At Gamescom 2014, I had the opportunity to see a closed door presentation of From Software’s upcoming Bloodborne. We’ve already seen plenty of this Souls-style game at E3, but this presentation shed some more light on some of the systems at work on Miyazaki’s gothic/Victorian horror action-RPG dreamscape.

During the presentation, it was clearly stated that the difficulty of the Souls games would be preserved in Bloodborne, but there are some significant changes happening. We already knew shields were out, but now there’s a delicate risk-reward to the constant frenetic action. It’s known as the “regain” mechanic, and it works something like this:

Whenever the player gets hit by an attack, they lose health. Nothing new there. But in Bloodborne, the player has a chance to regain some of that life by landing successful blows during a small window of time. It forces the player into constant dangerous choices - Do you go for a quick assault and risk taking even more damage to try and gain your lost life, or let it go. Don’t think for a second that this turns the Souls-style combat into some sort of dumbed down hack-and-slash, players will be placed in continual life and death situations and must make difficult choices based on their own skill, the environment, and the enemies in the encounter to survive.

Here’s another significant change - Healing items (Bloodborne’s version of Estus Flasks) no longer occupy item slots. Instead, the number of available items is simply placed in a globe near the top left of the UI, and they are usable without taking up an item slot. This leaves the player free to use some of the new consumable items we had a chance to see in the demo - Oil, molotov cocktails, and pebbles to name a few. The oil/molotov combo is fairly easy to figure out, while pebbles can be used to lure enemies away from packs so they can be dealt with easily. The other visible item slot on the UI is used to hold ammunition for the various ranged weapons that the player will have access to.

Some new weapons were shown, namely the rather straightforward heavy axe and the much more interesting mechanical stave arm. This potent weapon has a short range and requires precise timing to use effectively, and skilled players will likely enjoy taking it out for a spin. All weapons have a “charge” attack that can be readied and unleashed.

The presentation moved into a Grave Town area featuring some terrifying, frenzied old woman enemies that brandished flaming weapons and scythes. They swarm and things look quite bad for our hero, but something happens - The player rolls into them. It’s then stated that these enemies, being thematically old and frail, are actually susceptible to being staggered by a roll. These rolls saved the player’s life and got him through what would have been an overwhelming attack.

Another area was then shown, a dark vertical area with plenty of wooden planks, slightly reminiscent of Blighttown or The Gutter. The player moves into a typical Souls-style trap, a dark area full of seemingly dead ghouls that spring to life when the player picks up a glowing object. After the player falls into a pit of rats, the demonstration ends with a giant plague pig roaring to life and charging.

While I can’t wait for details on the new multiplayer functionality, Bloodborne is hitting all the right notes right now.