I stand on a deserted bridge, the skyline of the gothic city of Yharnam burns orange in the setting sun. The bodies of two lycanthropes lay at my feet, their lifeless forms smoldering from the molotov cocktails I used to end their violent and torturous ways. I am the harbinger of death to all creatures of the night that stand in my way. I am a Hunter!
Seriously I have tried to get past this bit of this blasted game for last three bloody hours, I think I need to sit down with a strong drink because you know what, those lycanthropes were utter bastards!
Bloodborne is the latest title to come out of the game studio From Software.
Yes, those same sadistic so and sos who are responsible for the rock hard Souls series and like its cousins Bloodborne is a very welcome addition to the world of gaming, that for too long has held players’ hands through each new adventure.
I have said in a previous review for the Arcade that I expect to get my money’s worth when I shell out €60+ for a title; I expect it to last me longer than a few hours, and Bloodborne has already lived up to that expectation. If you have played any of the Souls titles you will recognise some of the setup of Bloodborne. Instead of bonfires there are lanterns. The behaviour of your enemies are quite similar, they lurk in the shadows, somepretending to be either dead or asleep. That is until you pass them by and they ambush you from behind.
Bloodborne is its own beast, but it knows where it came from and builds on that.
The main plot of Bloodborne is straight forward enough. It all takes place in the ancient city of Yharnam which was known for housing a medical wonder, it is said that this wonder would cure any disease. Over the years, many travelers have made pilgrimages to Yharnam seeking the remedy to cure whatever ails them. You are one of those pilgrims. Upon arriving in Yharnam, however, you discover that it is overrun with a plague which has mutated most of the townsfolk into terrifying creatures who are out for blood. You must cautiously make your way through the streets of Yharnam destroying these creatures as you go, but before all of that the very first thing you have to do in Bloodborne in order to progress the story is die.
So this should give you an idea about the tone and basis of the game right from the get go. You are going to die a lot. Once you die for the first time you are transported to what is called the Hunter’s Dream. Here you will be equipped with your weapons of choice and then sent back out into the dark world of Yharnam to battle the creatures of the night that infest its murky streets, back alleys and sewers.
Bloodborne is, at its dark Eldritch heart, a survival horror game with elements of hack and slash thrown in for good measure. If Hammer horror, H.P. Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley were to design a video game together this would be the unholy outcome.
In fact I’m pretty sure From Software evoked the Old Gods in order to create some of the horrific imagery that this title conjures up.
For example I myself have a deep and dark fear of Rats, and this game is now responsible for the one and only time that a computer game has made me shout uncontrollably at my TV in abject terror. There is a moment early on in the game where I stumbled across a ladder leading into a sewer system. At the bottom of this ladder were giant mutated rats, or for any of you Princes Bride fans reading this, rodents of unusual size. My brain seized up upon seeing them. My hands were frozen, the controller felt like a dead weight in my hands. Their bulbous eyes, filled to bursting with green ooze fixated on me as I tried to run, I could hear their long sinewy tails lashing the water as they ran, their large rotten yellow teeth snapping at my heels as I plunged into the darkness ahead. I feel am unable to do the terror I felt any justice here .
Please check out the game play video below, it is of the very moment I just described:
The gameplay itself has a nice learning curve. You need to adapt to each situation and enemy encounter. The first few creatures you come across as you walk the streets of Yharnam are by themselves and can be dispatched easily enough, but when you discover these same creatures moving in greater numbers they can quickly become a problem. Every now and again you do run into a foe who is challenge, the one piece of advice regarding either large groups of foes, or ones the size of a double-decker bus would be to be cautious. This is not a game that you can tank your way through – each enemy encounter must be approached tactically.
As you make your way through Yharnam dispatching the monsters that inhabit its dark streets you will earn what are called Blood Echos. These are the main currency in the game and can be used in numerous ways. When you travel to the Hunters Dream they can be exchanged for weapons, materials and clothing, but their main purpose is to level up your stats. There is an NPC called The Doll, she will distribute your hard-earned Blood Echos whatever way you wish in order to prepare you for the battles ahead. I found myself pouring over the stat screen after every failed encounter with the Big Bads in the game (Of which there were many).
Even though Bloodborne is a harsh mistress when it comes to making you pay for trying to take on more than you can handle.
When you do eventually down the Cleric Beast that has been handing you your ass for the last hour and half, the sense of accomplishment outweighs any frustration you may have had. You really do feel like the time you are putting into this title is worth it when the corpse of the nimble Father Gascoigne lies twitching at your feet.
Bloodborne is a game I can see myself getting a lot of hours of both enjoyment and frustration from and I am totally okay with this. I have a few friends who purchased this upon its release, and it is without a shadow of a doubt one of the few games in a long time that has us discussing tactics and strategy when it comes to boss fights.
Bloodborne does boast a multiplayer option, but not in the most straight forward way. You need to have played a certain amount of the game first and obtained the second type of currency in the game, Insight. You need at least 10 insight to be able to access the Insight shop. You can purchase very specific items here, everything from weapon buffs to new gear. In order to access the multiplayer section of the game you will need to purchase Small Resonant Bell and Sinister Resonant Bell. The Small Resonant Bell allows you to notify other players that you are available to join a co-op session, this does not cost any insight to ring. The Sinister bell as the name might suggest allows you to transport yourself into other players games in order to hunt them down and kill them. There are side quests in Bloodborne that promote this gameplay, so be warned that not all fellow Hunters are their to help.
The one issue I have with the game is the targeting system. The best strategy to adapt, and I cannot stress this enough, is the dodge button. Learn to use it early and to use it often because it will save you life. Countless times throughout my playthrough I heard old Patches O’Houlihan shouting the five Ds in my ear. The let down with the targeting system comes when you are fighting some of the larger monsters in the game. When you find yourself up close and personal with one these big bads and are locked-on-target the camera plays merry hell with itself trying to keep the target lock on while you run helplessly into a wall.
That is my only complaint regarding Bloodborne, that’s it! It is a tough title to be sure, but it is also an immensely rewarding game. The menu systems can be slightly confusing to begin with, but once you are into the game you will find your way around. The multiplayer aspect can be slightly contrived, and I have yet to experience it to its fullest, but From Software have given us a game that is unlike anything else.
Feel of a Lovecraftian horror story that will both terrify and enthrall! Challenging and gripping! 9/10