Bloodborne is an action RPG developed by FromSoftware for the PlayStation 4. The player assumes the role of a hunter, an individual tasked with dispatching the never-ending nightmare that plagues the diseased city of Yharnam. Yharnam is a place once renowned for holding the cure to the plague, but this is no longer the case as the city now runs rampant with this very same plague. Prepare to embark on a perilous journey that will see the hunter uncover the mysteries of Yharnam while overcoming insurmountable odds. Fear the old blood.
The story is cocooned in a rich lore that is captured by the bloodstained streets of Yharnam and its plague-stricken inhabitants. Much of it is shrouded in mystery such as the ongoing conflict between the Healing Church and Byrgenwerth College or the presence of the Great Ones, colossal beings that spur a mix of fear and devotion in its inhabitants. NPC dialogue and item descriptions provide insight into these mysteries. Cut-scenes are few in number and short at that, but they do enough for the player to point them in the general direction of this dark tale. Even with all of the information provided, Bloodborne remains a game best left to interpretation, as the player must make use of the bits and pieces provided to them to unravel Yharnam and understand where they fall in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, it is up to the player to decide whether or not Bloodborne is a dream worth waking up from.
Bloodborne’s combat system holds a very similar feel to the Souls franchise as mechanics such as sidestepping, rolling, and parrying are included. There are however, some major changes such as replacing the shield with a gun. Players are no longer able to block in Bloodborne as the gun acts as a tool to stun and parry targets. This change allows for combat to become much faster paced and fluid. Another major deviation from the Souls franchise is the lack of the Estus Flask. No longer can players simply drink from an easy to replenish vial. Rather, the player must make use of consumables as well as a new system that allows the player to replenish health by striking an enemy within a certain timeframe. This makes combat far more difficult as players must now keep inventory and remain engaged in combat with the unforgiving AI.
The enemy AI is unforgiving as even the slightest miscalculation can cause an instant death, but this makes overcoming the AI far more rewarding. It is important for the player to analyze situations and learn enemy attack patterns especially during boss fights. Blood echoes can be used to ease the challenges they find in Yharnam, but only those that are willing to learn and adapt to their environment can overcome every threat.
Blood echoes are a currency used to increase player statistics and upgrade weapons in order to make trials slightly less daunting. There are not a great deal of weapons to choose from, but each weapon comes with the ability to transform and offer a new combination of attacks for the player to take advantage of. Although there are not many weapons for the player to choose from, the player stats coupled with the transformative capabilities of each weapon allows for the player to adopt a variety of play styles such as constantly striking at the enemy with the swiftness of the Chikage or perhaps avoiding the opponent’s attacks until there is an opening to bring Ludwig’s Holy Blade crashing down on them.
Chalice Dungeons are optional trials that take place beneath Yharnam. They have the player venture through labyrinths with the objective of unlocking gates and defeating the boss found on each floor. These labyrinths are almost an antithesis to the central portion of Bloodborne as level design is repetitive and combat is anything but exciting. There are however, a few redeeming features such as rewards exclusive to the Chalice Dungeon.
Visually, Bloodborne captures the dark mystique of the game through the effective use of color palettes and the Gothic Victorian style that is reflected through the game’s architecture and outfits. As the player progresses, the visual style shifts tremendously from locale to locale, but these shifts always feel organic as the transition helps to progress the story. The graphics are crisp, having attention paid to every detail. The only issue with Bloodborne’s graphics is the occasional framerate issues, which do diminish the overall enjoyment of the game, but is very miniscule when compared to the successes of this title.
Bloodborne’s soundtrack is enthralling as each score not only pulls the player deeper into Yharnam, but also provides insight into the history of Yharnam and its inhabitants. The score heard during the battle with the Cleric Beast is a spectacle to behold, as it makes clear that the fight at hand is one of terrifying proportions while also reflecting the lore that identifies Cleric Beasts as the most hideous of beasts in Yharnam. The more serene portions of the game do amazingly well to shift away from the nightmarish terror that looms over Yharnam.
Lamps found after slaying bosses allow the player to venture to the Hunter’s Dream, a world separate from Yharnam that acts as a safe-zone. Travelling here causes the score to become far more tranquil and reflective of the dreamlike state the players find themselves in. Character voices are full of uncertainty and deceit, which does well to capture the essence of Yharnam. Enemy sounds do not betray Yharnam either as they are terrifying to say the least.
Albeit a few minor flaws, Bloodborne is a title worthwhile for any that are interested in an immersive experience that finds its tale told by every aspect of the world it is told in. Bloodborne will not disappoint players that find excitement in challenge as it boasts an unforgiving AI and a combat system that encourages players to favor mobility. Unraveling the mystery of Yharnam and overcoming the never-ending nightmare of this fallen city is a perilous journey worth embarking on. May the good blood guide your way.