Gaming Insights: Bloodborne

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Bloodborne is an action video game where you role play as the main character, the Hunter. The villagers of Yharnam have been afflicted with a blood-borne disease and the Hunter must untangle the town’s mysteries while defending himself from its vicious beasts. Eventually, the Hunter’s goal is to locate and exterminate the source of the plague and escape back to the “Waking World.” This game concentrates on melee combat and exploration of the surrounding areas. This brutally gruesome game is not for the meek and it is best played with the lights off. Co-op battles are highly encouraged and danger lurks around every corner. If you want to know our take on Bloodborne, we have put together these reviews for you to read:

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“I LOVED Bloodborne. The best Souls games are reinventions. Dark Souls 2 didn’t quite work as well because it was a sequel, as opposed to a refreshed look and evolution of what makes these games great. Dark Souls progressed the great ideas laid down in Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne takes elements of both but heads in its own direction. The combat, for example, feels very different when you begin but after you get used to the faster pace, lack of shield, and some more mobile enemies, you start to see the rhythm of Souls combat emerge again. The windups and follow through animations and so forth.

I don’t really know how to compare Bloodborne to other games in its genre really, whatever genre that may be. I tend to just compare them directly to other games in the same series since they are so distinct. Compared to the other Souls, Bloodborne is perhaps a bit more accessible despite being the first Souls game to not have a dedicated tutorial area at the beginning. The game, in general, is a bit more constrained and focused. That might mean it feels less like an epic and more of a cool weird fiction story, which has its upsides and down. I enjoyed it immensely but I don’t know that I’ll replay it as often as the other Souls games. That’s not really a bad thing, just different.

Unlike other games in the series, I didn’t encounter many technical issues with Bloodborne beyond the abysmal loading times. Seriously, these things are ridiculous. Actually, that’s not true: the lock on camera, especially in boss fights, has been a bit of a mess throughout the entire series. I don’t quite know why that is, but maybe it’s just the fact that you’re rolling around these giant monstrosities and there’s no great place for the camera to be?

There IS one large aspect I would probably change about the game if I had the chance, and that is the fact that it does away with the estus flask system and has you relying on consumable items. As such, when you burn through your blood vials (which you will, often) you need to head somewhere where the enemies drop them and farm them for a while. This is tedious and adds nothing to the game. Estus in the first Dark Souls has an elegant way of dealing with this issue, and even Dark Souls 2’s attempt to expand on it with consumable health items was a bit of a mess. I think this is the one area where they iterated away from a great mechanic.

Memorable Bloodborne moments for me were typically in boss encounters, including a particular fight with another human character in a cathedral. She was extremely difficult, quick, and deadly. It took me MANY attempts to learn to get a handle on it and in the end, it was a desperate and dirty fight, all dodges and reflexes and throwing everything we had at one another. When it was finally over I had a weird respect for this video game character? Like hey, great job, you. You fought very well and I feel weirdly satisfied having fought you. It was an odd moment, and few games ever give me that feeling. It’s special.

That fight also reminds me of one of the great lessons of these games, which is don’t give up. I don’t know of any other game were straight perseverance is such a theme. It’s empowering. Don’t give up. There is a way out of this. You’ll make it if you push hard enough, learn to control yourself, and be observant. The game responds to you beautifully, and you learn to trust the game to be fair with you. And 9 times out of 10, it is. It becomes this conversation. It’s beautiful.

If you have a PS4 and are up for a challenge that requires a good deal of attention (there’s no pause button, if that’s any tip off) and learning, I’d say give it a shot! These games aren’t for everyone. They’re weird and difficult and sometimes seem obtuse, so no shame if you just don’t dig it. But for myself and a lot of other folks, it’s an extremely rewarding experience. I give it 5 nightmare gods from beyond the veil of sanity out of 5, which to be fair is 5 more than you’d ever want to deal with.”

-Scott Benson aka @bombsfall

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“To give a bit of my prior experience, I am a fan of Dark Souls 1 & 2, though I’ve never played Demon’s Souls. I was initially a little nervous about Bloodborne because (and this is perhaps the biggest change from previous games), it forces you into a play style that I don’t normally embrace in this series. I’m a real long-range type fighter, preferring to toss some spells from a distance. In Bloodborne, you lack those ranged options and are forced to get up close and personal with your enemy.

