“Scared of the Dark.”
Prior to picking up Bloodborne, I’d only dabbled in From Software’s previous titles and wasn’t much of an advocate, despite understanding their catch. Having harbored mixed feelings from my brief experience with the Souls’ series, I decided to jump into Bloodborne with an open mind. Sony has struggled to find a outstanding product to push, in the AAA retail exclusive space, yet Bloodborne has seemingly turned it all around. The Playstation 4 exclusive currently sits at 92 on Metacritic, making it the second highest rated game of this generation, just below the remastered version of Grand Theft Auto V. Critics and gamers alike universally have fallen under its spell, while I was left wondering why I didn’t feel the same, a few hours into the game. Was I doing something wrong? Was my scope too narrow? Had I overlooked a vital piece of information? I absolutely hated Bloodborne, until four hours in. Then it clicked. What had me kicking and screaming at the start, turned into the most rewarding and impactful game experience I’ve had this year.
Bloodborne is powerful in how it plays with emotions. Transitioning from hopeless madness, to overpowering joy in a matter of seconds, not only kept me on my toes, but passionately invested. It’s a thought-provoking experience laced with unforgettable depth, in which my limits were ruthlessly tested, then lifted to unmeasurable amounts of satisfaction.
Welcomed by bitter despair, Bloodborne’s opening section struck me down and beat me while I attempted to stand. In fact, Bloodborne’s unforgiving learning curve was initially such a turn off, I’d had a far more negative post in the works. Fortunately, the strange and abusive draw led me back to the unforgiving streets of Yharnam. Lurking my way through the sprawling Gothic village, I was forced to understand Bloodborne’s language and mindset. It took unwarranted repetition and death, but downing Bloodborne’s first boss was a game changer. I spent close to four exhausting hours in the game before the Cleric Beast lay dead at my feet. I’d nearly thrown in the towel, but as the words “PREY SLAUGHTERED” ran across the screen, I was left speechless recounting the both cautionary and daring steps I took to get to this moment. It had come together, as suddenly the dance of dodges and swipes made sense and added-up to something with meaning.
The vital piece that brought it all together was understanding Bloodborne’s leveling system. Tackling the brutal world right out of the gate isn’t wise, as I learned the hard way. Thoughtfully leveling and a cautious approach, were the deciding factor of whose body lay in the pool of blood. Developer From Software, shows us little on how to survive, yet relies on players retaining complexed levels of intelligence, in order to stand against foes. It’s a tough pill the swallow, but those patient enough to let it dissolve, are in for a treat unlike any other.
Paced to a theme all about testing waters, coming to terms with death, as well as venturing into the unknown is essential. Bloodborne’s semi-open world structure provides plenty of surprises, along with an astonishing amount of depth. Exploring its sewers, to overlooking the sickened city, Bloodborne delivers on both size and scope tremendously. When I wasn’t dealing the beat down, I was happily uncovering all its highly-detailed Gothic world had to offer.
Much is borrowed from its spiritual predecessors, yet Bloodborne is its own beast entirely. Hard-earned progression and similar world layout return, but an aggressive new pace of combat separates Bloodborne from the rest of the pack. Bloodborne’s distinct style of storytelling may also be familiar to veterans of From Software’s standing lineup. The key to the story is subtlety and is most progressive in its undertones, but when it has something to say, it says it. Twists and turns lay afoot and expectations of what revels in the dark are heightened. Making these discoveries on your own is all part of this awestruck package, some will please, some will terrify.
While Bloodborne isn’t categorized as survival horror, its presentation is just that. I felt more vulnerable and frightened in Bloodborne, than I felt in any other horror game this generation. Its impeccable atmosphere is not only a huge driving point for the tone, but the story. The world is filled with secrets that dig deeper into the game’s biblical subject matter and at times, reveal just what you may find yourself questioning.
Bloodborne is easy to obsess over and impossible to get out of your mind. If in, you’re down for the count. Getting to the point of obsession isn’t easy: perseverance, patience and dedication are crucial puzzle pieces, that must come together or failure will ensue. Everyone has a virtual breaking point and pushing the envelope is what From Software does best. As the world dances on the brink of insanity, so does the player. Extravagant enemy and level design achieve a harrowing sense of place and wonder. Many times opening one of the large and weighted doors took my breath away, as what lay beyond prepared to end me.
Mechanics make it or break it when it comes to tackling difficult games and Bloodborne delivers. Agile and precise combat make even the most difficult encounters a thrilling, balanced challenge. The urge to strike back after being attacked frequently overweighed a steady tactical approach, for Bloodborne’s combat is heavily incentivized. For example, shortly after the point of receiving damage, striking back will regain your health if your blade finds the mark. This is a marvelous mechanic that reinforces Bloodborne’s more offensive and aggressive approach. This style of combat is at its prime during the outrageously challenging and rewarding boss fights.
Bloodborne is currently at its purist stage; player discovery. As in-depth wikis and guides emerge, a little of Bloodborne magic vanishes. This game is meant to be played with all roads leading to the unknown, because the unknown is what makes Bloodborne so powerful. Outrages load times bog down pacing and the frame-rate occasionally takes hits. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, these minor technical issues aren’t drastically detrimental, for what they’re attempting to drag down is a superb product that awes far more than it disappoints.
Summary: Now, 15 hours in, six bosses behind me, I have no intention of stopping as Bloodborne currently sits atop my running for Game of the Year. What resides in From Software’s strongest endeavor to date, is a punishingly cruel world, full of truly complex ideas and unforgettable moments. Bloodborne is an outstanding treasure that is essential for PlayStation 4 owners, daring enough to take the plunge into the savagely rewarding hell.
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