Posted: January 4th, 2018, 5:37 pm
After Dark Souls took the world by surprise, building a loyal fanbase despite (or perhaps because of) its unrelenting difficulty, and its sequel failed to quite reach those same lofty standards, FromSoftware decided to take a well deserved break from Lordran and Drangleic before diving in one last time for Dark Souls 3. The result of this is Bloodborne, a game that is both comfortably familiar to Dark Souls, while at the same time being its own unique thing.
You play as an unnamed Hunter, who came to the gothic city of Yharnam to seek their legendary blood healing. Lucky for you, you’ve arrived just in time for the Hunt, the night when Yharnam’s citizens are transformed into hideous monsters by the very blood they heal themselves with, and it’s up to you to fight your way through the chaos and find out what’s really going on.
The most obvious difference Bloodborne has to Dark Souls is the setting. The crumbling medieval castles are gone, and instead you’ll spend your time exploring a city inspired by Victorian London. You are decked out in a trench coat and a tricorn hat. Put them together, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a tie in to that old Van Helsing movie with Hugh Jackman. The environments are gorgeous—perhaps TOO gorgeous. I could stand around and look at the backdrops all day, but there’s so much stuff lying around the levels that it’s easy for the camera to get hung up on it all, blocking your view and leaving you helpless while some half-dead monster tears you apart. Sometimes the levels are so cluttered that I didn’t even know where to go, with the route forward hidden behind layers of pretty but useless decorations.
The next thing you’ll notice is the combat. This actually retains a lot from Dark Souls, with you swinging different kinds of weapons and rolling around while a stamina gauge monitors your actions. There’s just one big difference: there are no shields. Or, rather, there is ONE shield, but it sucks and you’re better off ignoring it. This changes things a lot more than you might think, since without a nice heavy shield to absorb all your enemies’ wrath, your only option is to dodge and attack. This makes combat much more offense focused than Dark Souls, and once you get used to the added vulnerability, it’s actually quite addictive.
Taking the place of the shields are firearms. That’s right, now you can bring a gun to a swordfight! Unfortunately, these guns are ridiculously weak, making it clear that your melee weapon is what you’re supposed to rely on. So, how do guns work, exactly? Well, you know how in Souls you can parry an attack at the last second, stunning your enemy and giving you the chance to do a devastating special attack? Same here, except instead of blocking the attack, you shoot them right in their ugly face. Why does this have the same effect as whacking their weapon away with a slab of wood? I have no idea.
The weapons are pretty cool this time around, too. Just about everything you pick up is unique, like extendable saw blades, canes that turn into whips, and swords that can turn into gigantic hammers. That also leads into another neat addition: nearly all the weapons have two “modes,” one for quick but weak attacks, and one for longer, harder hitting, but slower attacks. The saw cleaver’s blade swings around, the axe extends into a two handed weapon, etc. Experimenting with find out which situation these weapons are best suited for is a lot of fun. I found that starting the game with the axe was a good option, since it had a ton of power behind its swings and its charged spinning attack was great for taking out multiple enemies. Eventually I switched to the saw cleaver, though, because once you have enough muscle to make your hits hurt, the extra speed was extra handy.
The obscure storytelling that Dark souls is so fond of is back as well, with a story that’s so obscure you’ll be hard pressed to figure it out without consulting VaatiVidya on YouTube. For all that, though, there’s still plenty of lore packed in, conveyed through subtle clues in the environment and through item descriptions, to pique your interest in the world and make you want to see even more of it.
But speaking of obscurity… this game doesn’t settle for having a nearly incomprehensible story. There are certain parts of the game that you would practically have to be psychic to figure out. Namely, the “true ending.” Yes, there are multiple endings in this game, but I dare you, I FREAKING DARE YOU, to figure out how to get the last one without looking for help online. It’s the difference between finding where you left your phone and finding the Ark of the Freaking Covenant.
Anyway, there’s still not a whole lot I can complain about here. The action is what you’d expect from a From game while still giving it it’s own twist, the setting is amazing, and the soundtrack is enough to send a chill down even the bravest person’s spine. The levels can be cluttered, and the secret ending only gives you a single extra boss to fight, so neither are that big a deal. I wouldn’t say Bloodborne is better than Dark Souls, but neither would I say that it’s worse. As many similarities as the two games share, Bloodborne is still its own thing, and you may like it better or worse depending on what you enjoy. Or, you may hate it just as much as you do Dark Souls, in which case I can only say GIT GUD, SCRUBLORD!
I give Bloodborne on PS4 a 9.0/10!