Bloodborne is a Hell of a Video Game
So, I just beat Bloodborne, like a just a few minutes ago. My heart rate is still up from the “final” boss fight, in a way that no other video game experiences produce. That might sound ridiculous to anyone who is not familiar with the Souls series of games, but they are games unlike many others in today’s market. No hand-holding, a high learning curve, and the fact that every single enemy can kill you if you’re not on your toes makes all of the entries of the Souls series the polar opposite of a relaxing game to throw on the decompress after work. These games are work. That is what I think makes them so appealing to their highly devoted fan base of players like myself, you have to work to get through these.
A Quick overview of Bloodborne for the PS4
In a world where most games just take a commitment of time and attention to finish, Bloodborne and the like separate themselves by making players actually develop throughout the experience. There are levels so that your character can be upgraded and scale somewhat like your enemies do as you progress, but they not nearly as critical to the gameplay. Every Souls game implies the challenge of beating it without leveling your character or weapon, it’s completely possible in a game that is this focused on player skill above all else.
What Makes Souls Games so Appealing to Me and its Audience
I am a goal oriented person, I love setting a list of objectives and seeing them through to completion. A ton of games offer a similar idea: here’s a list of tasks, do them to get rewards. But no other game scratches that itch for me like a Souls game, every boss beaten or bonfire/lamp lit is a genuine accomplishment and gives you that sense of accomplishment, that’s probably why I bought a used PS4 off Craig’s List just to play a single game.
Bloodborne has the core values of every Souls game (full disclosure I have not yet played Demon Souls), tight controls force the player to master his chosen weapon and style in order to combat a cornucopia of intimidating and challenging (and horrifying in Bloodborne’s case) monsters. There’s no directed narrative and very little dialog to tell you exactly what’s going on, like everything else in a Souls game, you have to work to uncover the story. The story is vaguely hinted at and formed by item descriptions, brief conversations, and notes found throughout the region of Yharnam, the progressively more and more terrifying setting of the game. But where the core values of Bloodborne are more or less identical to the other games in the Souls series, the execution is very different.
What Makes Bloodborne Different from Other Souls Games
Where Dark Souls games offer so many potential weapons and armor variations that it can be overwhelming, Bloodborne has streamlined that entire system as a way to tell players how they should play the game. There are about a dozen melee weapons and a handful of firearms for your off hand that replace the shields of previous games. Each individual melee weapon seems to have more mechanical depth than weapons in the previous games and each is a “trick weapon” with 2 forms you can switch between on the fly. They’re all absolutely insane, like a sword with a gigantic hammer as its sheath and a long handled saw sword that flicks out into a halberd cleaver. They’re all a lot of fun too. Handguns have been introduced in lieu of shields to give players a way to interrupt enemies and perform awesome visceral attacks in the gap. The guns themselves do very little damage for the most part, the are simple a way to parry attacks without giving players the option to completely block an attack.
Combat is fast an furious in Bloodborne as every piece of armor offered up is light and flowing, encouraging dashing and dodging over cowering behind a shield and fat rolling. Armor scales as you do, I used the same set for the entire game and there’s no way to upgrade it, I just chose one I liked the look of and ran with it. In some situations, you can use a set that offers higher specialized resistance against poison or frenzy, etc. but the game never forces you to compare numbers ad choose which item is better, they’re all pretty even and this gets players back into the action sooner.
As comes along with the fact that there’s little to no direction given and a huge world to explore in Bloodborne, it’s fairly easy to miss items and even large amounts of content in areas that you’re not expressly forced to go through. If you’re not following along with a guide online, which you shouldn’t, this is a definite possibility. I missed a large optional area and then stumbled back upon it later when I was too high leveled to experience it as intended. This only happened once with a fairly small area and it’s a valuable offering in itself. When I found an area with a boss that I had completely missed, it added to the sense of wonder that this terrifying world offered. How many times can you play through these games and find new areas, items, and characters that you missed before? These world offer players so much, they challenge players to discover their worth on their own with no guide to speak of.
Not many games will hide content from players like that in an age where every publisher’s top concern is justifying their price tag with a huge amount of content, but From Software basically has a captive audience. Like I said, there’s so little out there that offers an experience like a Souls game that I bought a PS4 just to experience the latest entry, and I don’t regret it in the slightest. I just beat it today and there’s still so much more potential to explore that I’m chomping at the bit to get back into in and find a new weapon that I’ve never used and fight bosses in a different order. That’s not even bring up Chalice Dungeons, randomly generated dungeons for players to explore akin to Diablo, which I sorely neglected on my first play through. But that’s just the way the Souls games are, everywhere you read about them online, someone will say that your real first play through is your second one on new game plus. You’ve got the fundamentals down, and now you can start having fun and exploring properly.
What do you think of the Souls series of games by From Software (almost said from From)? Have you taken them out for a spin yet or what? Let me know in the comments below!