Developed By: FromSoftware
Directed By: Hidetaka Miyazaki
Produced By: Masaaki Yamagiwa, Teruyuki Toriyama
Available On: Playstation 4 (Link to Purchase)
Release Dates: March 24th-27th, 2015
For the first Game Night!, I figured we’d start strong. But I had a harder time picking a game out than I thought I would. Then I realized: I’ve never talked about this game before! At least not in depth. And with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice dropping next week, now seemed like the perfect time to do it!
Bloodborne is a very special game to me. This game, along with the Dark Souls trilogy, transformed my life dramatically. It’s brought me closer with my friends, as we’d gather around and push each other’s in-game skills further and further. It became a shared obsession between all of us, to the point that we couldn’t go a day without mentioning it. Three out of the four of us have gotten every trophy and killed every boss in the game.
Even that god damn Watchdog in the fucking Chalice Dungeons…
This was the game that sold me on a PS4. I got the console just to play this game! Everything else was just an extra bonus. I whole heartedly believe that it’s the best game on the hardware, and few other games even come close to it.
Where do I even start? Basically everything in this game is absolutely amazing. From it’s gameplay to it’s world, everything is nigh perfect. Only one major flaw comes to mind. A flaw that, if you’ve played the game before, you’re more than likely familiar with. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
I guess the best place to start would be…
In terms of play, Bloodborne is deceptively simple. You pick out your weapons, a melee weapon that can transform and a gun, and head off on the hunt. You dodge and weave away from enemy attacks, using your different skills to leave the enemy open to more powerful attacks, such as Parries or Visceral strikes. If you get hit, you have a brief opportunity to attack back and regain that health.
Simple, right? Well, it is on the surface. And thanks to that simplicity, picking the game up is incredibly easy. However, what isn’t so simple is the hundred million differing factors that go into each battle. As a player, you need to be able to recognize when you can and cannot attack, what abilities your enemy has, how they can kill you (which you’ll likely experience first hand a dozen times before you figure them out) and what their different properties are.
No two enemies in the game are the same. Each one fights differently, moves differently (though typically in a charging fashion straight at your face) and has different timings in which you can punish them. Each monster feels like a mountain, which could very easily crush you if you aren’t careful.
This is especially true of the bosses. Each one of these monstrosities are among the most efficient killing machines in the history of video games. They are massive, fast, and they can kill you more quickly than any other enemy in the game. As per standard, these guys will undoubtedly have the highest body count.
Except for the Witches of Hemwick. Frankly, if those grimy old wind bags managed to kill you even once, you should be embarrassed. I’d say they’re a joke, but the humor in it stops being funny once you realize how tedious the boss is.
This game is designed in every way to push the player. It’s no secret that Miyazaki’s games are brutal, and Bloodborne is no different. The levels are designed masterfully, and each enemy is placed to kill you with masterful effectiveness. However, the game is never unfair in it’s difficulty. So long as you take your time, observe your surroundings and learn the enemies patterns, you’ll be able to succeed with little issue.
Slow down. Observe. Think. Always remember: the enemy is working on the same rules you are. The only difference is: they’ve been playing the game for a lot longer.
This difficulty is the art of the Souls-Borne games. Through the world designs and the extreme power of the enemies, you are made to feel as powerless as possible. The world doesn’t care about you, and it will waste no time in killing you. Don’t worry though: that feeling isn’t designed to make you feel worthless. Quite the opposite: it makes you feel powerful. When you conquer the monsters stronger than you, it creates a feeling of satisfaction unlike any other.
Yharnam is designed from top to bottom to make you feel powerless. But when you conquer it, push yourself beyond it’s intent and win, it makes you feel truly powerful.
This is why I consider this game to be a masterpiece of art. Y’see, art is self-expression meant to invoke feeling in others. Bloodborne creates feelings through it’s masterfully crafted gameplay. It makes you feel weak, alone, powerless, and lost. Through that feeling, when you conquer it, it creates the feeling of power and satisfaction. All through the gameplay.
