Time for another videogame review, time for playing Bloodborne.
Bloodborne is the latest game of From Software, a game exclusive for the PS4 and similar to their other games Dark Souls and Demon Souls. As I'm fan of Dark Souls games, comparisons would be unavoidable, but I will left most of them for the end of the review.
So let's begin.
As with previous From Software's games the story is not very clear and is given to you by clues. You a begin awaking in a surgeon table while some old man is doing something to you, then you awake again discovering you are in a place called Yharnam.
There seems to be at least two main elements to the story:
One is that Yharnam is suffering a plague called "The scourge of the beasts" some kind of disease that slowly turns people into monsters, similar in many aspects to a werewolf disease. Now you play as a hunter a person who is used to hunt these monsters and your mission seems to be to find the source of the disease and stop it. The other element of the plot and a lot of the lore of the game is about some old gods, lost ruins, and a lot of other elements that are clearly inspired in H.P Lovecraft's stories.
How this two elements fit together is still unknown to me, as I haven't get that far with the story, but it seems there are some relationship between the old gods and the disease that is infecting the city. Most of the enemies you find are either related to the plague or to the old goods and as you advance you'll find weirder and weirder things.
Like the plot is not linear neither very clear, it works most as a background to the world than really something directing your actions, then you are left free to roam the city exploring as you see fit. This has the only disadvantage than sometimes is difficult to decide where to go next.
Like in any RPG there are side quests. As you travel through the city you'll find numerous characters, some will help you, others not so much. Some are there just to give atmosphere to this world but others have interesting stories and quests that you can complete. Something very interesting kind of related to the plot is something called insight, in the game this is a metric of the forbidden knowledge you have. Insight has several uses, the most interesting and cool is that at certain amounts it allows you to see and hear things that wouldn't be normally visible.
For those who have played Dark Souls the combat system is mostly the same and only changes in it's speed.
For those new to this games, the gameplay is in third person view, you can equip up to two weapons, one in each hand and you use the R1/R2 and the L1/L2 to control each hand. you can also doge and use a wide variety of items in combat.
Weapons are limited mostly to melee weapons like axes, swords and spears and ranged weapons are mainly pistols, shotgun and other short range weapons. Is important to note that most ranged weapons are not designed to do much damaged and their main use is to be used in counter attacks because if you shoot an enemy while is preparing to attack you can stun him and leave him vulnerable to a melee critical hit.
The most important items are potions an bullets, potions regain your health and bullets are consumed by a variety of guns and items, at any time you can only carry a limited amount of both them making resource management a bit important if you don't want to run out of items. Luckily they are quite common so much of the time this isn't a problem.
There is no magic as were used to, instead there are items with special effects similar to magic that consume bullets when used. Also the weapons are few but highly creative, most of them having two modes that complement each other. For example a metal cane that transforms into a whip, the short sword that transforms into two daggers and several other similar weapons. The weapons maybe few but the game encourages you to pick your favorite and master it as you usually don't need to change weapons because all of them are useful in all environments. For example I begin using the cane, it is the weakest of all weapons but is also the fastest and when transformed into a whip it has a longer range. This makes the weapon highly versatile as the cane mode is useful against slower tougher enemies, while the whip is good to fight multiple weak enemies, keeping them at bay and attacking from a safer distance.
Enemies are aggressive and you need to dodge a lot and counterattack when possible, also if you get hit, there is a window of time when if you attack back you can regain the health lost. This encourage an aggressive playstyle making the game extremely entertaining to play, specially against bosses, when you are dancing around the boss dodging attacks and counterattacking when the enemy lowers his defenses.
After a while playing and as you progress in the story you will find some chalices used to create something called a chalice dungeon, this are dungeons outside the main story where you can go to play and have fun killing monsters and even some cool bosses. I haven't reach that far in the dungeons but the main mechanic seems to work with all the dungeons. When you get a chalice you perform a ritual and the dungeon is created. There are two kinds of them, normal and root chalices. Normal ones create fixed predetermined dungeons and root chalices create randomized dungeons. Each dungeon seems to consist of several levels or layers as called in the game. Each layer consist of a series of rooms and a locked boss room. As you explore the main rooms you'll eventually reach the lever that opens the boss room, you fight it and then you can move to the next layer.
Once you finish the dungeon you can return and kill more monsters or erase it and make a new one. I must said chalices are not destroyed when used so for normal chalices you can replay it and face the bosses as much as you want. Random dungeons change every time but they seem to have more treasure and items than normal dungeons. There seems to be a lot of chalices you can find, the main differences being the difficulty and the type of monsters and bosses they contain. Also the dungeons are filled with items and treasure chests, being a good place to find items and make money. Personally I loved this addition as it gives you a good place to practice, have fun and get good items.
