When Bloodborne first released the rumors suggested that this was the hardest game of this generation. It was said that this was the type of game that only hardcore gamers would be able to master. The developers themselves stated that they couldn’t even beat the game on New Game Plus mode! So does Bloodborne live up to the hype and is it actually a fun game? Let’s talk.
Bloodborne’s story is dark and I’m talking pitch black running into walls dark. You play as an outsider, a man or woman searching for a cure to an unknown disease that has inflicted you. The only hope of finding a cure is to search the great city of Yharnam which is known for its great success in the healing department. Ironically, Yharnam has a problem with a disease of its own that is actually a blood curse which has plagued its streets turning innocent townspeople into beasts. In exchange for the hope of finding a cure you agree to join the hunt to help purge the city of Yharnam and help find a cure for what is ailing the city itself. You are a Hunter, it’s time to hunt!
The story and scenery has a very gothic tone and in fact the story itself is shrouded in mystery and does not make it a point to openly reveal itself. It’s almost like a dream; in fact you are in a dream, inside a nightmare, inside a dream. One of your first encounters is with a 7ft. tall talking doll that will serve as your friend and servant that is used to upgrade your character. If you truly hope to understand what is going on you must pay close attention to cut scenes, dialog with the NPCs (non playable characters) in the game, as well as various environmental clues that become available in your travels through Yharnam. Get ready to hear and read a lot about blood in this bloody game. Certain story elements stuck out to me and made me want to investigate the meaning and discuss with other gamers the interpretation thereof; it definitely causes you to use your brain. There is a main story to follow, but the game has an open world type of environment as well which allows you to really explore the world around you. Don’t be scared, sure there are terrible beast and creatures everywhere but there are also several NPCs that you can interact with. Some of these NPCs are quite interesting as well as helpful and will have a lasting effect on you and the story while others are not interesting and fall a bit short. The interaction varies, but it is a good idea to speak with each and every one you come in contact with if you’re into story development. However, I didn’t buy Bloodborne for its story. I bought it for the gameplay and the challenge it presents and the gameplay my friends, tells a story all on its own.
The beginning is typical for a game like this; you can create your own character, customize him or her and can choose from a number of class types. Each class type does vary by stats, in which case some will give you a slight edge and others will leave you completely handicapped. This gives the game a welcome sense of freedom letting you choose your own destiny as you can literally live or die based on your selection. Upon your first interaction with the beasts in the city you quickly understand that Bloodborne is designed to be fierce and unforgiving and I thoroughly enjoyed this characteristic. Various weapons are at your disposal like a melee weapon which is often a razor sharp object such as the infamous Saw Cleaver – Slicey Dicey. This type of weapon is interchangeable and works in cooperation with a pistol as you can have your firearm in one hand and a melee weapon in the other. This combination of weaponry is balanced and works very well together because the pistol is not very powerful and is basically used to stun the enemy for a second as you deal damage with your melee weapon. Using skill and strategy as opposed to just taking a hack and slash approach will serve you well in most encounters. For example: If you time your pistol’s shot as the enemy is about to strike you it will stun the enemy allowing you to perform an execution attack that will often kill or take away a large portion of the enemy’s life bar. It’s these types of gameplay mechanics that makes Bloodborne stand out and is extremely rewarding when you pull it off. The combat itself is fast paced and there is no real ability to block. Rather the game encourages you to strike back immediately when you get hit and rewards you for it by giving you a portion of your health back. The slicey dicey approach does work sometimes and the sound of slicing through a monster’s flesh is so sick that it makes you feel so good. It’s quite “gut wrenching”.
The RPG elements of Bloodborne really shine through when upgrading your character’s stats, weapons, and magic abilities as well as the ability to acquire a plethora of helpful tools and items. These items range from health regenerates called blood vials to additional weapon items and consumables that provide a short boost of power. Each time you upgrade you level up, but upgrading doesn’t come so easy and comes at a cost as you will need to collect blood echoes, which is the currency in the game that you acquire by killing enemies. Choosing which stat to upgrade becomes extremely important to your character’s development path. Do you want to have more stamina and less health? Do you want to have more magic abilities and less strength? Or do you want to farm blood echoes for hours to acquire enough currency to be a super bad Hunter that has it all? The possibities that are open to you are impressive and it’s really your choice how you want to play it. But don’t be fooled, the game will always present a clear and present danger so don’t get cocky like I did at first or you will see the “YOU DIED” screen more than you would like.
