Monday, 14 May 2018

Review No. 141 Bloodborne - PS4 (16+)

Strong Points:
Makes you keep going back for more
Satisfaction of winning
Intricate level design with plenty of shortcuts
Enemy design
No hand-holding encourages experimentation
Tight controls
More aggressive than Souls series
Great world building...

Weak Points:
Voice acting at ends with the polished game
Can be overwhelming without help
No hand-holding can quickly remove options from the game
Some bosses are plain cruel
...Doesn't constitute a great story

In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
North America: March 24th, 2015
PAL: March 25th, 2015
Japan: March 26th, 2015
UK: March 27th, 2015

Left Analogue Stick: move character
Right Analogue Stick: move camera
L1: transform weapon
L2: attack using left-hand weapon/(dual wield) special attack
R1: standard attack
R2: strong attack/(hold) charged attack
R3: (menu) see stat properties/lock on/off enemy/camera reset
Square: use consumable
Triangle: use Blood Vial
O: backstep/(while moving in a direction) roll/(hold) sprint/(hold then press) jump
X: interact/(hold while moving controller) gesture
D-Pad: (up) gain 5 Blood Bullets/(down) switch consumable item/(right) switch right-handed weapon/(left) switch left-handed weapon
Options: open inventory
Touchpad (Left): open gesture menu
Touchpad (Right): open second item menu layer

I am not ashamed to say that this is the first SoulsBorne game I've completed. I've tried Dark Souls a couple of times and while I have enjoyed it, the sheer amount of layers in the game meant I often felt overwhelmed, especially once multiple dungeons started to get introduced. Bloodborne is more stripped back, more agile than Dark Souls. You can see this in the aggression focused combat and the limited customisation compared to the Souls games. You feel less bogged down in Bloodborne, allowing you to focus on what's important. Killing those bosses.

I'm also not ashamed to say that I used a guide for Bloodborne. Usually, I'm averse to guides - if there's something hidden, it's hidden for a reason. However, I played this game in a time where time was not something I had a lot of. Therefore, to know that I was reaching most areas of the game without having to comb every area and lore piece, especially in areas such as The Forbidden Woods, was great, allowing me to enjoy the game more. It's tough enough on its own, so to have help with just making sense of it all was nice.

And making sense of it all was difficult anyway. The SoulsBorne series has been critically acclaimed for making intricate lore and world building, with some saying the stories are masterpieces. Now, I'm not entirely sure about that, the story as a whole is quite basic and you're not really focused on it, but the world building is something else. Half gothic, half Lovecraftian, the world is so densely packed with detail that you could spend hours just looking at the architecture.

Case in point was when my brother walked in and recoiled at the game, shocked. His fresh pair of eyes had noticed that the farmhouse I was currently in was filled to the brim with bagged bodies, a fact that I hadn't noticed to begin with. The world and atmosphere are really well made, making it feel lived in, even without many other NPCs and the little drips of information from the loading screens makes you slowly understand the world without realising it. It's a shame the voice acting isn't up to par with the rest of the polished world though, feeling oddly jarring besides in the (new to the series) cutscenes. These cutscenes are expertly done, packing in yet more atmosphere to the game.

Now on to the gameplay, the main reason to play this game. As said previously, the game opts for a slightly more aggressive and streamlined style than the Souls series. Firstly, there's little in the way of shields, and they're basically unusable anyway. This encourages you to dodge more instead and therefore therefore, clothing doesn't affect speed or agility either. Secondly, each time you're hit, a part of the taken HP stays in your health bar, shown in yellow (besides with some boss attacks). If you can attack the enemy within a short window, this HP returns, allowing you to carry on attack for longer. This risk/reward system is great, and really ramps up the tension when you're close to death and have to decide whether to retreat or go in and attack before they start another combo.

As a whole, I'd say be aggressive. Just like in other action-RPGs such as Kingdom Hearts, if you can stop the enemy attacking, you're winning. This is certainly the case for some of the bosses, who can easily overwhelm you if you don't get to them first. While I won't go into specifics here to avoid spoilers, the bosses range from relatively easy to 'throwing the controller at the TV only for it to be absorbed and fired back at you' difficult, and not necessarily as a gradual incline. I found that rather frustrating - so many people must have not finished the game because they got stuck on an earlier boss which is so much harder than others just after. All these bosses have excellent and varied designs, ranging from humanoid to oh */?" what is that? Seriously, some of these bosses are freaky.

To help you defeat The Great Ones, there's a wide variety of weapons to choose from. My advice is to experiment early on with the weapons, but once you start upgrading past Twin Blood Stone Shards, pick a weapon and stick with it. My personal favourite was the Saw Cleaver due to its speed and the fact that I was always trying to stay as close to a boss anyway, so its range didn't matter. I loved the designs of the weapons, although the idea of a transforming weapon seemed better in theory than practice, with you really having to count your button presses to make them effective.

Graphically, this game is adequate. While it does have a current generation sheen and as mentioned previously, densely packed with detail, I wouldn't say the graphics are amazing. Textures pop out, the lighting is variable and a lighting source emits from somewhere on your person (even without a torch). It doesn't necessarily detract from the experience, but given their obvious expertise in level design, it feels odd that they couldn't design the lighting to work more naturally.

Conclusion: overall, Bloodborne is a great and original game, and a perfect starting point for people who want to try out From Software's library. It can be made easier or more difficult through a multitude of options from only playing the main bosses to choosing the Waste of Skin origin, which allows many skill levels to play. Just get ready to shout a lot and turn the game off in a rage. Only to put it back on 20 minutes later, with a grumble to yourself about how 'you were close last time'. It only makes the satisfaction of winning greater.

Rating: 85%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.


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