Video Game Review


Although they have been developing video games for several decades now, From Software have in recent years become renown for and shifted their attention towards developing action RPG’s targeted at the growing number of masochists who wish to be brutally challenged when gaming, rather than simply guided through an experience. After first drawing significant commendation with the PlayStation 3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, From Software subsequently collaborated with Bandai Namco on two new titles: Dark Souls and Darks Souls 2. While their last two games have been multiplatform success stories, From Software opted to work exclusively with Sony Computer Entertainment to bring another one of their challenging experiences exclusively to the PlayStation 4: Bloodborne. The end product ends up being something that takes many of the best elements from the Souls franchise, while also delivering a brand new setting and new gameplay ideas to the table, greatly setting it apart from its predecessors.

Bloodborne does not share the traditional medieval setting of past Souls games, instead opting to take place in a built up Victorian era city named Yharnam and its surrounding territories. You take control of a customisable and mute character, who after the opening cinematic finds himself/herself assigned the role of a hunter. Other than immediately highlighting that the city is afflicted with an illness which has progressively begun transforming its residents into beasts, Bloodborne starts players off with very little information on the game’s lore, and it is possible to play the entire game without fully being able to grasp or appreciate the storyline. However through a combination of dialogue from a small number of NPC’s, the occasional cutscene and written content in menus, you can begin to piece together quite a compelling world. There is currently plenty of discussion online surrounding different elements of the plot, so even if the delivery may not be to everyone’s taste, it certainly has a lasting impact in the way it gets people talking about it.

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With Bloodborne providing a more built up environment to circumnavigate as you go on the hunt for new areas to explore and bosses to defeat, there are many hidden nooks and other means in which the developers creatively entice unwitting players into seeing an early “You Have Died” screen. Tricks, traps and overwhelming players with mobs has long been the “Souls” way of challenging players… and this approach is in full force again. There are no shortage of occasions when you will turn around and find an enemy mere inches away from your character or otherwise lunging at you as you loot a conspicuously placed corpse. Coupled with enemies and bosses with high HP, high attack power and sometimes being quick on their feet, getting through each area of the game proves to be no small feat. Getting through this game is an accomplishment worthy of praise, with the developers clearly not wanting to hold your hand through the experience at all.

While Bloodborne is easier than “Souls” games with respect to it not docking half your character’s health after becoming undead, there are a number of ways in which the game is made even more challenging and/or infuriating. With exception to “Poison Cloud” for those who own an unpatched version of Demon’s Souls (Asian English Ver.) on the PlayStation 3, shields have been the most invaluable asset to many players of Souls games. While shields have not been completely omitted from Bloodborne, they have been heavily nerfed to the point of almost being useless. With shields replaced by a variety of alternative weapons including guns (For ranged attacks) and torches (To light your path), the game encourages everyone to worry less about protecting their meager HP count and instead on attacking, parrying and dodging their way to victory. Taking down a group of 10+ enemies without hiding behind a shield 2/3rds of the time proves to be incredibly rewarding, and encourages players to think of new means to take down a threat. Should you die… try, try again.

This action-first defense-second approach to fighting was complemented by the sheer range of versatile weapons available for players to obtain/purchase, with no two being exactly the same. From a cane which can transform into a wide-range whip to a blade which can switch between single-handed and dual-wield forms, the game encourages you to work with whatever weapon suits your playstyle – even if that weapon is one you earned in the first five minutes of playing. Personally, I fell in love with the Threaded Cane (One of three starter weapons), and used it on almost every boss from start to finish. This is supported by a fortifying system, which allows you infuse your weapons with both Blood Stones (For permanent strength upgrades – +1, +2 etc.) and up to three Blood Gems (Non-permanent boosts which can be switched in and out at will).


One of the more unique elements to Bloodborne were the newly introduced Chalice Dungeons. Through conducting a chalice ritual, players can produce their own dungeon which can then be explored and shared with others online. Each floor of a dungeon features its own boss, randomized loot and enemies, with the goal being to unlock the boss door and make your way further into the labyrinth. These dungeons start off with a fixed structure and don’t vary much, but once you obtain the Root Chalice, allows you to create a fully randomized dungeon of your very own. These dungeons offer a lot of post-game replay value, especially with all the loot and potential challenges awaiting players in the higher-level dungeons.

The Souls franchises’ multiplayer mechanics are mostly retained in Bloodborne, allowing players to summon other players into the world as support or otherwise invade the world of another player with the intent to kill them. This time it is usually only possible to invade the world of someone who has already rung their ‘Beckoning Bell’ for support, potentially leaving invaders at a disadvantage given they could be fighting against more than one human-controlled character. It is also possible to once again leave floor messages for players to follow or ignore. Personally, there is more fun to be had in leaving misguided messages – ensnaring other players in an enemy trap.


Even though this is quite easily the most content-filled game developed by From Software in some time, delivering an experience which I have not had since Demon’s Souls back in 2010, it does have its share of problems. Despite its visual quality only meeting the standard of a mid-era PlayStation 3 game (Despite the many beautiful vistas to be found), Bloodborne does suffer from long loading times and fairly significant lag at points. Especially considering you need to return to the hub area prior to warping between previously visited zones in Yharnam, the long loading times can build up to an unsatisfactory amount of lost gameplay. Let’s hope this is rectified in an upcoming patch.

But overall, those looking for a strong AAA PlayStation 4 exclusive game should find that Bloodborne more than meets their needs. While it is in essence the same style of game that From Software have dedicated their development time to over the last half-decade or so, there are many alterations and additions which make it stand out in its own right. Although the storytelling may not be immersive for some and the visual quality might not be considered “current generation” standard, these issues will likely be forgotten once you are making your way through the challenging open world environment – where boss battles can leave you on the edge of your seat and one poorly considered action can leave your character dead. While it lacks wide-audience appeal, this is without a doubt the best PlayStation 4 exclusive to date in my opinion.

Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.


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