Bloodborne is the not-quite-sequel to Dark Souls II that PS4 gamers have been dying for since it was first announced. But can From Software and Sony Japan Studio’s hardcore action RPG live up to the hype? From the very start, developers and press alike have been claiming that Bloodborne has the chops to be even widely praised than Dark Souls and Demon Souls. So, after dozens of deaths and hours of sweating through bosses… is it any good?
Yes. Oh god, so much yes.
Now, Bloodborne is still very much a Dark Souls game. If you didn’t like its punishing difficulty before, you probably won’t like it now. This is a game where you must go in expecting to die, because failure is learning lesson. I liken the difficulty to the days when Prince of Persia was hard. Even the first re-make from the early 2000s. You would often fail, falling to your death, but you always knew it was some mistake you made, not the game being cheap. That’s exactly how death feels in Bloodborne.
I’ve died probably close to 100 times or more playing through the mystery of this game, and not one time have I felt that the game was being cheap in handing me my death. Each time I’ve died (again, it’s been many times) I know it’s because I got greedy, wasn’t focused, or just plain didn’t do the right thing. Bloodborne is certainly hard, but in a way that challenges you as the player, and urges your skills to improve.
Character creation is very similar to the Souls games, and you pick one of a few backgrounds instead of classes, which determine your starting stats. I’d suggest a high stamina/endurance choice for players new to these sort of games, as the others are typically harder because you have even less health and stamina. You’ll choose from a bevy of looks and fantastic looking Elizabethan era facial hair (or not, if you’re playing a female). Then it’s into the breach.
You play an outsider to the city of Yharnam, who has travelled to find a cure for a blood-born (hehe) illness. But after a transfusion from a rather sketchy doctor, you awake to find the city overrun with hideous monsters: Yharnam is plagued with an endemic illness that turns its citizens and animals into horrifying beasts. You must find your way through Yharnan and overcome these perils to survive. Yes it’s as gothic and gruesome as it sounds. The question is, are the horrors real or are they a result of your treatment?
Bloodborne is very much a Souls game in its level design, as well as its combat. You’ll find blocked paths and locked doors that you’ll later open from the other side, creating a much needed shortcut to other areas of the game’s map. Combat is carried out with the triggers for light and heavy attacks, but instead of relying heavily on blocking with shields Bloodborne instead focuses more on dodging and a Health Regain system. If you’re struck, for a period of time you’ll be able to attack your enemy back to regain some health you lost. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and the player has to determine whether launching a counter attack is worth the risk. This pronounced change to focus more on action over defending makes Bloodborne a far more interesting game in combat.
You also have some new toys to play with this time. Players have ranged weapons, beginning with a pistol and a blunderbuss at the outset, but gaining access to more later. You’ll also have transforming weapons, like a hacksaw that can go from quick short blade at one moment to long AOE-dealing destructor with a press of the L1 button. As you play through the game, you’ll unlock more weapons, find some in the world, and will also have to repair and upgrade weapons with in-game currency.
When you die, you drop your earned Blood Echoes, which serve as the game’s currency and experience to use in leveling your character. You can get back to the area you died or fight a monster who’s holding onto to them to retrieve them. This can be tough though, because chances are you died for a reason. But if you can make it to one of the game’s checkpoints you can teleport into the Hunter’s Dream, which acts as your one safe haven during the madness of Bloodborne. It’s here you can level up your hunter (by talking to a rather creepy doll with a mystery all her own), buy some supplies, and upgrade your weapons.
The Hunter’s Dream is also where you’ll access the Chalice Dungeons: these are pretty epic procedurally generated dungeons that change their layout each time you enter them. To open them you’ll have to combine a Chalice with other items, which you’ll discover as you play through the game. What’s even cooler about these is that you can play through them solo or with up to three players in Co-Op or PVP mode. You can even “save” a dungeon, and then share them with friends, and they can do the same with you. Basically giving you a near limitless stream of content to play with long after the main game is over.
That’s right, there’s PVP in Bloodborne, and Co-Op. Using the Small Resonant Bell and Beckoning Bell, along with a rare currency called “Insight” you can call upon other players to help defeat the boss. And as mentioned above, you can simply start Chalice dungeons with friends to take on challenges together. There’s even NPC co-op, and if you see a sign and ring the Beckoning bell, you can call in NPC assistance at times, if you are having trouble with a boss. Note that we did this a couple times, and the bosses are still hard. It’s definitely not easy mode.
The PVP is a whole other beast. Once you’ve reached level 30 you can use the Sinister Resonant Bell. This will transport you into another player’s game where you can try to defeat them. It’s nuts and very fun to go on the hunt. Fear not, you don’t have to turn this option on, and it’s not mandatory that you partake in PVP. The goal is to defeat the enemy host before they reach the boss in a map, and balance is determined by which Faction you’ve sworn allegiance to in the game. I don’t want to spoil the story, so just assume you’ll get to the PVP options after some time with the game’s main campaign.
I could go on about Bloodborne, but I won’t. I’ll simply say that it’s one of the best action RPGs I’ve ever played. It’s brutally difficult, but never cheap, and it’s one of the most atmospheric games in recent years. If you fancy hard games, if you love a good deep RPG that doesn’t hold your hand, then you owe it to yourself to play this one. It’s a shame it’s only on the PS4, but frankly, Bloodborne is worth buying the system to play.
GAMEPLAY – 9: Absolutely rock solid, exactly what you’d expect from the Dark Souls team. If anything, the health regain system and ranged weaponry add to the combat by making it less defensive at all times.
VISUALS AND SOUND – 9: Bloodborne is a far prettier game than Dark Souls ever was, that’s for sure, and it truly gets a lot out of the PS4’s horsepower. Some textures are still rough, but overall the game’s a gorgeous gothic feast. The eerie and disturbing sound effects only add to the game’s tense moments.
POLISH – 10: From’s games are known for to be a little less than polished, especially on the PC side. But with this being a PS4 exclusive, it’s clear they took their time. From the UI to the controls, to the impressive cinematics, lighting, and well… everything, this definitely feels like a game that was cared for.
LONGEVITY – 9: Bloodborne’s main adventure can be finished in around 20 hours depending on a player’s skill, but it’s the procedurally generated Chalice dungeons, co-op gameplay, and replay value that extend the life of this fantastic adventure.
VALUE – 8: The value score would be higher were it not for the fact that there’s bound to be a handful of DLCs right around the corner to suck up more cash from fans. That said, for $60 if you have a PS4 and like hard games… you owe this one to yourself. Do not delay.