I had the chance to play Bloodborne for the second time at PAX Prime 2014, and was able to take in a bit more of the big picture than my frantic scrambling with the title at Gamescom.
One of the big reasons Bloodborne feels so perfect is the Victorian era horror setting - While the Souls titles sort of dance around this by creating environments and encounters filled with tension and surprise, Bloodborne allows them to embrace this fully. You’re not just wary of fallen hollows on the wayside, you’re actively hearing terrifying cries, shrill screams, and facing down actual nightmare creatures.
The basilisks and other iconic Souls critters that are the bizarre stuff of bad dreams have nothing on the Bloodborne backdrop, crafted precisely to instill a healthy dose of dread alongside the precise combat. The chilling environment syncs up so well with the changes to core combat, and alongside the chance for From Software to push their haunting setting on current gen hardware, Bloodborne truly feels nothing less than incredible.
The regain system (Regain lost life by successfully landing blows on opponents during a short window after you’ve been damaged) has you fighting for your life constantly against some of the darkest visions I’ve seen in gaming. The fear plays so well with Souls style combat it creates what I consider to be a natural progression for the series, playing up aspects that may have been subtly interjected into the previous games.
During my first demo a few weeks ago, I played a more traditional loadout featuring the speedy sword cleaver. For this round, I went with the heavy combo of axe and shotgun. The axe transforms into two-handed mode for a feel like a Souls halberd, while offering a standard moveset similar to the Souls axe. My moves definitely took a bit more setup to use effectively, but I was able to move through the “easy mode” (Difficulty lowered so that players waiting hours in line were not dead in 20 seconds) demo smoothly, taking on a variety of enemies from corrupted townsfolk to freakish, bloated crows.
The expository crawl through a corrupted town has been seen in trailers and video, but it’s hard to even do the experience justice. Souls players that are reticent to dive in because of the combat changes do not have to worry, it’s the same precision and tactical prowess with more of a razor’s edge to it because of the lack of shield. You still need to be highly aware of the situation at hand, and with the regain system constantly assaulting you with questions of “what should I do now? Attack? Roll away and lose health for good? Run?”. Bloodborne takes all that is great about Souls combat and adds a layer that goes beyond the safety of the shield raise.
Bloodborne’s horror setting is a perfect complement to Souls-style combat, and it’s about time the series hit current gen systems. If you’re still on the fence about Bloodborne, I have a feeling you’ll be taking a delicious bite of bloated, corrupted crow early next year.