April 23, 2015 | by Lauren
Bloodborne Review
Seek paleblood to transcend the hunt.
Excellent Game Ahead
Summary: Bloodborne still hews closely to the Souls formula, but make no mistake: this is a new cut.

5

Superb


If there’s anything impressive about Bloodborne, it’s how it manages to not be Dark Souls. From Software sequels generally stick very closely to the pattern set by the series originator, and while, yes, the game still hews closely to the Souls formula, make no mistake: Bloodborne is a new cut.

Perhaps the best word to describe Bloodborne is focused. The Souls games, for all of their grand innovations and beautifully ruined landscapes, can be rather scatterbrained at times as a result of trying to enable so many styles of play. Bloodborne cuts the fat; You will engage in melee combat (the series’ speciality) and you will like it. Sure, there are firearms and semi-mystical trinkets you can use to attack from a distance, but such tools are almost always positioned as tactical assists to your melee weapon. Do you want to outrange your foes and strike from relative safety? Well then, you’d better pick up a poleaxe, because that cannon won’t carry enough ammo to take down bosses all on its own.

Still, the heart of Bloodborne’s combat remains true. Sure, the game (mostly) cuts shields and has a greater focus on aggressive play, but at the end of the day the core principle of these games is the same: Stick and move. Bloodborne merely embraces it in a way that past Souls games have not, challenging you with fast bosses and crowds of enemies that require you to frantically maneuver your character into better positions to strike. In this way, Bloodborne sets itself apart, offering a feeling of immediacy that the Souls games never had.

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It’s almost a shame Bloodborne is so visceral; the game is incredibly beautiful. Sure, maybe it lacks the sheer technical sophistication of your average triple-A title, but the art direction makes up for it in spades. The towering gothic spires of the early game alone are beautiful, but the buildings are just the beginning; As the game progresses the tone shifts more towards horror, with trash-strewn streets giving way to dark grave-filled woods and twisted otherworlds best left unspoken. And that’s not even getting into the monster design: Mouths sewn on wrong-ways, cage-hats used by hidden cults, many-eyed flesh horrors driving you mad from afar, the game oozes creepy style. Bloodborne never fully shifts fully to being a horror game, but the integration of horror-like art design really helps drive a sense of desperation to the combat, and it definitely helps give the lore more punch.

The game isn’t perfect unfortunately. Souls games have historically had pacing issues, and while Bloodborne’s problems in this regard are comparatively minor some classic FromSoft mistakes are definitely present. There’s not really any increase in the story’s dramatic tension until the final third of the game, and while that finishing stretch has some beautiful areas, the game still lacks a real iconic mid-game gatekeeping boss, leading to a rather tiring stretch near the middle of the game.

This doesn’t sound so bad until you realize the game is quite short. Bloodborne has a lot of content, but quite a bit of it is locked away in optional areas and spaced out such that when you finally reach the end of the game you’re left with a sense that things ended early. The game’s three endings are all good, but without a complete dramatic arc to support them they all feel somewhat sudden.

It seems that From wanted players to pad out their adventure with periodic dungeon crawls through the game’s random dungeon system, but in an uncharacteristically naive move they neglected to stock these dungeons with adequate loot. The main rewards for these dungeons are randomly generated weapon upgrades, but better ones can usually be found by progressing through the main game anyways, essentially undermining any reason you’d have to go through the lower ranked dungeons early. This culminates in an unfortunate late game grind through easy content just to unlock the better dungeons.

The dungeons themselves are a classic case of having a good idea, but implementing it poorly. Even though the dungeons have great enemy variety they reuse the same basic structures and rooms leading to a certain tedium from traversing the same basic area over and over, making it easy to get lost and run in circles for tens of minutes looking for that one door to allow you to progress. From probably should have taken some hints from the Roguelike genre, with a greater variety of random traps and dungeon features, but as it stands the dungeons are definitely more Skyrim than Nethack.

If you are simply looking for more Dark or Demon’s Souls, you’ll probably be disappointed in Bloodborne’s focused content and rather short story, but make no mistake: The game is beautiful in its own right, with incredibly tight combat and a wondrously threatening atmosphere. It may not be what you expected, but if you’re possessed of a certain insight and willing to see the souls games with a fresh set of eyes give Bloodborne a try.

Not moe.

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