Real Talk By: The Wizard
Are you tired of your PS4 sitting around covered in a blanket of dust because there hasn’t been any good exclusives that came out since launch? Are you ready to dust that sucker off and put it to use with some good old-fashioned gaming? Have you heard of a little game called Bloodborne, but are reluctant to put down your copy of Mary-Kate & Ashley Sweet 16 until you are 100% certain said game is better? Well, you have come to the right place. Go grab your feather duster, cause we might have some dusting to do!
Bloodborne is developed by FROM Software. If you are not familiar with them, they developed the instant cult classics Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls from the last generation of gaming. Two games which are considered by many people, including this guy, as possibly the greatest games created. Both of which were Action/RPG games set in a dark fantasy world, with mandatory PVP, deep character customization, and some exciting co-op. It is also worth noting that all the “Souls games” have what some consider to be hard as nails difficulty. Instead of your character feeling like a one man army who can cut through small battalions of enemies with simple button mashing, you must be patient and calculate attacks. You must know when to stand and fight, when to pull enemies one at a time, when to call for backup, and most important of all, when to run.
For those of you familiar with the gameplay in Souls games you have a pretty good idea what to expect with Bloodborne. Expect fast tactical combat, with co-op and PVP available if you choose. The online mode is optional for the PVP haters. For those of you unfamiliar expect a rough time at first, because even though Bloodborne is by far the easiest FROM game, it is one of the hardest when you first start out. I am a veteran of the Souls games, done level one playthroughs of both games, easily a thousand hours between the 3 games, and I admit, this gave me some trouble at first. However, after beating the first level it was pretty smooth sailing to almost the very end, with a few tough boss battles in there. Bloodborne relies on fast tactical combat, where instead of a sword and board strategy where you block attacks and strike when ready, you rely a lot on strafing to gain positional advantage on your enemy to leave them open for a combo attack. Your main arsenal will be Trick Weapons and guns, maybe even a flamethrower. Your Trick Weapons are weapons that can be changed into another form at any time. For example there is a cane that turns into a whip, a rapier that can be turned into a gun, and a katana that can be two-handed to make it more powerful, that deals bleed damage to the player. The guns are what you use to parry enemy mobs. You simply shoot an enemy coming at you in mid attack to stagger it, and then attack with your weapon to perform an attack called a visceral attack that does heavy damage. These interesting weapons are what make Bloodborne unique. You will be mowing through many different types of enemies from normal humans, to werewolves, to magician squid men who try to suck your brains out, all in a very large, and interesting open world.
As far as the story goes do not expect lots of cut scenes where a story drags out every 30 minutes. You will never just sit for 10 minutes taking in a story. These types of games rely more on lore. The story is out there, but they don’t just scream it out. You must listen carefully to NPC characters, and piece together the story through descriptions in items picked up through the game. I love this type of story telling. It immerses you in the world if you are willing, and leaves some things up to your speculation. There is a lot of information out there people have pieced together from various history and educational type books that really help understand what is going on. I really can’t get into this without ruining the story, so if you like check out the FEXTRALIFE Bloodborne forums. There you can get a lot of information of the various endings, and what they probably mean. Speaking of the world, the world is awesome and original. Bloodborne takes place in what appears to be a Victorian style Old London that has been taken over by a disease that mutates people and turns them into really cool enemies you can meet, and murder. Your character will literally be drenched in blood the majority of the game. I’m not big on games or movies that sell people on gore and violence, but when a piece of work has lots of violence, and has other things to bring to the table like good story, or gameplay, then I can deal with it. Bloodborne delivers on both of these aspects.
When it comes to the music, I will be honest here. Even though I have played through the game, I can’t recall a single piece of music. I am just so engrossed in the world, and watching out for enemies that I never pay attention to the music. I think that’s a good thing. There is usually way too much going on to be listening to the soundtrack. If you are playing trying to listen to music, then you’re going to die. You must listen carefully to your surroundings. This can mean the difference between life or death.
Visually Bloodborne looks great. This is my opinion of course. I have come across people on various message boards that say the game just looks OK. I feel very satisfied with the way it looks. The character models look decent, the bosses and some of the enemies look awesome, and the world looks interesting and different. Especially toward the end of the game the world looks really cool. I won’t give too much away but there is an area with these giant creatures that are curled around all the buildings, with a really cool looking sunset that will stick around the rest of the game. I was very impressed by this level, and many other levels. Besides, it’s not all about the graphical detail, it’s about the originality put forth in making something unique, and the world of Bloodborne is very unique. Plain and simple, Bloodborne looks like an early game developed for the PS4. It doesn’t feel like a game developed for another console that was ported to a next-gen console at the last-minute to make some sales on desperate console owners looking for anything to play (cough.. Twilight Princess on Wii).
Moving on to the game content Bloodborne is catching a little flack. People are saying it’s too short, or there’s not enough end game content. I personally feel these statements are just plain wrong. The people who say these things are the same people who rush through the game as fast as possible just to say they beat it already. I put roughly 40 hours in my first playthrough, and I feel like I could have tied up a few more loose ends. They cut out a lot of the useless grinding for weapon upgrade materials in this game, and put forth more of a focus in other areas. Like making unique weapons, enemies, and game world. People probably do not have 100 hours in the first playthrough because they didn’t spend 60 hours grinding for a pure bladestone like in other Souls games. For that alone I thank FROM. Thank you for cutting out the pointless grinding and making the upgrade materials readily available. If you are expecting a game with 100 hours of story you might want to seek out a regular RPG. I don’t know where the mentality comes from that makes people think they need 100 hours in a non-RPG game, but I personally feel they need to get over it. You’re not getting 100 hours out of Zelda, Gears of War, Halo, or other non-RPG games, and I feel it’s kind of absurd to have such high expectations in an action RPG. I have never heard anyone bash Zelda for a series that consistently puts forth games that take less than 30 hours, and I think it is completely unfair to dock Bloodborne for that reason.
