Please Sir, Can I Have Another
I have to admit I never got into the Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls games. They were just never my cup of tea. Not that I didn’t appreciate the games for what they were, it’s just that I tend to not want to be overly punished by things just for the sake of punishment. At least that’s how I felt, but after hours and hours of playing Bloodborne , I took a day to center myself enough to come back to the game and be surprised at what I found.
First, the particulars. Bloodborne is set Yharnam, a Victorian styled gothic town. It is rumored that the town houses a potent medical remedy and travelers from all around have come to collect it, even you as the player. However, upon reaching the town you find that it is actually plagued with an endemic illness and all the townsfolk have been changed into bestial creatures. As your luck would have it, you will have to make your way through the city and these beasts, deranged citizens, and even a werewolf or two in order to survive.
You see, the old man that is treating you in the beginning makes you sign a “contract” in order to become a hunter, but in order for you to survive among these beasts you have to become something else, something better. The minimalist character creation makes it seem like you’re not a warrior of any kind, but those limitations don’t really have a grand effect on the game as a whole. Which is good, considering how the next little bit of the game unfolds. Everything’s all fine and good in the end, but you will find the first fifteen minutes of gameplay the most frustrating.
While going through the opening of the game you find little grouping of ghostly creatures. They give you a little guidance as far as controls, but that’s about it. There’s no real tutorial for you to play through. This would be fine if while you were playing you were given a gentle learning curve to figure out what you are going to be doing. No, instead, you get a freaking werewolf blocking your path out of the house, and he will viciously murder you. From here you’re given some tools of the hunter’s trade in order to level the playing field. However, this is something I had an initial complaint with.
The inventory system is not even really minutely explained. How to equip weapons is not really explained. It assumes a little too much of the player in instances like this. That’s my biggest complaint about Bloodborne – that assumptive nature is problematic, if for no other reason than it being a disservice to new players. Sure, we live in a gaming age in which we can easily skip most tutorials, but for something as mundanely simple as equipping your weaponry to be absent in the instructions seems kind of idiotic. I mean seriously, it’s a word box at best.
However, after that gripe, I cannot fault the control schemes or how the game is delivered. After the initial difficulty hump, Bloodborne thrives on the whole, “buck up and figure it out, Buttercup” mentality. Ultimately it works in its and your favor. You are going to die in this game, a lot. When I say a lot, think of all the times you might have died in any other random game and multiply that by infinity. Just face the fact that you are going to meet your end again, and again, and even more again. It even taunts you with things like the “risk versus reward” feature, where you have a chance to replenish some of your health by risking it all to strike an enemy before they can strike you. That feature is probably the number one reason for the multitude of my own deaths and your impending deaths. It’s really all part of Bloodborne ’s charm.
Here’s why: if you die the same way a thousand times, eventually you are going to attempt to do things differently. You will craft, maybe even unknowingly, a different way to handle and approach a situation. Luring one enemy away selectively in order to take out a larger group of enemies, or finding a different way to go in guns (or in this case, saw cleavers) blazing. The way this game, and I assume the Souls games, is set up, it forces you into a box that is closing in on you. You have to then figure a way out of the box, but it takes you an insane amount of tries to ultimately figure out what you needed to do all along. This is adaptive gameplay that even the most cynical gamer can appreciate.
This to me is where Bloodborne really captured my interest. I’ve played a massive number of games, and each one either had something magical that made me want to come back to it or something awful that caused me to disdain it. Bloodborne really should have been in the disdain group. After the hours spent in frustration, I would have normally dismissed this from my gaming library, but when I went back to it with a stronger resolve, it really had me hooked. All because I finally got it. I understood the way the game was meant to be played. It made me want to do more, and in all honesty, writing this review is keeping me away from it, much to my displeasure.
Graphically, considering where and what type of environment this is supposed to be, the greys and browns blend really well. I personally wouldn’t have minded the occasional splash of realistic coloring, but all in all the color scheme fits rather well for the world that has been created here. There are some occasional frame rate issues, but they happen so rarely it is almost not worth mentioning. The ragdoll physics of defeated enemies can sometimes be humorous, but that’s just splitting hairs. Mostly because you can forgive a few things in a game that captures the true essence of gothic horror just in the way the environment is crafted. Blooodborne delivers this with pleasing results.
The sounds of the game are very typical for a hack and slash adventure, but the score? The score is symphonic gold. I used to collect soundtracks to games. They often reminded me of something that happened in a game, or if I were lucky enough to have access beforehand, I would enjoy listening and then visualizing what was going to transpire. The beauty of Bloodborne ‘s score is that you could listen to it outside the game and feel the same depth of feeling and emotion. Got all artsy on you guys for that one. It is definitely a great score and one that you should at least try to listen to outside of the game itself.
Bloodborne is not a game for everyone. It simply is not going to appeal to the mass audience. However, I can say that in the time I ended up spending with the game I grew very fond of what was before me. It’s not punishment just because, it’s more in line with challenging you to become a different type of player when enjoying these games. You can’t just hack your way through things, even when you feel like your latest upgrades should make you unstoppable. You have to have a strategy to how you play no matter what. For that, I say this is probably my new favorite title of next-gen consoles, but then again I could have just become assimilated to enjoy the pain. Now I just have to figure out if I should say thank you or just sit quietly until my next punishment.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.3 Graphics
There are some fine details in the game once you get going. 4.0 Control
There’s a learning curve that could have been a better curve. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The gothic sounds in the game are truly pleasing to the senses. 4.2 Play Value
This one is really dependent on whether you enjoy the punishing gameplay. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|