A book or a movie couldn’t do that, now could it?
It also helps that the game controls exceptionally well. Your character responds to your inputs exceptionally well. This furthers the feeling that any mistake is your fault. You are in night perfect control of your in-game avatar. Therefor, their fate is entirely in your hands.
No pressure, butterfingers.
Now, there is one major issue with the game. While most of it is insanely challenging and fun, there is one aspect that is horribly flawed. One that gets really repetitive, boring and frustrating.
The Chalice Dungeons.
I fucking hate these dungeons. Every one of them looks the same, and the only unique enemies are the bosses. Even then, a good number of them are recycled. Hell, some of the unique bosses are recycled! They aren’t mandatory (thank god) but they do hold some of the most valuable items and challenging fights.
Unless you really love the game, I’d recommend skipping these. Even if you do love it as much as me and my pals do, you’ll need to have some extreme patience. Otherwise, you’ll likely smash your controller.
Y’know. Even more likely than you would just playing the game.
Yharnam is one of the darkest, gloomiest and chillings settings in any video game. And it’s absolutely gorgeous! The architecture is stunning, fitting the Gothic H.P. Lovecraft inspired setting that the city is built around.
Each area, enemy and weapon are all downright beautiful. They have an insane level of detail in their character models, which makes the grotesque all the more horrifying and the bad-ass all the cooler. From the weapons to the monsters, everything in this game just looks so damn good!
But it’s far from flawless. The frame rate is locked at 30 FPS, but it’s far from consistent. When tons of things fill the screen, such as a giant boss, the rate is almost certainly doomed to drop. The game can get extremely choppy, slowing the game down to a crawl. Sometimes to the point of creating nausea.
Music wise… do I really need to say the music is good? Cause it’s a Souls-Borne game. Of course it’s good. I mean, just look at the list of composers!
- Ryan Amon
- Tsukasa Saitoh
- Yuka Kitamura
- Nobuyoshi Suzuki
- Cris Velasco
- Michael Wandmacher
Look these people up. They make damn good music. They brought the choir for every song in this game, and they did some of their best work. Each song is suitably epic, emotional and chilling. Sometimes all at once.
My personal favorites include:
- The First Hunter (I’ve listened to that one the most)
- Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos
- Ludwig, The Holy Blade
- Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower
- Hunter’s Dream
Among many others. And by many I mean all of them. I make a habit of listening to this once a week. And if you know me and what music I listen to when I work, then… well, you know what I’m listening to right now.
It’s no secret that Miyazaki doesn’t write traditional narratives. He grew up reading western fantasy tales, and he didn’t have a complete grip of the language. As such, he had to fill in the gaps in the story himself, leading to the unique narrative structure of the Souls-Borne games.
Bloodborne, in my opinion, is the most interesting of these stories. The world of Yharnam is rife with mystery, and several fascinating characters held within. Just taking a look at the world is immediately fascinating. It sucks you right in, and each step you take only interests you further. The deeper down the rabbit hole you go, the more interesting and horrifying things become.
It’s a gripping tale, stuffed to the brim with mystery and betrayal. And even if you aren’t paying super close attention to the plot, the twist midway through is still mind boggling! Guess what? It’s not creatures of the night! It’s motherfucking ALIENS, BOY!
Sorry to spoil a four year old game for you.
Despite it’s flaws, few though they may be, Bloodborne is a genuinely amazing game. It uses it’s world and gameplay to invoke feelings of dread, helplessness and power through the player, creating an artful experience paralleled only by the other games made by the same creator. Plus, it’s a ton of fun to boot! It’s the best game on the PS4, and an absolute must play if you want to appreciate what games can be as an art form.
If you don’t own it, fix that. If you don’t own a PS4 to play it, fix that. It’s not just a gateway to play this game. But it’s the best hardware to play the game of next weeks discussion on.
But you’ll have to wait and see what it is I’m talking about. Here’s a hint: I’m carrying on with the ‘games are art’ theme.