Review: Bloodborne

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90%
90
Punishing but rewarding

'Bloodborne' is stunning and extremely fun, but only once you get your head around how the game wants you to play. Get past the initial difficulty spike and you'll experience a game like no other.

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Revealed at last year’s E3 games conference, Bloodborne has been an eagerly awaited game by many owners of a PlayStation 4, the format on which it had its exclusive release. Players of games such as Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls in particular have been chomping at the bit to play Bloodborne as it has been developed by the same studio, Software, who also developed the aforementioned games. As a virgin player to the ‘series’ I decided to dive straight in when the game came out.

Much has been made of Bloodborne‘s difficulty level leading up to the game’s release and since then. As someone who had never experienced Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls, I thought I could handle it and that the people complaining were, quite frankly, rubbish gamers. Oh how wrong I was. In the first few hours of playing the game I struggled to get past the first area due to the insane number of enemies between the re-spawn point and the boss. In a game which clearly wants players to learn through dying hundreds of times, this perhaps might not be seen as a bad thing. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if many people gave up on that first section alone due to how hard it is to progress.

Difficulty in part arises from the limited number of ‘lanterns’, or checkpoints to you and me, that are available throughout Bloodborne‘s world. Each lantern must be lit to be able to travel to it from the game’s hub world and relative safe haven ‘Hunter’s Dream.’ If you die however, having made significant progress from a previous lantern, you go all the way back to it and also lose all your Blood Echoes (the game’s currency). The pain can be somewhat alleviated if you get to where you died and the lost echoes can either be found lying on the ground or possessed by an enemy which you must kill. Die again and you lose them forever.

The difficulty level feels somewhat more manageable once you realise there are multiple shortcuts available throughout the game, allowing you to reach bosses or secret areas quicker and with less enemies in your way. When I discovered a shortcut to the first boss (Cleric Beast, which is actually an optional boss), I could reach the area in just a few minutes making me much less stressed. The boss battles can also be extremely punishing. Cleric Beast is extremely huge, intimidating and deals a heavy sucker punch if you get within striking distance. However, as is the case with most of the other bosses I have so far encountered in the game, spend your life slashing with your weapon at their behind and they will not be nearly as much of a threat. Bloodborne harks back to games of a bygone era who had multiple bosses and difficult ones at that. It is somewhat sad that many current day games are too short or too simple.

On the topic of game length, Bloodborne is long, but not tediously so. The game does not tell much of a story unless you really delve into the lore, but Yharnham, the game’s main central location, is so large that you can’t help to explore. I have probably put in well over 20 hours play time into the game so far, and I have only just got over halfway (I think). The boss points also help make the game feel more varied; there are no re-skinned bosses here. All have their own unique attacks and pose a new threat each time making them genuinely challenging.

As could be expected from a new-gen exclusive, Bloodborne is exquisitely detailed. It has a gothic theme running throughout, meaning much of the game is played in near darkness, but this does not mean that game is not colourful or graphically stunning. This really does feel like a new-gen game, something which cannot be said for the huge number of remasters that are still being pumped out regularly by developers who are clearly struggling to come up with new ideas. Exploring the world in Bloodborne will really make you realise how much attention to detail has gone into making this game.

For those who consider themselves casual gamers, Bloodborne might not be the game for you. This is not me being patronising, far from it. Indeed, if I realised how difficult it was going to be I might have thought twice about buying it. However, trudge through the game’s early obstacles and you might find a game you can fall in love with. Hardcore gamers will probably lap Bloodborne up as it poses them a challenge they can’t refuse. Whatever your disposition, be wary of the risks and perils Bloodborne poses. It will not give you an easy time.

Bloodborne is available exclusively on the PS4 and is available to purchase now. 

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