Release Date: 25th March 2015
Genre: Action RPG
A NEW TAKE ON A WINNING FORMULA
In terms of gameplay, Bloodborne ditches the slow, defensive style of combat of its predecessors for a breakneck risk-reward system, completely revamping both the sorts of enemies and tools players will come across. Gone are the shields and broadsword, replaced with "trick weapons" which are able to transform between two states at the will of the player, one example being the Burial Blade, a quick curved sword made for quickly slashing through single enemies, that transforms into a large scythe, capable of more effectively dealing with large crowds. This adds a layer of depth to combat and allows the player to adapt their strategy to whichever threat they may face. In addition to trick weapons, Bloodborne adds firearms, used for parrying attacks, providing an opportunity to deliver a critical blow, if timed correctly. Weight limits have been lifted, allowing the character to move swiftly no matter the equipment and armour they carry. Another excellent touch is the rally system, which activates when one attacks an enemy shortly after losing health, allowing the player to recover the lost health. All these changes encourage players to dive into combat, with the game's varied and imaginative enemies and bosses.
The bosses are arguably the most memorable parts of From Software's titles and Bloodborne does not disappoint in this regard. Mechanically, bosses work in a familiar way. Boss fights center around pattern recognition and memorisation, although new to the series is shifting phases. New patterns, attacks or abilities will appear depending on certain conditions, such as the health of the boss or the amount of time the fight has dragged on. What this means is that fights become more dynamic, as the player must master more than one set of patterns, per boss.
Visually, the bosses are stunning, each lovingly crafted and distinct from one another, ranging from hunters, similar to the player, to amalgamations of limbs and tentacles, tying nicely into the Gothic/Lovecraftian theme present throughout Bloodborne. The design sensibilities evident in the bosses reflect the stunning design choices that compliment the excellent gameplay. The atmosphere of these boss battles is handled superbly as well, with one of the most hauntingly beautiful soundtracks in all of gaming.
A LIVING WORLD
Bloodborne also adds Holy Chalices, which are special items that, when combined with certain materials create randomly generated, Diablo-styled dungeons. These dungeons gradually grow in difficulty and can be modified so that challenges such as elite enemies and health handicaps are added. This adds quality content to Bloodborne's already solid campaign, although some would argue that these dungeons are repetitive.
Online play can be difficult to organise, as the requirements needed in Bloodborne are much more complicated than in previous from titles, in order to summon a player for co-op, one needs to ring a beckoning bell in their own world, while another player, of a similar level rings a resonant bell in the same location in their own world. This means that players will spend much of their time standing outside boss areas, ringing their bells, waiting for someone to respond, without any feedback from the game. The process for engaging in duels with other players is even more complicated. Hosts must ring a beckoning bell, which spawn a bell maiden within their world, who then allows players, also of a similar level ringing sinister bells to invade worlds, although some areas have these maidens as standard enemies, making the process a little easier. These ideas could have been streamlined in order to create a more convenient online experience. Duels themselves are a little disappointing since defense is sacrificed for full offense, resulting in quick and unsatisfying battles, at least most of the time.