Attire is not upgradeable, stats feel like they have far less effect. The highest available defense is 120, and most attire hovers around 90-110 anyway.
Compounding on that as well, is the removal of spells and magic and replacing it with tools. Again, the lack of choices here is what hurts, and the 9 total Hunter Tools do not amount to the abundance of magic that is available in a Souls game.
Ultimately, the lack of available options to approach combat with doesn’t make Bloodborne a bad game, at all. Where it does hurt, however, is the online longevity of the game. While Bloodborne is absolutely worth picking up and playing through a few times, it’s likely that most fans of From’s games will be sticking with Dark Souls 2 for their long-term PvP online.
Bloodborne was reviewed using a retail copy purchase by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 9
- Awesome setting / atmosphere
- Really neat weapon and armor designs
- Procedural dungeons!
- Lack of involved Oaths (covenants)
- Lack of available options for weapons and armor
- (Currently) Bad load times
- (Currently) A fair number of bugs