Looking back at some earlier posts, I quickly realised I had not ever reviewed Bloodborne.
Having recently finished my first play-through (and working on a second) and also playing through some of The Old Hunter DLC I thought it might be time to put some thoughts down. Does Bloodborne stack up to the other great series, Dark Souls?
I would have to say a definitive yes, even if the differing mechanics take some getting use to.
Bloodborne has been heavily inspired by H.P Lovecraft’s works. We are dealing with Werewolves, Call of Cthulhu and Victorian London. It is an amazing setting from a game, and is consistently grim and foreboding as a result. You awaken as a hunter, a character used to dealing with abhorrent beasts and monsters at every turn.
The mechanics are quite different to the Souls games. You do have magic still, in the form of Arcane, but if you are use to being a shield and sword hero from the Souls games you are in for quite a surprise. Even though shields exist in Bloodborne, they are next to useless. Bloodborne is all about evading and counter attacks, and the game mechanics reward you for attacking style of play. If you get hit by an enemy, you have a few seconds to regain that health, if you can successfully counter attack. Blood Echoes are the commodity in Bloodborne (the equivalent of souls in the Dark Souls games), and after your first overwhelming boss fight you can start levelling your character up.
Another new mechanic is the idea of “trick” weaponary. A lot of the primary weapons can be altered to a two handed extended weapon, that completely changes the types of attacks you do. My trusty upgraded hunter’s axe (+10) is nice and quick as a one handed weapon, while great for dealing with mobs of enemies in the tricked out two handed weapon. On top of this, you have a secondary weapon held in your left hand, that can be various arcane items or even something as simple as a pistol. With practice the pistol is very effective at countering and staggering your opponents, which leads to a visceral (high damage) attack.
Depending on your style of play, Bloodborne’s difficulty can be quite intimidating. Your first boss fight (once you get there) is a huge challenge, one you are not likely to live through (at least not on your first play through). Even the first monster you encounter is tough, and deadly quick. Indeed, one of the main reasons I never finished this game is that I struggled in the middle part of my play through. But that is before I discovered another great feature of Bloodborne: Chalice Dungeons.
Chalice Dungeons are additional dungeons you can explore underneath the setting for for the main game, and you discover these by finding chalices through the main game and performing the appropriate rite to open them. Inside these dungeons are more foes to fight, but it also provides you with valuable blood echoes (experience) and blood vials (health). You can even find chalices that randomly generate the dungeon too, and in true Diablo like fashion, you go deeper and deeper in search of loot.
Indeed after a year’s break from the game Chalice Dungeons are where I started again, to re-learn the game. It also enabled me to pick up some additional experience before trying more of the main single player campaign. It is a great addition and adds some longevity to the game, even if the dungeons start to feel a bit samey after a while. There are different types of chalices though, which means you’ll get some variety, initially at least. It is a great way of doing some additional grinding, without re-using the same single player areas.
I do hope we see a sequel to Bloodborne. After spending some time with the game I’ve really gotten to like the quick and evasive mechanics; to the point where my shield and sword character in Dark Souls feels quite slow now. The trick weapons are fantastic, though I do wish there were a few more options. From Software did add quite a few more weapons in The Old Hunter DLC but the difficulty is higher (still playing through this) so players might find themselves going back to the main game without ever finishing the DLC.
This brings me to another very important point, and one of the few gripes I have. Normally the DLC is available to play part way through the main game. If you defeat the final boss though you are immediately put on a new play through, therefore negating the ability to actually play the DLC. I fell foul of this, and that was why I play partly through a second time, just to get access to The Old Hunter DLC. This is a bit of a shame, and another reason I’m betting the DLC probably doesn’t get finished by a lot of players.
The Old Hunter plays quite differently to the standard game though, which is great. The monsters are quick, and some are extremely deadly. I found myself more than once running past some huge and powerful enemies in the hope of avoiding conflict. It is definitely worth checking out if you’ve never played the DLC. I must admit though, because I’m on NG+ (Next Game +) my character is not up to the task of defeating the first main boss of the DLC, even with co-op help.
If you like the Dark Souls games, you will really get into Bloodborne, once you get use to the faster aggressive style of play. If you’ve never played a Souls game, I would rent or try before committing fully to purchase because this is old school risk / reward gaming at its finest, and is not for everyone. There is no handing hold here, no casual fights that can be easily beaten. You will sweat and groan in frustration, while you die countless times. But that is part of the magic of these amazing games – you will get a little better each time and eventually overcome.
Played on the PS4 Pro. Images from various public domain sources.