[Review] Bloodborne

The latest game from the creators of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls brings us one of the most highly anticipated exclusive games for the PS4. Bloodborne is an entirely new franchise, complete with new gameplay mechanics (guns and transformable weapons called “Trick weapons”) and a fascinating new locale (a Victorian England-inspired setting).

And is it any good?

Oh yes. Very much so.

What struck me the further I got into Bloodborne is how much more of a horror story it is from previous recent games by From Software. Sure, Dark Souls wasn’t giving you the warm and fuzzy when you played, but it was always more dark fantasy, a hero in an hostile landscape attempting to overcome impossible odds.

Bloodborne, on the other hand, feels more like survival horror.

Like many From Software games, the story isn’t provided in any straightforward way. By brief (and often cryptic) interactions with characters and item descriptions, you can begin to piece together the game’s lore, but even by the end you’ll probably be left scratching your head.

The creepy tone is set from the start. You’re a hunter, arriving in the city of Yharnam on the night of a particular hunt involving werewolf-like beasts and people locking themselves inside their home. Knocking on homes nets you responses that range from the darkly humorous to the tragic, often times kicking off quest lines that can have consequences for you later on in the story.

Combat is much quicker paced, thanks to the elimination of the equipment load stat and only a lone (and pathetic) shield in the game. You’re expected to move about briskly, because death can come in the form of a blood-drunk beast or deranged townsfolk (or, if you find your way to Hemwick Charnel Lane, some very, very angry women). The addition of guns for your left hand is an interesting change and adds a level of strategy. Guns will never be your major damage dealer in Bloodborne, but can help set up devastating combos that will be almost required in certain boss fights.

Trick weapons, however, are the real MVP of Bloodborne.

Imagine if a greatsword and a Transformer had a baby. Okay, that sounds incredibly implausible, but regardless, “trick weapons” are transformable combo weapons. A saw that snaps into a spear. A longsword that hooks into a large sheath and transforms into a greatsword. A massive hammer and a longsword. A blade and a drill. Using these new trick weapons is crazy fun. The only complaint is the relatively small selection of weapons. Hopefully we’ll see more added in the future.

The areas are large and interconnected, with shortcuts that can be unlocked and a number of secrets to discover. Due to the layout of the world, failing to discover shortcuts can make getting back to an area where you died a downright chore, so make use of them. The addition of Chalice Dungeons – randomized underground dungeons separate from the core game – make for the real endgame of Bloodborne, as you can find certain key items and enhanced versions of existing weapons. While From didn’t go as far as they could have with the Chalice Dungeons (it’s not going to fulfill a loot fanatic’s needs), I’m hoping they’ll enhance it down the road. It has the potential to be amazing, but right now I feel it lacks enough variety in both scenery and loot.

If you love previous From games, then Bloodborne will feel very familiar to you. In creating a new IP for Sony,  From Software has a solid framework on which to build future installments. Inevitably DLC and a Game of the Year edition will arrive, and this is one of the few instances where I’m fine with that. Bloodborne has too much going for it to not see the release of more associated material.

Rating: A

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