Bloodborne Review by: ZlinqxBloody Brilliant
Oh Bloodborne... When I first bought this game and started playing it, I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn't expect it to take nearly my entire summer to beat it. Let alone another two and a half weeks until I would be able to get a platinum trophy. Yet I don't regret one second of it. During my recent reviews I've been reviewing a lot of games that have ranged from mediocre to just plain awful, but this will be neither.
Welcome to my review of Bloodborrne, where I'll be telling you why you owe it to yourself to pick this game up if you own a PS4 and experience one of the best games made in the past few years.
Let's get started then shall we?A dark depressing s***hole. But a well crafted one.
Something that will become apparent when you first start playing the game is just how awe inspiring it looks. It's stunning to look at. The amount of detail that's gone into it is astounding. Everything from seeing giant buildings in the distance or even some of the smaller things like the patterns on the walls. Not to mention the various weapon and item designs, it is all very pleasing to the eyes.
On the topic of enemy design they're very detailed, from the smaller mobs which all look unique and are very varied, to some of the giant hulking, gross looking but still very detailed looking bosses. Really aesthetically the game doesn't feel lazy in any way, and you'll be hard pressed not to be impressed by the amount of care put into thevworld and the things that dwell within it. It feels alive and the world, completely interconnected.
But as much as I'd like to give the graphics a 10, there is one thing in particular that stops me from doing so. The game runs at 30 frames per second, which while it doesn't stop the game from being enjoyable and is something that didn't really affect the experience for me, may turn away some from playing it. It's something I could've possibly let slide in the previous console generation but in this console generation it's definitely something that is manageable especially when the PS4 port of the spiritual predecessor of the game Dark Souls 2, runs at 60 frames per second.
Secondly something, I'm not factoring in but is worth mentioning is that there can be a slight performance drop when playing with others. While I do find that somewhat understandable with the amount of detail put into the game, it's still something I found a bit detrimental to the online experience, even if online play is still enjoyable.
In the end. the FPS drops are things that didn't bother me too much, and I'd still say this is the best looking PS4 game I've played so far, possibly even one of the best looking console games I've played period.When the orchestra kicks in, you know something is about to go down.
The sound design in this game is some of the best I've seen in any game period, starting with the sound effects they're very varied for each of the different creatures and directly ties into the gameplay as you need to listen to the noises to help you be aware of your surroundings. The soundtracks when walking around in the world are ambient, really helping with the atmosphere and overall tone of the game and you never quite feel at ease when walking around in the world.
But then... You get to the bosses, and suddenly the orchestra kicks in and there's a swift change in the tone and you get an adrenaline rush, you know it's about to go down, and the soundtracks really helps set the mood for that.
The game also features some voice acting (I say some as there aren't too many NPCs that talk in the game) which is done well. The one thing that bothers though, that doesn't actually have to do with the sound itself ironically but kind of ties into it, is that there's no lip syncing whatsoever. For me, that is something that did slightly break the immersion the game otherwise so expertly creates, maybe From Software will eventually reveal through DLC that they're actually all communicating telepathically, but until then meh.Well, this can't be good.
The introduction I'll give this time around is really brief, because the game doesn't actually tell you much and I don't want to spoil much here as part of the fun is trying to piece together what's happening in the world on your own, but I'll try my best.
You're suffering from a serious illness that is having worsening effects on you, having nowhere else to go, you come to the town of Yharnam as an outsider, as you've heard it's a place where people can get a blood transfusion that cure various strange diseases. To get this blood transfusion however, the "blood minister" forces you to sign a contract, turning into a hunter of beasts. Making you bound by the contract to do: Well exactly what the name implies, hunt and kill beasts. And as you start seeing more of the town, you'll notice it's overrun with beasts and humans are hard to come across, most having locked themselves in their homes, hiding from the beasts, many seemingly starting to lose their sanity. You then find out that some kind of plague is running rampant it the city and having certain "effects" on people. So you'll set out, trying to find the source of the plague and vanquish the beasts once and for all.Interesting approach to story telling that has both good and bad sides to it
The game does have a very interesting story and an interesting approach to telling it, I'll say that much. Going through the game you can more or less play through it in it's entirety and still barely know anything about the creatures you face or what your motivations are, instead to do so you're forced to explore the world, talk to the few friendly NPCs you find (even doing some miniquests) and read various item descriptions to realize the bigger picture.
This approach to story telling is both something I found to be a strength and a weakness. It's kind of refreshing to have the game trust your intelligence and give you that freedom, not to have exposition constantly forced down your throat through lengthy cutscenes and dialogue, like the deal is in many of the big releases today. At the same time, the fact that the lore is largely optional to learn about and can almost be a bit hard to piece together if you don't look it up on the Internet, becomes it's weakness.
