Bloodborne is a fantastic experience that takes the player on a blood-soaked adventure through its haunting world. Building on the foundation of the Souls series, From Software acknowledge and appreciate their history while exploring a new approach to their distinctive style. Anyone that has played through a ‘Souls game will feel right at home while at the same time having to unlearn much of what got them through it. New players will face a challenge that is as unforgiving as it is rewarding. Grab your saw cleaver and blunderbuss: the hunt is on!

Set in the gothic labyrinthine city of Yharnam, Bloodborne puts you in the shoes of a hunter that awakens on the night of the hunt. The people of the city are turning into twisted lycan creatures along with a host of other monstrosities. While the storytelling is a lot more straightforward this time around, it is still very cryptic and ultimately leaves the player with more questions than answers and leaves it up to you to explore and read between the lines (and item descriptions) in order to interpret the story. It is a clever device to make you feel as though you are having a unique adventure in this grim game world, and indeed no two playthroughs will be the same.

Bloodborne screen

The biggest difference between the ‘Souls games and Bloodborne is the focus on unbridled aggression. Gone are the days of huddling behind a shield and waiting for an opening to strike. There is a (just one) shield in the game, but it’s so useless that it feels like a sadistic in-joke by the developers. Bloodborne encourages you to strike first to outsmart and overpower your foes. As in ‘Souls: the key to victory is knowing your opponent and timing your attacks and dodges. The combat has a great sense of weight to it and is tactical and technical like never before. Mashing and spamming attacks can get you through a slew of encounters, but ultimate victory will require you to get your head in the game.

Perhaps one of the biggest game play changes that encourages aggression is the regain system. Each time you get hit you have a very small window regain a chunk of your lost health by inflicting damage on enemies. Instead of retreating and licking your wounds, it is often smarter to retaliate in order to both bring down your foe as well as conserve healing items. Once you embrace this system it makes for fast paced and intense combat that often sees you frantically trading blows with enemies.

The lack of a proper shield means that your left hand is freed up to carry a sidearm. With a variety of pistols, shotguns, and rifles you can fire silver bullets at enemies. Shooting in itself doesn’t really inflict much damage at all, but serves other purposes. Shooting can disrupt enemy attacks, but if timed perfectly it can stun them and leave them open to a visceral attack. The visceral attack is Bloodborne’s equivalent of the parry and riposte system in ‘Souls. To execute it you need to be fairly close to your foes and time your shot to hit right before they lunge at you. With less defensive capabilities, but instead armed with a new offensive parry system, Bloodborne brings a new level of intensity to the fold.

The interface, level up system, currency, and a whole bunch of other things are almost identical to ‘Souls. Instead of souls there are blood echoes that you can either spend on levelling or buying items and weapons, and when you die (which will be quite a bit) you will need to make it back to your place of death to have a chance to reclaim them. As mentioned before, a great deal of Bloodborne will feel familiar to ‘Souls veterans, and that is not a bad thing.

The online multiplayer even works in a similar manner to ‘Souls. Players can leave notes on the ground around the game world for other players to read. Leaving helpful or funny notes will grant you buffs whenever someone gives them praise, and of course there are some hilariously bad tips spruced in between. In order to summon/join a companion, or invade another player’s game, there are a selection of bells given to you early on in the game that you need to ring. Inviting a specific friend is easier than in ‘Souls, but it still feels as if it is unnecessary convoluted. Having said that, from our experience it feels as if though there is an even greater sense of sportsmanship and courtesy among players in Bloodborne’s community.

In addition to the main game there are also a series of Chalice Dungeons to explore and conquer. Performed from the Hunter’s Dream hub within the game, these chalice rituals offer a more simplified and arcade’y take on Bloodborne. The so called Root Chalice Dungeons are procedurally generated, while the rest have a fixed structure. These dungeons provide bonus challenges and opportunities to find rare items, weapons, other loot, and even some bosses not featured in the main game. They are a nice addition, and perfect for co-op action. There are however a few hurdles to the co-op, as sessions end after each (fairly short) level, meaning you have to re-invite to play the next level together. Other than that, it is a fun feature that extends the game and offers something a little bit different from the main game.

The fun, brutal, and challenging game play is only half the story of Bloodborne’s greatness. What pushes it to a higher level is the incredible design and presentation. The world is intricately constructed and makes you feel like Yharnam is a real place that has fallen victim to a gruesome curse. The exploration and level progression feels so organic as you move from one area to another. The dark gothic art direction comes to life with the terrific architecture and the many abhorrent creature designs. The game runs well overall, with only occasional framerate hiccups. The sound design is also fantastic with great voice acting and an outstanding musical score.

Bloodborne screens

Already widely considered to be one of the few must-have PlayStation 4 games: Bloodborne is a strong contender for game of the year. The challenge can be steep and maybe a little intimidating for those new to the series, but it only makes the reward so much sweeter once you conquer a particularly hard boss or area. Bloodborne is a must play for anyone that is into action-rpg’s, and we’d recommend it to anyone that is up to the challenge and wants to experience an expertly crafted game.

Bloodborne Review
GRAPHICS93%
AUDIO93%
GAMEPLAY95%
STORY90%
PROS
  • Excellent atmosphere
  • Great game play
  • Outstanding presentation
CONS
  • The difficulty may be hard on newcomers
  • Online play & co-op is still very cryptic
93%Bloody Marvelous!
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About The Author

Ingólfur Ólafsson

Metal head, front-man, natural gamer and editor at Eskimo Press.