Surprisingly, I’ve managed to adapt really well. Bloodborne is hard, but it feels a lot more fair than previous games in its series. You aren’t looking for secret, cheesy ways to beat enemies. You really just have to work out the enemies’ attack patterns and learn to counter them. The game doesn’t penalize death as harshly as previous Souls games, so that approach is a lot less grueling.

For those who’ve never played a game in this series (and make no mistake, Bloodborne IS part of that series), I actually think this game is a fine place to hop on, as it’s a lot simpler, easier to get the hang of, yet still really challenging.”

-Justin McElroy aka @JustinMcElroy

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“I really respect Bloodborne. I also enjoy it a lot as a player, but as a designer, I see it as something really admirable, which is the further refinement of a pure experience that director Hidetaka Miyazaki has been pursuing ever since Demon’s Souls. There’s something that is really satisfying about seeing a designer iterate title after title, trying to reach the purest, most true realization of a design experience they’re envisioning. It felt that way from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls– that the obvious differences were that it was a whole new world to explore with new bosses to fight– but that the heart of the real evolution from title to title was in less up-front design tweaks, like the Estus Flask system, the removal of the hub space, and the incredible interconnectedness of the gameworld. Bloodborne is the next step as Miyazaki continues to try to get closer to that core experience that Souls games point toward.

The small tweaks in Bloodborne are clear reactions to things that he found lacking in Dark Souls, such as the complete removal of shields (except for one basically joke item you find in the early game) to alter the way players approached combat– to keep them from hiding behind shields and playing slowly and defensively, and encourage them to be aggressive, putting the entire focus on striking, dodging and recovering.

The way Bloodborne revisits Demon’s Souls concepts that had been removed in Dark Souls, like the hub world, is really interesting. And Miyazaki is such a confident and deliberate director that even when one can’t quite understand why a particular design decision was made in Bloodborne, such as the reversion from Dark Souls’ Estus Flasks back to grinding health vials like in Demon’s Souls, one wonders whether it’s really a bad design call, or if one simply hasn’t fully grasped the intent behind the decision, and how it works into the full vision of the game as a whole. It’s a fascinating relationship to have with the developers of a game– such deep trust in their vision that when you question it, it makes you question yourself. It’s one of the things that makes these game so singular, and so compelling.”

-Steve Gaynor aka @fullbright

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“Bloodborne is about the insignificance of humanity in the face of unthinkable horror. It captures the true essence of Lovecraftian horror where most other works attempting to imitate Lovecraft graft a few extra tentacles and eyeballs on some monster and call it done. The horror in Lovecraft isn’t the monsters – they’re a harbinger, a symbol – the true horror is the unthinkable truth that there are far greater, far more alien things out in the cosmos. And they aren’t malevolent things lusting for man’s destruction. They see us as ants, scrabbling about the mound and will exploit, feed upon and exterminate us as they see fit. That is the true horror of Lovecraft, that all of humanity’s knowledge about where we believe our place in the order of things is utterly wrong. Our great works are nothing more than an anthill.

In Bloodborne, you are a hunter. You must seek out enemies, though never are you hunted or pursued. The enemies wait, unconcerned, until you arrive. They will kill you or you will kill them. Either way, next time you pass through that area, they will be back, timeless and waiting. Early on, the foes are largely familiar, raving humans (some hairier than others, but still clothed and armed) or roughly humanoid trolls. At worst, they are slightly corrupted animals: sheepdogs, giant flightless crows, slightly-too-human wolves or a hog that’s a bit too large.

Then you encounter Bloodborne’s first boss, The Cleric Beast. The creature’s name alone is somehow shocking after a relatively familiar, if Victorian, introduction. You’ve occasionally heard something about “The Healing Church” but in a From Software fashion, it is very withheld. They’re into blood…and that’s about all you know. This towering creature is your first encounter with anything actually related to the church. What has happened that turned a scion of the church into a lumbering, misshapen beast? What it is that you don’t know about this world?

