|Dev: From Software|
|Pub: From Software|
|Release: February 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Angelo M. D'Argenio
Wake up. Die. Get shot in the face. Die. Take an axe to the head. Die. Get bitten by a zombie. Die. Square off against a fire breathing skeleton dog. Die. Are you sensing a pattern here?
This is the flow of gameplay that you can expect in From Software’s new ultra-hard game, Bloodborne.
We first saw Bloodborne at E3, where it was revealed that From Software was going to depart from the old formula of swords and sorcery, and instead try to make their own special variety of ultra-hard RPG into a special sort of gothic horror old-timey London, Jack the Ripper is watching you, sort of game. At the time, we only got to see cinematic trailers, which were cool, but did not really translate how well this shift in tone and setting works for the game. Specifically, it makes an ultra hard game even harder!
Why? Because people don’t use shields in old timey London, or in this case Yarnam, the actual city in which Bloodborne takes place. You are still facing off against horrible supernatural creatures, but you have no method of defending yourself. If you are within range of an enemy’s attack, you WILL get hit and you WILL take a truckload of damage as a result. Thus, combat in Bloodborne is far more fast paced, relying on dodging and quick stepping rather than blocking, which is a lot of fun but much more difficult. Why? Because now you have to have an incredible amount of spatial awareness to participate in combat with any more than one foe. Did you dodge the pool of lava that zombie dragon spit out? Great! Make sure you didn’t dodge right into a hellhound’s mouth.
This also means that melee combat had to switch up a bit. Most weapons in the game now have more than one mode. This was shown in the original trailer, where what looked like a short-range knife unfolded into a gigantic axe style blade. These modes are usually polar opposites of each other, such as mixing up weak fast attacks and slow strong attacks, or rapid short range attacks with slow long-range attacks. Since you can no longer block, interrupting enemies while they attack is also an important game mechanics. Land the right blow during an attack’s wind up and you’ll stun the enemy, allowing you to deal a lot of damage.
In addition to your melee weapons, you can also use firearms. Of course, we aren’t talking any semi-automatic assault rifles here. It’s more like single-shot blunderbusses, and other old timey guns. These guns don’t do a whole lot of damage, but they do put the enemy into a stun state any time they are hit. Thus, you can stay outside of an enemy’s attack range, waiting for the best time to fire off a shot, and then rush in for big damage.
Another big change, perhaps added due to the fact that you no longer have a defensive option, is how health is managed. You seem to heal partially every time you defeat an enemy. This is good because as far as we have seen there is no death mechanic to speak of (like how you came back as undead in Dark Souls.) So to be able to keep yourself from losing all your progress, you will have to deftly manage your health, perhaps even searching out less difficult enemies to heal yourself to full by rendering them into corpses.
That being said, there aren’t very many easy enemies in the game. Simple enemies can kill you very easily by landing a couple strong hits. Any amount of button mashing will be punished with near immediate death. This is the sort of game where you have to always be on your toes, especially when you are about to die.
Yet, even though difficulty has been increased, From Software is doing their best to make sure that it doesn’t feel unfair. Enemies will have patterns that they fall into, and areas where they roam and can’t exit, allowing you to take advantage of that. Players who specialize in ranged weapons can still pick off enemies without ever getting close to them. Like Dark Souls, you can choose to play the game the way you want in order to reduce the danger from enemy encounters.
Even though Bloodborne is styled after a horror atmosphere, it isn’t scary. It is, however, gruesome. There is a lot of gore and death and blood that splatter around during the course of a battle. You are more likely to face off against undead monstrosities, flesh falling off their bones, than you are to face a mythical creature like a dragon. It makes the game feel dark, which is a good tone for it, but you are far too powerful for it to feel like a real horror game. The fear comes from the fact that you can die at any turn, but you are still a badass monster hunter even if you do.
In the end, Bloodborne looks like it will be a worthy follow-up to Dark and Demon’s Souls. If you are looking for another ultra-hard gameplay experience, this will be your game.
Bloodborne is going to be console exclusive to the PS4 and is pegged to come out February 2015.
Angelo M. D'Argenio
Date: December 26, 2014