Feature

Four Things Bloodborne Should Do Better

by Joe Juba on Apr 23, 2015 at 01:15 PM

Developer From Software released a patch for Bloodborne today, addressing one of players’ primary concerns: long load times. This fix makes a good game even better – but despite all of the adulation and impressive sales, Bloodborne still isn’t perfect.

I finished Bloodborne earlier this week, and really enjoyed the experience as a whole. However, even the best games have areas that could use improvement. As I played, I couldn’t help thinking about the adjustments to Bloodborne – not just load times – that would make a world of difference.

This is focusing on the negative more than usual; there are lots of good things to say about Bloodborne (like in our review, for instance). But most gamers know that feeling when you like a game so much that the tiniest flaws start standing out sharply amid everything else that works so well. They may be more than a simple patch can address, but for me, these are those nagging issues getting in the way of Bloodborne’s perfection.

1. Storytelling
The world of Bloodborne is absolutely fascinating. Hubris and ambition combine with cosmic horror and a Victorian vibe to form one of the most consistent and lore-rich narratives out there. The problem? None of it is surfaced in a way that allows you to appreciate it while you’re playing.

Apart from a handful of notes and cutscenes (which just seem like nonsense without the larger context), all of the important details regarding Bloodborne’s story are buried. You need to spend time in the menus doing nothing but reading item descriptions, sifting for significant info and trying to piece it together. When Final Fantasy XIII did this, it was savaged by fans and critics. When Bloodborne does this, it is lauded as daring and unconventional.

I’m not saying that I want every element of the story spelled out in long Metal Gear Solid-style cutscenes; I love a good mystery, and there’s nothing wrong with a game that encourages interpretation by leaving some blanks. But there’s a balance to strike, and Bloodborne misses the mark. The importance of many key moments (which I won’t spoil) can only be retroactively determined after you’ve done your research. Wouldn’t it be better to understand why a boss fight is important when you’re actually fighting that boss?

2. Farming
Dying is just part of the Bloodborne experience. You learn from your deaths and apply that knowledge on your future hunts. However, you don’t necessarily have all of the same resources available for your subsequent attempts; any items you use – including health potions, antidotes, and others – are still gone once you respawn.

At first, this adds tension and meaning to your excursions. While exploring, you have to assess the situations, weigh your odds, and determine whether it’s worth burning a consumable item. However, if you run up against a particularly difficult situation or boss that takes many attempts, you can eventually find yourself with none of these items left. The solution? No, it’s not just “git gud.” You have to go out and farm in order to resupply, putting your current task on hold and seeing to basic upkeep.

I like Bloodborne’s learning curve, but I don’t like this punitive facet of it. The infuriating thing is that From Software already had this problem solved on the health potion front. In Dark Souls, players have the Estus Flask, which recharges at every bonfire, essentially giving you a clean slate for every run. Though I eventually got enough Blood Vials in Bloodborne to keep the issue under control, the system still bothered me when it comes to using other items (sedatives, especially).

3. Armor Progression
In any action/RPG, getting more powerful is part of the draw. After opening a chest or finishing a harrowing fight, assessing your new loot is fun. Is that armor an upgrade? Does it do anything special? Does it look cool? In Bloodborne, that last question is the one I considered most often, because the other answers were usually “no.”

Most of your gear is suited for specific situations, but even as you get further into the game, new armor sets don’t stand out as a clear improvements. You might get something that is effective against one status effect (like Frenzy), while other another increases your resistance to specific kinds of damage. That means that you can’t pick one option and stick with it; you are swapping out different sets depending on the circumstances, but the changes are lateral. You gain one benefit, but sacrifice another.

This approach just isn’t satisfying to me. Rewards don’t feel like rewards if they aren’t improvements; an array of basically equivalent options doesn’t convey a sense of progression.

4. Multiplayer
Bloodborne supports co-op. However, the mechanics of making it function are comically cumbersome. It’s possible to play with a friend, but in order to do so you both need to follow an array of convoluted steps. You each need to spend insight (an in-game currency) to purchase bells – but the hosting player and the helping player need different types of bells. Then you need to go to the same area in your separate games and spend insight to ring those bells. Then you need to wait for the system to match you up. If you want to be paired up together (instead of with another random player), you both enter a specific password. Even then, it can take several minutes before you and your friend are finally playing together. Also, your two characters need to be within 10 levels of each other (which is never communicated in-game) or they can’t team up.

While it works reasonably well for partnering up with anonymous players (which is what the Dark Souls system was originally intended for), this solution to letting you play with friends is a joke. It feels like another From Software double standard: If Electronic Arts implemented a system like this for any of its multiplayer modes, it would get laughed out of town.

Of course, these hurdles don’t ruin Bloodborne. I’m sure plenty of players love them for how they contribute to the game’s unique aesthetic, but for me, they detracted much more than they added.