There are two main multiplayer modes Co-op and PVP both of them works in similar ways, as you advance through the game you'll find 3 bells that allow you to play online.
In PVP you have a red bell and when you ring it the game seeks suitable players to "invade" then you are transported to the other player's world to try to kill him, the one who come out victorious receives a reward. Using the bell to invade other players also make you more prone to be invaded. Finally there are special enemies that seem to appear when engaging in co-op and in some of the dungeons that will summon other players to fight you adding an extra layer of fun to the game.
In the co-op the host who wants help ring a bell and people who want to help others ring another. The game the finds suitable companions and helpers are transported to the host game. Here an important thing to notice is that as long as the host doesn't die or teleports the bell will keep summoning players up to a maximum of 2. Once you defeat a boss the game is considered over and the guests return to their worlds.
We also have some passive elements to the multiplayer, when you are playing online there will appear messages of other players. When you are in the same place as other player is in his game sometimes you can see them as ghosts. And sometimes when someone dies there will appear a ghost depicting his death. This are simple elements that add a lot of atmosphere to the online play as you can see other players even if you can't interact with them and you can see how others have die in the game.
Graphics, design and sound
The most important thing to mention here is the art design, everything in the game looks awesome. Maybe the graphics are not of the highest quality but the designs are great, the monsters look really cool with a wide variety of them. From werewolves and monstrous animals to strange creatures that seems taken directly from Lovecraft mythology.
The city look gorgeous with a kind of gothic architecture that makes it really cool, you also visit the sewers that even if simpler you always have a look of the city making it a great background. Probably the environments could use more diversity as you play a good chunk of the beginning of game in the city until you get to the outskirts of the city and you enter the forest and have access to other more different looking places.
The soundtrack is really good blending with the atmosphere of the game being quite calm most of the time with the best of the music played in the boss battles, even if it's really good I must say that most of the time you get so immersed in the game that I barely noticed it.
As a conclusion the game for me is great and close to perfection. The plot is mysterious and interesting and the Lovecraft style to it simply makes me love the game. But also the combat is extremely entertaining with the difficult enemies keeping it challenging and never boring. The multiplayer is good and the dungeon mode is a great addition when you get tired of exploring the main world and just want to fight some monsters and get some items and money.
The only problems to the game I could find are more of a technical aspect as loading screens are quite long and boring as they consist only of the title of the game against a black background. Just adding some images or music to them would make them much less tedious. This works in conjunction with the fact that you can't teleport from one place to another without having to visit your base making you pass two loading screens when you are teleporting from one place to another in the world. This is attenuated by the fact that traveling on foot is quite fast and efficient. Most places aren't too far from one another and there are tons of shortcuts.
I consider Bloodborne a must have for anyone that is looking for a good RPG for the PS4.
Dark Souls vs Bloodborne
As a bonus, and as I'm a fan of From Software's games I would like to make a quick comparison between Bloodborne and Dark Souls, does it improves upon what previous games has done or is a step backwards.
Personally I found more upgrades than downgrades, probably the only problem as I said before is that you can't teleport without passing through your home, this added with the long boring loading screens makes it a bit annoying considering that we have a good teleporting system in Dark Souls II. There are things that make me had mixed feelings like the lack of magic, the small number of weapons or that the game feels a bit easier but taking all together I think Bloodborne is an improvement. Dark Souls centered too much in blocking with your shield, and specially Dark Souls II nerfed heavily magic making it much less eficient in battle than the sword and shield approach. On the other side Bloodborne feels more balanced you can use light or heavy weapons, items, pistols any style you want to try and it doesn't feel that one is much more better than other. It actually feels so strange that grenades and items are actually useful weapons when in Dark Souls they were mostly useless.
Bosses seems to have improved, it could just be me but I always felt Dark Souls II bosses where less impressive and memorable than those in Dark Souls I. Personally I think it was the lack of cinematics before boss fights as you don't have a dramatic introduction to the boss. Also that the majority of the bosses where quite simple just requiring to hit them enough. Bloodborne bosses seems to be better than those in DSII and on par of the ones in the original Dark Souls. This is achieved with cool cinematics before some bosses and with more variety in the fights as most of the bosses transform, changes tactics or get much more aggressive as their health gets lower.
Finally I consider that Bloodborne will attract a wider audience because even if it is difficult is more forgiving to the player, there are less traps and deathly falls than in Dark Souls. I rarely found enemies or bosses that can kill you in one hit making mistakes less deathly and the game more enjoyable.