Weeks ago footage of an unannounced game by From Software codenamed Project Beast leaked. The video showed a dark warrior wielding an old-fashioned firearm and a bladed weapon. This E3, From Software showed off more of the game, officially titled Bloodborne, in action. The live gameplay presentation I saw reveals the aggressive new combat design, gorgeous gothic visuals, and a corrupted town of villagers wielding torches and pitchforks. I watched the presentation through the lens of a fan of the Dark Souls series, and noticed several key similarities to - and departures from - the Dark Souls series.
Twisted, Foreboding Environments Return
The demo takes place within a gothic, Victorian city in the 19th century. Filthy buildings, spires, and clock towers stretch into the night sky as a full moon beams down on the slick cobblestone streets. A curse plagues the town, turning some of its citizens into monsters. Villagers rally with pitchforks, sickles, and torches to hunt down the beasts. However, despite not being aware of it, some of these hunters are actually tainted themselves. Imagine the angry mobs from Frankenstein stalking the creepiest version of London you've ever seen. The corrupted mobs will turn on the player, leaping out from blind corners and lighting them ablaze with their torches. The atmosphere is dark, mysterious, and absolutely begging to be cautiously explored.
It's A Gorgeous Next-Gen Game
Seeing the PlayStation 4-exclusive Bloodborne in action is a stunning reminder that we are in a new generation of powerful hardware. The gothic town is filled with abandoned carriages that realistically burst into splinters when attacked. Blood splatters off fallen foes, coating the player's black rain slicker, and glistening in the moonlight. The fire of the insane villagers' torches flickers across the dim environment in a convincing manner. The characters' movement is also much smoother than in past Souls' games, creating an authentic-feeling world. Bloodborne is among the most visually impressive games I've ever seen.
Player Customization Is Back
Bloodborne does not star a static protagonist; the customization fans of the Souls games love makes a return here. From Software confirms that players will be able to upgrade their characters and seek after the best gear possible. Armor, weapons, items and more will be discoverable throughout the game to hone your character into the warrior you want.
Shields Are Gone, Guns Are In
Blocking enemy blows with a shield has been an integral part of most melee combat character builds since Demon's Souls. In a bold move, From Software says they're no more. From Software says the combat is still as lethal as ever, but that they want players to focus on being proactive during battles rather than backing away with a raised shield. Firearms are in important part of this formula change. While replacing a shield with a gun doesn't sound very logical, it appears to work well in action. During the demo, the developer at the controls carefully timed counterattacks with his blunderbuss to interrupt enemy attacks. Stunned enemies were vulnerable for a proper slashing with the saw cleaver weapon. The blunderbuss also looks useful for throwing off the rhythm of battle via sneaking in potshots on regular enemies or stunning a big boss with an up-close blasts. Tinkering with the bread and butter of the Souls series' combat is risky, but I'm excited for the more aggressive approach to combat. But don't worry, this isn't Devil May Cry, it's still a decidedly From Software experience.
Player Death & Progression Are More Akin To Demon's Soul
From Software says they don't want players to get so frustrated with dying that they put down the controller. While I personally thought the death penalties in Dark Souls II were well balanced, From Software says it's going to going to be more in line with the death penalties and progression system found in Demon's Souls. From Software says that progression will also be more in line with Demon's Souls, which from what we gather means that we'll be collecting souls and returning to a safe zone once again.
Lethal Combat Returns
Don't let the idea of From Software' goal to make death less frustrating alarm you - the developer is keeping combat as high-risk and tense as possible. While the developer playing Bloodborne didn't die during the demo, the visceral impact and quickness of enemy attacks illustrates that even your run of the mill grunt still packs a devastating punch.
The Game World Is Less Open
When asked, From Software says it's not pursuing the same open structure of Dark Souls II. Dark Souls II features a hub world filled with vendors and an NPC for leveling-up, along with interconnected bonfires for convenient teleportation. We can only speculate that since From Software says it's not following Dark Souls II's structure, that the game will be slightly more linear. However, we did spot more of the shortcuts that makes traversing through the worlds of Souls games so rewarding. For example, the player knocked down a ladder later in the demo that linked back to an area they had been exploring 20 minutes earlier. It's too early to draw any conclusions, but it's an interesting choice on From Software's part.
These are just a few comparisons that a fan of Dark Souls has to make when seeing a new IP that treads so closely to From Software's compelling formula of challenging, rewarding combat. For all intents and purposes, Bloodborne looks, sounds, and feels like a natural next evolution for the studio's Souls series, even if the word doesn't appear in the title. Hopefully, the departure from shields in combat doesn't tinker with the formula for the worse.