Once The Cleric Beast falls, you begin to discover new things. You now possess Insight, a subtle but incredible mechanic that ostensibly lets you interact with other players and occasionally buy items, but it also represents your character’s understanding of the true nature of his/her world. Horrors hitherto unknown, hidden by the mind’s refusal to accept what it does not wish to see, begin to reveal themselves. As you leave Yharnam for other places, the true nature of reality becomes clear, and it is truly terrible. Not “scary” or malevolent, there is no great villain you are trying to stop. The horror is that the world simply *is* and it does not concern itself with you. You may kill a monster, but there will always be another one. Slay a boss, a more terrible one lies just beyond. The truth is, labour as we might, we are utterly insignificant and whatever we try to accomplish will not make any difference to the cosmos. The more we understand, the more bleak our reality is revealed to be. The horrible realization is that things are never what the seem – literally from the first second of the game – and maybe we were better off not knowing.

That is the spirit of Bloodborne. While previous entries of the From Software’s “Souls” series dealt with fantasy that was at times grim and bleak, Bloodborne fully embraces horror in a way that even most other contemporary horror games – with their shlock jump scares and gross-out gore – do not.

The easy thing for FromSoftware after the massive success of Dark Souls would simply have been to “do that again, but more.” And in truth, that was the shortcoming of Dark Souls II. While still an excellent work in isolation, it truly did carry that spirit of its enumerated suffix. It was basically just Dark Souls, but more. Likely because Hidetaka Miyazaki, the visionary behind Demon’s and Dark Souls, was only mildly supervising Dark Souls II while personally focusing on what would come to be known as Bloodborne.

Bloodborne is certainly not just Dark Souls, but a whole lot more. It is clearly a work by Miyazaki and his team, but also distinct. The combat is far more kinetic and faster-paced. Changes to the healing and countering systems fundamentally change how encounters are approached compared to how many (including myself) approached encounters in the previous games. It is more honed, more focused. It maintains the sprit of “unforgiving but fair.” If you fail in Bloodborne, it’s your fault. You had the means to overcome, you simply had to apply them correctly. And you can try again. And again.

Asking “Is is better than Dark Souls?” is perhaps the least interesting inquiry about Bloodborne. It is distinct and entirely confident in its spirit. It knows what it wants to tell us. And what it wants to tell us is that we don’t matter. But there’s a tiny glimmer of, well, it would be inappropriate to call it hope, but perhaps “purpose.” We cannot defeat the true horrors in Bloodborne, for the true horror is the truth of reality itself. But within that reality, Bloodborne says what we choose to do, how we choose to face that reality, is up to us. We must rend and hew our own purpose in Yharnam and what that means is entirely in our own blood-soaked hands.”

-Nels Anderson aka @Nelsormensch

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“I am still just scratching the surface of Bloodborne but I am enjoying it thoroughly. The atmosphere, art, characters, audio, etc are extremely well done. I play it with all my lights off. It’s the only way to get the full experience and yes, it has scared the @#$% out of me.

As for any problems I encountered, I had rented Bloodborne on GameFly and it didn’t come with any instructions. I actually played for an hour just punching with my fists because I didn’t know you had to go into your inventory and select your weapons. LOL, I had heard the game was hard but that was REALLY hard!

I wish the loading screens were shorter and that you could map the buttons to your liking. For example, I would change where the run button is. As for the actual game, I would not change a thing. It’s so good that I would not mess with anything and I appreciate what the developers have made. It’s not easy to risk putting out a game with a higher difficulty level, but I applaud them for taking the chance and nailing it.

Some fun memories include accidentally falling to my death a couple of times. It’s a long way down some of those ladders. Another amusing bit was the way I started. It was pretty hilarious (which I mentioned earlier).

If I had to give tips to any newcomers: don’t give up. Read ALL the notes from previous players. Keep leveling up and searching areas if you feel stuck. Co-op for bosses if you need help.

I highly recommend buying the game right now, though you must already be a PS4 owner.

It’s tough to rate this game since I am still only level 30 and have only killed two bosses! So my review is “in process” but it feels like an award winning game and I have been telling everyone I know to play it.”

-Kevin Wasielewski aka @ORIGINPCCEO

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Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to review Bloodborne. This game was developed by FromSoftware and was released on March 24, 2015. It is available for the PS4. If you want to stay updated on more Gamer Compatible reviews, you can follow us on Twitter: @gamercompatible, on Facebook:@gamercompatible or you can subscribe to our feed.

Game on! And signing out.

Images taken from Playstation’s Bloodborne page.

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