Preview: Bloodborne

Punishment, blood and fear, these are the Souls games have brought us to love, but how does Bloodborne compare, and what does it do differently?

Bloodborne in spirit is the successor to FROM Software’s PlayStation exclusive Demon’s Souls, directed by now seemingly legendary director Hidetaka Miyazaki. Demon’s and Dark Souls are widely known for their difficulty levels and punishing gameplay, but both games do seem different when you look at their initial setups. The widest difference between Demon’s and Dark Souls seems to be the setup for the combat, and whilst Dark Souls often falls back onto a block and strike routine Demon’s Souls seems to take a more tactical route, which may seem small for some but ultimately causes radical differences between gameplay.

What needs to be understood before playing Bloodborne is the fact that this isn’t Demon’s Souls 2, and even though I could definitely recognize the feeling of Demon’s Souls, I was playing something very different at the same time. During my gameplay session at Gamescom I was blown away by the visuals and gameplay of Bloodborne, and here I share my thoughts on what seems to have become one of the strongest games of the PS4’s arsenal in 2015.

The second the loading screen disappeared and I was first introduced to the world of Bloodborne I was simply blown away by what I was seeing. Not just by the graphical fidelity, but the overall atmosphere, which is simply breathtaking while walking around and looking at the world around you. The tone is incredibly eerie and it shows in the level and lighting design. Sometimes you’ll just want to look around, pause and gaze at the sights of the world, but what lies ahead is an intensity unmatched by most games in the genre. Admittedly I did not get to experience what happens in the game after death since dying meant the end of the demo, but I did get a short sight at how difficulty the full game will be.

The less-powerful human enemies are what comes to expect, they’re not that incredibly hard to beat but you shouldn’t underestimate them. They can come out of nowhere and funny enough seemed quite efficient when attacking as a group. The monsters of Bloodborne however are an entirely different story. I’ll start off by noting that the designs of the monsters are simply masterful, and they’re not only well designed, but also pretty intimidating as you encounter them. The game put me against enemies such as werewolves, orc-like creatures and a huge tree-like creature whose name unfortunately didn’t seem to be Groot. These are encounters that should be approached with tactics, and simply hacking and slashing at it simply won’t do it. If you’re coming into this game with a history of playing hack and slash games, you’re going to need to forget everything you think you know, and use all of the moves you have available to approach every situation with tact and precision. Whilst Bloodborne seems to be a little more forgiving than Demon’s Souls in a few aspects, you’ll still be punished for your mistakes. Many of the mechanics should come natural to returning players, but newcomers will surely take a while getting used to this style of handling. The health system seemed a bit powerful and some of the larger enemies did go down a bit fast, but I am pretty certain this was done for demo purposes.

The weapons I received in my arsenal during the demo were both as functional as they were cool looking. The animation when picking up the scythe of your character’s back is so smooth and hitting your enemies with it is just as satisfying. That being said don’t expect a fast weapon that you’ll be spinning around with, as the movement and combat of the game has weight to it, and you’re going to have to find balance between offence and defence whilst fending off your enemies. After a good hit as a player you might get cocky, and the game will surely punish you for that. Parrying isn’t always your answer, and your footwork is as important as your offensive and defensive moves. Especially with the bigger enemies you’ll want to keep yourself moving, rather than having your head being bitten off by a werewolf for example.

With large groups of enemies you’ll have to try to eliminate them one by one by luring them out of the crowd, rather than trying to mow all of them down at once. Some groups of human enemies may not be interested in you right away, but moving closer without a doubt will catch their attention. Rather than going in full force you’ll be able to throw a rock at an individual enemy and lure him towards you so you can focus your attention to one of them at once, rather than trying to fight them all of at once, which is a really bad idea.

Next to my scythe I was also given a shotgun, which luckily isn’t nearly as overpowered as I expected it to be. The weapon can be incredibly effective in combat, but you won’t be relying on it to fight your battles for you. In hectic situations its lack of precision may not be ideal, but as an alternating hit to the enemy after blocking or using your scythe it’ll surely give you a small advantage. I personally found it to function well as a finishing move, ridding my enemies of that last little bit of health they had left.

A new gameplay element I hadn’t heard of before the demo was the addition of friendly AI’s the player can rescue. After rescuing these AI characters they will be able to come with you and assist you during the following part of your journey. Whenever you come across one of these you should probably go ahead and save them, as the help will without a doubt be greatly welcomed.

From a technical and performance standpoint Bloodborne looked and played incredibly smooth. The game runs at a resolution of 1080p and at a frame rate of 30 frames per second. The animations looked incredibly smooth and for a demo the game seemed incredibly polished. Characters and environments are incredibly well designed and the overall tone and feel of the game are as eerie as advertised. The style of the game feels a bit like a mix of Demon’s Souls and Van Helsing, from the environments to the enemies themselves, and it all just looks fantastic. The game is advertised as a bit more accessible, but I still found enough challenge and tactic in the gameplay I got to experience. Newcomers may have a hard time though, but once you get the hang of it these types of games are incredibly rewarding as an experience.

Bloodborne is scheduled for an early 2015 release, and has been rumoured to launch in January. Looking at the current state of the game I have no doubt that deadline is certainly possible, but we’ll have to wait for confirmation by Sony Computer Entertainment to bring you a solid release date in the near future.

Bloodborne will be released exclusively for PlayStation 4.