Admittedly, FromSoftware’s library of games have only recently been discovered by me. That is not to say they were completely unknown, in fact Dark Souls‘ impact on the gaming community was prolific for years and still is today for its notoriously crushing difficulty. For years I was put off of their catalogue because of this, assuming the games to be hard for hard’s sake. Come Christmas holidays just gone, I purchased Dark Souls because I was bored and because it was only $20 and I quickly found out how wrong I was. I fell in love with their format and blasted through the Dark Souls series and have recently finished their second IP, Bloodborne, in time for my next review.
At the forefront of any FromSoftware title is its gameplay. Largely the same format across games, with minor tweaks to keep things fresh and title specific, it is notoriously challenging. Bloodborne offers very little in way of a tutorial and works with the philosophy of experimentation and persistence leads to reward and accomplish. You are told from the start to choose a weapon for your right hand, to take a gun for your left to counter enemies, and to mind your health and stamina bars. Soon, it becomes apparent that with every health-ravaging enemy slain you receive something called Blood Echoes (Souls in other titles) that act as the game’s currency for levelling up the character, buying supplies and increasing damage on weapons. There’s a lot more to be said, but the important thing to remember is that for every impossible enemy there is always a weakness, and for every failure there is always a way to get better. This game masters the balance between difficulty and fairness, and the player will love it.
A story a little on the anemic side
Fans of FromSoftware titles herald the studio for their approach to storytelling. Revere it. In some way, I do too. It is definitely engrossing. If you’re willing to be a little bit academic about it. Much of Bloodborne‘s story is told through some often chance encounters with NPC’s, through item descriptions, and through (which I think is remarkable) implication in landscape design – a favourite of mine is in Yahar’gul where the sides of buildings appear to have thousands of bodies casted into the side of them as if they were fossilised there years ago trying to escape something, and it’s just there and never specifically mentioned in game at any point. The story is never laid out for you fully and clearly, and requires player interpretation and collation. Roughly though, you are a hunter tasked with purging the land of Yharnam from foul beasts that roam around terrorizing civilians. If you want any more than that, you’re free to play the game or watch the thousands of hours on YouTube of people dissecting the story for you.
Horror is in the game’s veins
Bloodborne is not exactly set in Victorian England, but it may as well be. The game revels in its dark and gothic locales, and the denizens of the world are all fitted into 1800s vampyric outfits that emphasise a love of archaic horror akin to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Frankenstein, Dracula etc. Outside of this gorgeously rich and creative atmosphere, the influence of H.P. Lovecraft is palpable. The player’s overarching antagonists are ‘The Old Ones’ who are made to resemble Lovecraft’s eldritch beings. Outside of this, most regular enemies and bosses also take on horrific forms that defy laws of humanity and really draw out the elements of insanity and incomprehensability that Lovecraft is known for. Additionally, the game pulls off horror more tangibly with a few jumpscares from surprise enemies here and there. Oh, and there’s also just the constant fear of loosing your Blood Echoes if you die and just the constant fear of failure and just the constant fear of ‘Oh God, I am wasting so much time trying to beat this boss’.
For all these elements combined, this game is not one to be missed. If you can put aside your fears (as most horror lovers can, or like to indulge in) of failure and your hesitance at a non-narrated story, you’ll find a lot to love here. There is a reason that FromSoftware has changed the world of gaming for good, and Bloodborne is another flawless example of their talent. If I did have to ding it a little bit, I’d say it’s a little easier than the Dark Souls series. Four and a half Cthulhus out of 5. More to be read here.(4.5 / 5)