Bloodborne is a new Action RPG by From Software for the PS4. For anyone who didn’t play Dark Souls the main thing you need to know is… this game is brutal and very unforgiving. Be prepared to die. It is also completely worth the pain if you can take it. For anyone concerned about spoilers, I am going to try to keep away from anything

Gameplay

As someone who mostly plays MMOs the fact Bloodborne can’t be paused wasn’t a huge issue for me, however not being able to save whenever I wanted to was a bit of a transition from most RPGs I play. There are checkpoints in the form of lanterns which can be activated as progress is made throughout the game (finding new areas, killing bosses, etc…). There aren’t very many of these though, and you have to activate them when you find them or else you won’t be able to use them.

Bloodborne™_20150322132326Bloodborne also functions a bit differently from other RPGs because every time time you zone in or out or die, all the mobs respawn on the map. That is nice for helping gather Blood Echoes (currency), but it can be a bit of a pain when you die after running through a very long section. It also caught me quite off guard at first.

Speaking of Blood Echoes, they are needed for buying new items, upgrading and repairing weapons, and a little thing called leveling your character up. All stat increases cost a certain amount of Blood Echoes and this is the main way characters are leveled. A certain amount are rewarded for each enemy killed, harder enemies give more.

One thing I was at first saddened by and then intrigued by is when I died I lost all the Blood Echoes I had collected (and not spent). However they could be recovered. They were either on the ground where I died, or one of the enemy monsters might have picked them up. If they were picked up all I had to do was look for the guy with the glowing eyes and kill him. However, if you die on your way to retrieve the Blood Echoes they will be lost forever. This resulted in me, rather hysterically, scrambling to pick them up mid Boss fight on a few occasions.

The zones are pretty huge and have a ton of hidden paths. Exploration and repetition are a huge part of Bloodborne. Not only will shortcuts be found, which are hugely helpful after dying, but sometimes a way which had been blocked will become unlocked. For instance in one of the first areas there is a gate which can’t be opened from the side you’ll be on. However, as you explore you’ll find a lever which will open the gate and will let you pass through. Ways which are unlocked in this manner will not reset when you die. I’d suggest checking everything out, and if you get to a point where you can’t figure out where you should be going… look for ladders or boxes blocking passages.

You will die in Bloodborne, accept it now. It’s ok. In fact in order to get your first weapons you have to die in the first fight in the game. So that is gotten out of the way quickly. After the first death the player is transported to the Hunter’s Dream which serves as the player’s main hub. This is where the player obtains their first weapons to be able to effectively fight. Check back often because new things will show up as progress is made throughout the story.

Combat

The combat is very fast paced and the enemy AI is sort of interesting. Nearly all the monsters will use a variety of tactics when fighting, which will change as you level up. However, they are apparently all deaf. There are many occasions where I’d be brutally and noisily killing a mob right next to another one but they wouldn’t even notice. Learning what would and wouldn’t cause aggro was interesting since I was sort of expecting some of the mechanics of stealth games to be in play.

The off hand guns can be used to interrupt an attack, and if timed correctly it can be followed up with a very brutal killing blow. It would be gruesome if it was more realistic, but it always feels like a bit of an accomplishment. This stunning effect doesn’t have as much of an effect on the Bosses, but it is extremely useful for most monsters encountered throughout the game.

Bloodborne™_20150322170315All of the main hand weapons have two forms. They have the smaller 1h version which does slightly less damage but attacks really quickly. The quick attacks are very useful for quickly overwhelming a monster before it can attack back (they’ll also do this to you).

By pressing L1 the main hand weapon will transform into a big two hander (Hunter Axe shown here). As expected this form will be a bit slower but will do more damage per hit. Additionally you’ll be able to hit things further away, and in the case of the Hunter Axe AoE damage is also a bonus.

Combat also seems designed around staying mobile and using the terrain to your advantage, especially when it comes to Boss fights. Range attacks can often be avoided by simply walking after the shot is fired or stepping behind a pillar. For other attacks running or dodging is generally required, though both of those consume Stamina which is also needed to attack. Managing Stamina consumption is extremely important.

The last part of combat to be aware of is the Regain system. When the player takes damage they have a small window of time where they can regain the health by dealing damage. However, this doesn’t mean it is always best to just charge in and be extremely aggressive because what you can get back might be less than the damage you could be taking. Again it’s about finding the right balance and timing things correctly.

Multiplayer

The default asynchronous multiplayer is one of my favorite features in Bloodborne. As you wander around you and other players can leave notes about all sorts of things. Some notes might be helpful, warning you about an impending ambush, while others might be decidedly less helpful. Other players can vote on each note they discover as to if it was helpful or not. My only real complaint with the note system is it’s all prewritten text.

Bloodborne™_20150322173645Also every time a player dies they will leave a red bloodstain where a tombstone will rise, and by interacting with it you can watch their final moments. This is sometimes funny, but it can also be helpful in avoiding potential danger or figuring out how to win a fight. Additionaly as the player increases their Insight level they’ll more often see ghosts of other players running around which can be distracting but it also can give clues about where to go.

CO-OP Multiplayer is also available after obtaining the Beckoning Bell and Small Resonant Bell. The Beckoning Bell is how a player invites others to join, and the Small Resonant Bell is how other players signal they would like to join a multiplayer game. There is also an option to set a password so only people you give the password to can join. Each session costs an Insight point and up to 3 players can play together at once.

PvP is also available for people who are interested in it. An Insight level of at least 30 and a Sinister Resonant Bell are required to take part. The goal is for the host to reach the Boss on the map before either one or two other players kill the hosting player.

Technical Aspects

First thing first, Bloodborne is a beautiful game. All of the environments have a ton of detail which helps to set the Gothic/horror setting. All the character models have a ton of detail as well, including hair movement which is often an issue in many games. I often notice when playing characters with longer hair it often moves in just weird ways, which can be distracting. From Software’s attention to detail overall is really impressive.

Bloodborne™_20150320211346Overall the game runs really smoothly as well. I had no stuttering or visual issues at all. In fact gameplay was pretty much bug free. The only thing I experienced which could fall into the realm of a bug is when I first start up the game player notes and tombstones won’t load up. However, the first time I go to the Hunter’s Dream and back everything loads up no problem.

There is one aspect which was a good bit frustrating though, the loading screen. Every time you die or go to/come back from Hunter’s Dream you get a loading screen… and it is generally long. My loading screens were so long in fact I started timing them. The shortest one I got was 11 seconds and the longest was 41 seconds, which is almost a minute. Overall the average length of my loading screens was 30 seconds… which was extremely frustrating. I started feeling like the real downside of dying wasn’t losing my echoes and the items I used but the loading screen.

Conclusion

Overall Bloodborne is an excellent game. I didn’t even discuss the story, character creation, or chalice dungeons at all but they are all highlights as well. This game is not easy though. People who get frustrated at dying might have a hard time getting through Bloodborne. Blindly running in and just whaling on mobs will only get you so far, tactical play is really emphasized. Additionally the “tutorial” is extremely limited. Most everything is left to the player to figure out; which is an awesome departure from the norm in gaming these days.

Bloodborne is an Action RPG for PS4 and will be released in America on 3/24 and in Europe on 3/25. It has an ESRB rating of M for gore, violence, and unrated content created by players.

Review Score
Bloodborne
Robin has been playing video games her entire life, but fell down the well of MMOs in 2005 and only recently has she reemerged to play other types of games as well, though MMOs are still her main focus.