The beasts that you will use your skills on fill the streets and vary from townspeople who have just begun the transformation into beasthood, to full blown beast that tower above you and pose a threat level that can easily get you killed in one hit. Speaking of getting killed did I mention that you will die a lot? Well you are going to die a lot! On top of that there are not any traditional check points in the game, at least not the type that we have become accustomed to. The closest thing to a check point would be various lamps you will find here and there in each section of Yharnam. The lamps will serve as a check point and a gateway that lets you access the “dream world” where you can do all of your upgrades. But these lamps do not show up very often so you can’t really rely on them however, this is where Bloodborne’s genius level design comes into play. You create your own check points by finding and unlocking shortcuts that are near the very few lamps you will find in a level. The shortcuts allow you to quickly get back to where you died which is very welcome as having to traverse the whole level to get back becomes a real pain.
Each part of Yharnam is clearly connected and you are able to reach and visit just about any area you see in the distance. You just have to find your way there using your wits, because the game is definitely not going to guide you. There is no mini map, no arrow telling you where to go, and often times no clear objective that will push you in any particular direction. The game forces you to put your big boy or girl pants on and think, react, and explore. I never found myself lost for too long because the level design is so well constructed that you become very familiar with the areas and can determine what path you need to take next. The crystal clear graphic design of the game also compliments the level design and character models very well. The moonlight glistening off of the puddles of water in the streets, the great detail put into each character and beast, the use of shadows to provide just the right amount of darkness to provide cover for the creatures lurking about is all a testament to how much time and dedication has been put into the look of the game. All of this is designed to further draw you into Bloodborne’s insidious world, and it works!
My absolute favorite part of Bloodborne is the boss fights! There are a good amount of bosses in the game, some mandatory and some optional. Like the beasts you encounter the bosses also have a blood curse but they pose a greater threat and will end your life in a heartbeat. Each boss is unique, at times you will be facing a towering slobbering beast and other times you will face a Hunter that is just on the verge of losing their minds and becoming a beast. I experienced some of the most frustrating and exhilarating moments I have ever faced in a game with the majority of these boss fights. Each one requires a different tactical approach and each of them have an elemental weakness that if used will give you a very slight edge. Ever heard of “patience is a virtue”? Well this statement has never been truer. I found myself getting a boss down to less than 10% health on several occasions and dying from one or two blows because I got anxious and tried to rush the attack. The punishment for breaking the laws of the game are death – it’s cold but fair. My heart was racing during each encounter, palms sweating, muscles clinched, and much rage was displayed in the comfort of my living room. The struggle was all too real but, I appreciated the harsh cruelty found within each boss fight because I knew that when I beat a boss I had earned that victory all on my own. It was such a gratifying feeling overcoming the insurmountable odds I faced that I often jumped out of my chair and released all the pressure with a resounding “YESSS! TAKE THAT YOU HAIRY UGLY BASTARD!”
Sound hard enough for you? If it gets too real for you out there in the bloody streets of Yharnam then you can call on a friend to help you. Yes, there is a co-op and even a PVP option within Bloodborne. You can play with up to 2 other players in co-op and PVP is a 1 v 1 duel or a 1 v up to 3 player duel if you invade the wrong game. The only issue I had with the co-op was that after you cleared a level and defeated the boss the game splits you up and you have to go through the trouble of hooking back up again. It would have been much better if you could play the full campaign without interruption but sadly this is not the case and causes unnecessary frustration. PVP invasion is a nice touch and allows you to troll someone’s campaign or look for straight up 1v1 bouts in certain areas of the game. You can always play offline if you don’t want to participate in the multiplayer aspect which is a great option for sure. I mean who wants to get invaded all the time? The game is hard enough. You and your friends can also traverse a set of side missions that you can unlock called the Chalice Dungeons. These challenges serve as an excellent way to earn secret loot and items in the game as well as encounter enemies you will not see in the campaign. As you can see there is a lot of content and a lot of fun to be had.
Bloodborne took me about 50 hours to complete and with the completion of New Game Plus Mode under my belt and the Chalice Dungeons I spent well over 100 plus hours on this game. Bloodborne is a game to be feared, respected, and conquered. It pulls no punches and offers some of the best gameplay moments and boss fights you will ever experience. I highly recommend this game to anyone that is looking for something that will truly put their skills to the test.