Death isn’t often a massive topic of discussion, so embracing it as a part of a game can become quite a challenge. When we die, we leave all our troubles behind, we finally find peace and an escape from our nightmares, but in Bloodborne, your death is a mere nothing in the nightmare that surrounds you.
Not much can be said about the world of Yharnam, the main area you’re stuck in, but I can say this – it’s a world you definitely don’t want to be stuck in. As the game starts, you sign a pact with a deranged old madman who performs some kind of blood ritual on you. The ritual initiates a very poor character creation section. Once you’re done, you sign your pact and become a Hunter. These guys are the warriors in Yharnam who set out to kill the beasts and horrors that stalk the streets.
There’s not a whole lot of story to go on, but you also don’t really need one anyway. You’re basically a Hunter and you need to wipe out the beasts, end of story. And boy, there are loads of beasts to maim. From well-dressed henchmen, cloaked Quasimodos and barking crows to hooded demons and agile granny hags, this game is loaded with a variety of creatures for you to feast your fearful eyes on.
The horror theme of the game is carried well in almost every regard. The steam and mist that clouds alleys also hides enemies and prey. The howls in the background sound near and far, shatters your nerves. Enemies strike from out the shadows, some watch you from the balcony as if they were gargoyles. Never have I played a game that made me jump so frequently in one evening. So, if horror is your thing then you’re in for a lovely treat. There’s not much in the way of music, but the use of sound is amazing. You can clearly hear when something is chasing you, when you change your weapon, the sound of the wind, enemy breaths and more.There might not be melodies playing in the background, but when a game makes it’s world sound alive, who needs it.
Bloodborne is near perfection when it comes to pulling off its visual aesthetic. It is set in what looks like England in the Victorian era. Part of the game is based off of the Christian faith, particularly certain denominations. Bosses are giving titles like Vicar, Father, Cleric and more. It also wraps up other mythologies, like werewolves, really nicely. Together, everything is interwoven splendidly and feels like everything is meant to be exactly where they are.
Another facet of the game that is masterfully woven is Yharnam itself. It’s a massive area and built like a maze. At first it will feel like you’re travelling to the far ends of the universe, but, with a little luck, you’ll stumble on a shortcut. Finding these shortcuts feel amazing and gives you that ‘aha’ moment. Finding all the shortcuts and secrets areas can be a pain if you’re too used to normal game mechanics. For instance, a shortcut to certain place would mean dropping of the edge of a roof, onto another balcony to find a ladder that gets you to a certain point. Some areas look impossible to get to, but with a little snooping, you can really get anywhere. And if you’re playing online, you may be able to find helpful clues from other Hunters via their creepy minions. These are helpful especially when there’s an ambush waiting for you.
The great thing is, you’ll hardly ever need to find enemies to fight as they’re everywhere, and they’re damn tough to beat. Your vanilla enemies aren’t too tough at the start of the game, but get close to the end and you’ll be in for a very long evening. I’ve played the game for about 45 hours now and some of these enemies still give me grief. The combat itself is fantastic, smooth and fast. Your character is very agile and can move around the battlefield with ease. There are no sluggish movements in Bloodborne, so if that was a particular pickle for you in the Souls games, then fear no more.
The combat in Bloodborne is more evasive-offensive than defensive. You need to evade, strike, strike, evade and strike again. Taking a slow approach isn’t bad, but enemies are fast and deadly if you keep lingering. You have two weapons, your main blade and a gun. There’s no parry system, but the weak gun is used to stun enemies, giving you chance to strike back. Charging your attacks work just as well, but knowing when to use both is the trick. Another reason to attack more often is the new blood healing effect. When you are damaged, a part of your health can be restored if you attack an enemy. Attack fast enough and you may restore all of it. However, this isn’t always the best thing to do. The key to success in Bloodborne is to know when to attack back and when to let it go. The same can be said for locking on to your enemies. At first it could help, but sometimes, it really hinders you. Knowing when to lock and when not to, comes with practice and trial and error – which ultimately means you’ll die… a lot.
Dying doesn’t have to be sad though as you’re allowed to co-op with other people and have them die at your side. I haven’t been able to test this part of the game out yet, as I’ve recently been throttled, but I will provide a nice update once my internet settles again. Adding some extra bulk to the game are the chalice dungeons. These you can access via the Hunter’s Dream, a safe haven where you buy items, level up and upgrade your weapons. The Hunter’s dream is also your hub; during your travels in Yharnam, you’ll come across lanterns, and lighting these lanterns allows you to quick travel between areas. The Chalice dungeons – which can only be activated once you’ve beaten the third boss – is a place for you to challenge yourself in a labyrinth of boredom. Honestly, the only things worth fighting are the bosses.
Bloodborne isn’t free of some irritations. There are some framerate drops, but they aren’t an issue for most of the game. It’s really noticeable in one of the final boss fights, which is where it becomes a deadly issue. Another problem is the loading time. On average, the loading screen takes 40 seconds even after the day one patch. This wouldn’t be a massive issue in most other games, but considering you’ll die frequently, those 40 seconds add up and they add up to total of “extremely irritating.” Other nitpicking issues are:
- Your character looks very bland compared to everything else.
- NPC mouths don’t move when talking
- Boss difficulty is odd – later bosses are easier than the earlier bosses
As a package, Bloodborne is a fantastic game. It’s not a game for everyone, but Souls fans will love it. If you’re into action RPGs then give this one a try. It’s a lot more approachable and it’s also very enjoyable. I don’t like that there’s no massive story arc, but there’s a lot that’s said through the city itself. The horror is absolutely beautiful and the fighting is top-notch. Aside from the loading time and obligatory frustration, there’s really not much else to knock this game down. There’s a lot to do, plenty to discover and dozens of hours of content for you plough through. It’s a game to die for.