Game Review: Bloodborne

bloodborne

BloodBorne, the long awaited successor to the Demon Souls/Dark Souls line-up developed by From Software and directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, is a game that lives up to expectations while also changing the formula of its predecessors enough to make it original.   It sports a Victorian Gothic theme of experimentation with natural human chemistry and how experimentation with it eventually makes men beasts. It pulls from the era so well that the story narrative—as well as the visual representation—really calls to the popular stories of the 1900s and the curiosity surrounding the changing medical field, exemplified in books such as The Strange Case Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As the player kills more beasts in the game, his clothing gets completely covered in blood. To further the feeling of the lycanthropic, scent is a pervasive concept in the conversations with non-player characters.

The game begins with the player lying on an operating table in a clinic on the eve of The Hunt in Yharnum. Alone and weaponless, the player is expected to die quickly. Once that happens, he or she wakes up in the Hunter’s Dream. This is the safe zone—the hub of most of the information gathering, item purchasing, weapon upgrades and the like (it is accessed by an incense burner on a short yardarm and is similar to the bonfires from Dark Souls.). After speaking with a tired, old man in a wheel-chair, the player chooses his first cold weapon and firearm, and the hunt really begins. In true Miyazaki style, the player is left not fully understanding why.

Playthrough of the first few minutes of Bloodborne by popular YouTube gamer epicnamebro

One of the most interesting aspects of a game directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki is that the narrative is told by utilizing the whole of the game world. Item descriptions, item placement, and contextual clues all help flesh out the story. The player is given almost everything he needs to understand the world the character is in, but every detail is important, so paying attention is key to comprehension. The final thing to understand is that not every aspect of the story will be explicitly revealed. Some things will be left for players to infer or assume. What I assumed from the minute my character rolled off the operating table is that Yharnum is one messed up town.

My first impressions of the game were mixed. It is very pretty and the setting and art style really give a perfectly manicured atmosphere. The armor/costume selections are period appropriate. The weapons evoke the idea of bone saws and other nasty looking surgical implements. There are no classes to choose from, but a more appropriate-to-this-game choice of “origins.” This much better describes the starting character than a class, because in this game, much like the Dark Souls games, the starting class has no real bearing on how the character develops. From Milquetoast to Waste of Skin, all of the origins have advantages and disadvantage depending on preference and desired challenge. I find that this choice has much more to do with role-playing and immersing players into the story than having any real consequence to game play past the early stages.

Bloodborne is the triumphant return of the excellent map design from Dark Souls. The levels are designed so that as the player progresses through them and accomplishes certain things, like pulling switches or beating a boss, shortcuts through the levels open up. This carries through the various levels as well. I found shortcuts within Central Yharnum as well as other levels in the later parts of the game that dumped me back at the beginning.

The odd thing is that in spite of this, Bloodborne feels more linear than Dark Souls ever did. This isn’t to say that the game doesn’t allow or encourage exploration. There are places to find that are off the beaten path for those who are curious enough to find them. It’s just that it I felt cramped and corralled. Perhaps this was on purpose.

The game play is very similar to the Souls games. The biggest, immediately noticeable change is the lack of a selection of shields. There is a shield in the game. It is a sad looking plank shield that plays the role of protector but looks like an after-birthday hangover. Parrying is impossible with this one. Indeed, parrying has taken a different form altogether and proper execution takes a little practice, but is very satisfying. With a gun in the left hand, a simple pull of the trigger at the right moment will cause the bad guys to immediately fall limply to their knees and wait for punishment, which is appropriately bloody and violent. Timing is everything with those. Backstabs are available, but they aren’t nearly as easy to pull off as in Dark Souls. It requires a charged up, strong attack from behind to knock enemies down and then a proper backstab can be administered with the same bloody action.

Primary weapons are carried in the right hand, and though there are far fewer weapons to choose from in Bloodborne than any Souls game, the move sets are very broad. Every weapon has two forms. In general the normal form does more damage and the second form sacrifices a little damage for a longer reach. The Threaded Cane, for example, is a regular walking cane in normal form. It is quite fun to beat other hunters about the head and shoulders with it, but sometimes a little distance is needed to handle larger groups of them. No need to grab a different weapon because with a simple push of a button it becomes a segmented whip that can handle those groups. Be careful, though. I found that the whip also was prone to getting caught up on walls in cramped areas.

There is a lot about this game to like and little to dislike. Miyazaki created a creepy, cursed, blood-obsessed city and hurls players into it with gleeful abandon. People turn into beasts and the few citizens who are sane burn incense outside their homes to keep the beasts away. The action is intense and incessant. This is a challenge and demands dedication to make it through the tougher obstacles.

This game is a shining example of the high quality that Miyazaki has become known for. However, the limited selections of weapons and the linear feel to some areas of the game leave a little room for improvement.  I give it four and a half of five Death Stars.

4.5 Death Stars

– By Kurt Klein

1 Comment

Filed under Game Reviews, Kurt Klein, Reviews

One response to “Game Review: Bloodborne

  1. Hi, Therefore I Geek. Nice review! Is there a way you could review this game, Littlewargame? I and the other people in the LWG community would love to see a recent review of the game! I’d definitely reblog it onto my blog.

    Play the game: http://littlewargame.com/play

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