In regard to end game content there are also Chalice Dungeons. You can start doing Chalice Dungeons early game, but there are enough that you probably won’t be finishing them first playthrough. The Chalice Dungeons consist of 2 different types. Pre-made, and randomly generated. I admit I am still learning about Chalice Dungeons, but a lot of people still are, so let me know if I messed something up here. Basically there are maybe 12 or more already made that you must unlock, and then after beating those you can randomly generate Chalice Dungeons that produce the best loot in the game, and invite your friends to come play your dungeon to reap the benefits of awesome loot you found. For example you might unlock a dungeon that holds a rare variant of a Trick Weapon, or a BloodRock (the best upgrade material), and you can give your friend a code and they can come play your dungeon so they can get a variant of a weapon they have looked for. There are codes all over the internet where you can find exactly the variant of a weapon you want, go into another players dungeon, and acquire it. The only stipulations are that the originator of the Chalice Dungeon has not deleted it, and you have the materials to reach it. You can spend a lot of time just doing Chalice Dungeons. My brother is on new game +3 and he said he has spent almost as much time doing Chalice Dungeons as he has playing the story mode in the game. He also said that the really deep Chalice Dungeons offer more of a challenge than any of the areas in the story part of the game. So if you are looking for a challenge after beating the story, you can move on to the harder Chalice Dungeons. Also, as in all the other Souls games there is a PVP feature that can add an unlimited amount of time to the game. If you are looking for some end game PVP then you can keep busy as long as your heart pleases.
As much as it may seem like I am praising Bloodborne in this review, no game is perfect. So we should probably get into the negatives in the game. First and foremost, coming from a long time Souls player Bloodborne just doesn’t feel as deep as the other FROM Software titles. My main gripe is that there are nowhere near enough weapons in the game. The ones that are in the game are really cool, and fun to use, but there needs to be a lot more.
Second, the scaling for the weapons is just plain dumb. For those not familiar with weapon scaling, it is what determines how much damage a weapon does. For example if you want to make a strength build, for every point you put into strength when you level up, your weapon will deal more damage if it scales with strength. There are scaling stats for all kinds of builds, like Arcane, Skill, Bloodtinge, etc.. All the weapons unlike previous Souls games Stat with almost every stat, instead of one or two of them. This makes your character feel like a jack of all trades, master of none, and I feel like it rewards people who just blindly dump points everywhere. You just don’t get that satisfaction you received in previous FROM games by really focusing on a specific area.
Third, I am not a fan of the PVP. They made the PVP so that a NPC called the Bell Lady spawns in the same spot every time in a level, and if she is killed then you can not invade that player. This makes it so you can not just invade any random player and ruin their day, because they memorized the Bell Lady location. That’s what made Demon’s Souls so great, the satisfaction from invading and unsuspecting player and making them feel helpless while trying to get PVE help. There is an offline mode, so they should have put a lot fewer restrictions on the invading.
This leads me into four, it’s really hard to summon people. I was really pumped for the new system where you can have a secret code and meet your friends, but sadly it still takes forever to join friends for co-op. This is so infuriating I don’t even know where to begin. I do not understand why it is so hard to just make a system that works. Ugh..
And finally 5, which is a very minor gripe. The loading screens are really long. I have been spoiled by the other Souls games, but I can handle it. Just stay alive and you won’t have to deal with it as much. Easier said than done!
To sum up, Bloodborne is a great game, but not without its faults. I can easily recommend this game to anyone who isn’t scared of a little challenge. You will get your monies worth, but be warned, especially veteran souls players, that the lack of weapons, weird weapon scaling, and stipulations on PVP probably won’t change the fact that the game is a lot of fun, but will likely change that this will not be a game you will play for years down the road for the PVP. It is pretty sad the lack of weapons, and PVP stipulations, but some people will welcome this. Hopefully there will be some DLC in the future to help a bit, but unfortunately I feel the lack of weapons is so great that even with a few new weapons people are going to get bored with seeing the same weapons over and over in PVP and are just going move back to Dark Souls.
I find it hard again to dock Bloodborne for these faults. There is a lot of talk floating around the internet that FROM was forced by Sony to release the game fast because Uncharted was delayed. It is also said this is why the promised Beast Mode felt incomplete, why the game was kind of short, the lack of weapons, the messed up weapon scaling, and inbalance of weapons. Even though I feel it is kind of unfair to dock for these things, this does not change the fact that the game feels incomplete in some respects. Therefore, I will be docking Bloodborne for a few of the noted things for now and hoping we get some good DLC and patchs down the road. I will be updating this article as more content is released down the road.
Even though the game feels incomplete in some respects, it is still a great game and worth your time. It is by far the best exclusive title for PS4 at this time, and will still probably be one of the best games of 2015. I will not be surprised if Bloodborne wins at least a few awards this year. FROM did a great job, they just need to add some of the content that was left out due to being rushed, and tweak the scaling of the weapons. Also random Bell Lady spawn location would be nice in my opinion.
4 Out of 5
+Unique interesting atmosphere
+PVE is fun
+Interesting story if you are willing to become active in FEXTRALIFE forums.
+Fast tactical combat
-Loading screens are ridiculous (minor gripe).
-PVP has too many stipulations and loopholes.
-Bunk weapon scaling.
-The new password system to play with friends takes forever!
Bloodborne can be a solid A game if patches fix some stuff in the future.*