Bloodborne. Go on, say it. Bloodborne. It’s an unpleasant sounding word, as if it conveys an ominous sense of dread. The game lives up to its name, and I got to play it at rAge. Hit the jump, prepare to die.
First off, this was the first PlayStation 4 game I’d ever played. I reckon I started on a high-note, because Bloodborne looks set to be a system seller.
It kicks off things in the tradition of the Souls series, which were also developed by From Software. Your character is stricken with a mysterious plague and travels to the city of Yharnam to find answers and a cure. Sadly, Yharnam has really, really, let itself go. On a side note, cameras were forbidden from the demo but all the images in the article detail areas I played in.
After choosing a character you’re dropped off into the city. Playing this game makes it really feel that THIS is the next-gen we were promised. It’s dark, atmospheric and creepy, but it’s also beautifully designed and the graphics are amazing. Your character’s model is very well detailed right down to all the cloth mechanics and movement animations. The environments are densely cluttered with macabre objects, coffins, crucified plague victims, and a giant dog monster burning on a stake. The plague-ridden enemies really contribute to that atmosphere as well. They’re dressed appropriately, hideously deformed and inhumanly lanky. They’ll also shout taunts and threats, and rove around the map in packs. All of these really go far to immerse the player in this decaying and dangerous world, and the game thankfully doesn’t feel like Souls with a Victorian skin.
Speaking of Souls, veteran players will not dive right in as easily as they’d think. It feels similar, and the basic controls are the same, but this is a very different beast. For one, blocking is out. Gone. No blocking for you. Initially that sucks, especially if you’re used to exploring from behind your shield. To counteract this, players feel much more mobile. Lighter characters move faster, you attack quicker, and dodging while locked-on turns into a speedy dash. Players will need to learn how to be more agile quickly, unless shields are re-introduced later. Another removal is of jumping. No combination of buttons caused a jump, but given my hatred of the last game’s jumping, this might not be too bad. If anything, level design will evolve to use more flat areas.
Another change is the implementation of firearms. The guns are not mere features, and their use is tied directly into combat. Seeing as how blocking is out, gunfire is now how you counter-attack. A well-timed shot floors an enemy and leaves them open to counter-attacks, and this feels like a competent parry system. Guns rely on Quicksilver Bullets, which are a common-enough item that I never ran out of. One downside of the guns is that you can’t free aim them. Given that other ranged weapons were aimable in previous Souls games, I hope the guns will be too.
Keeping with the weapons, a lot has been said of the morphing system. At the tap of L1, your melee-weapon morph. Either from a short sword to a long-cleaver, or from one knife to ultra-speedy dual-knives. Another character has a massive hammer that turns into a sword, and that’s damn brilliant. The item system has been over-hauled too. Health items are hotkeyed to the Triangle button, and your item wheel only selects between offensive and tactical items. Sadly, thrown items have a tragic range, so you’ll keep needing to step forward to hit enemies with rocks.
Something that hasn’t changed is the difficulty. Fighting the city-folk 1v1 is easy , but when they gang up they’ll hack your life bar to tiny pieces. Ambushes will become part of your gameplan, and a little fore-thought will serve you well. You’ll need to keep watching your back though, because I got flanked several times.
To sum it up, this was Alpha-code for the game, but it looked and played amazing. It’s changed just enough to feel like an entirely new direction, but it will still feel familiar to veteran Souls players. It remains to be seen if magic will play a role in the game, and also how the multiplayer will handle, but so far the future looks bright for Bloodborne. Bright in an oppressively dark and grim way. So if you’re at rAge, head down to the Sony stand now and play this.