It's easy to just completely ignore it as you go through the game just not thinking it's worth that extra effort or being completely absorbed by the gameplay and general atmosphere and never noticing it because some things are so out of the way from the main quest. Just fighting various creatures and bosses and never actually learning anything about the rich backstory surrounding them. Sure you can definitely enjoy the game a lot doing that, but you're missing out on something that made the game even more interesting and fun to play. It may even lead to you just wanting to skip some of the few cutscenes there is as you'll mostly be confused and not care about the story at all.
So really that's what makes me lower the score for the story a little bit more than anything, for every time someone is watching a particular cutscene and mostly just going "huh?" because they never did a certain miniquest and never found out about that character making the lore feel more shallow than it really is.Extreme amount of gameplay variety
So now we get to the meat of the game, the gameplay. Bloodborne really encourages a more aggressive hack and slash style of gameplay especially compared to the Dark Souls games. You can wield various one handed weapons with the option of wielding a gun in the other or wieling a two handed weapon. These with the exception of the two handed cannon actually do fairly little damage for the most part, instead they can be used to perform "visceral attacks" which essentially means there's a small window of time right before the enemy hits you when you can shoot it with the gun and stagger it, allowing you to stab it and perform an attack that does massive damage, though it only works on certain enemies (and other players in PVP). These are extremely satisfying to pull off and are very useful to learn to dispatch some of the tougher mobs and even some of the bosses.
There's also a health regain mechanic meaning just after the enemy hits you, you can hit it back to regain some of your health, which makes little sense (I guess your character is kind of a pseudo vampire or something) but it does really help drive the style of gameplay.
And I have to say the aggressive style of gameplay is extremely enjoyable. It's very polished and highly fluid, and looks just as intense as it feels when you play it. That said, don't confuse aggressive with just charging in blindly and hacking away on foes, that's often an approach that will get you killed quickly. Quite on the contrary the enemies often take a lot of strategy to kill and of course... A lot of side stepping and the occasional dodge roll, especially against bosses. The game very rarely re uses already encountered enemies for a new area, and when it does, it's done sparingly.
Another great thing about the game is the weapon variety, there aren't a massive amount of them (a little bit more than 10 I think) to find and try out but they all have varying gameplay styles and have an alternate form that when activated transforms the weapon into it's "true form" and it essentially functions as a completely different weapon. Transform something like a short one handed sword, into a giant great sword, or a cane that is mainly used for stabbing into a long metal chain whip to slash enemies with, these trick forms are often most useful for entirely different situations than the original one. This adds another layer of depth to the combat as these transformations can be performed quickly mid combat, when you see fit. And there's more than enough variety in each weapon to find the one that fits your play style best. The balancing is also great, no single weapon feels much stronger than the other and with enough determination, you could theoretically conquer the entire game never trying out anything besides your starting weapon (but where's the fun in that?
).You'll die, rage quit, then come back for more.
So on the topic of the game's difficulty, you will die, A LOT. This game is far from a cake walk, even if you use the so called beckoning bell to call others to your game to help you with bosses and mobs, and it will be a pretty steep learning curve once you first start playing. Once you start becoming a bit more accustomed to the game however it completely sucks you in and no matter how many times you die and rage quit, you'll always be back for more, and be determined to finally get past a certain area or beat a certain boss. Then there's the fact that enemies respawn every time you reload area and the so called lamps that allows you to go back to the hub area to buy more items or upgrade weapons, are far in between meaning you'll have to try your hardest not to die and be forced to go through it all again (or you could just pick my patent pending YOLO approach and try to run all the way to the next one).
The challenge alone adds a lot of length to the gameplay and it'll likely take you quite some time until you're able to beat the game even though doing so is completely possible (my two months of playing it on and off is proof of that...) Even with that in mind though there's some fun extra things to engage in to make the game last even longer, as the developers have really tried increasing the replay value, in a way that doesn't feel cheap... (take note Dragon Age: Inquisition >.>)
Firstly there are a lot of optional areas and bosses, so many in fact that the majority are optional rather than mandatory and you don't need to take them on to beat the game or even get the secret ending. Though this is likely something you wont notice when you first run through the game. I commend the developers for putting in that extra effort when the main game itself would've been enough.
There's also a second big activity to engage in that is completely separate from the main game. These are called chalice dungeons and can be created using various materials and chalice items which you initially get from various bosses. These are dungeons with set layouts that you can explore to take on various enemies and get items. At the end of each one there's a boss, there's even quite a few bosses unique to the dungeons. And every time you defeat one you can progress further into the dungeon and get new chalices to take on even harder dungeons, or ones that modify the gameplay of an existing one you beat by adding modifiers or having randomized layouts, these start out usually not being too hard as the first one is aimed at lower level players and you'll likely be a bit over leveled when trying it out, but by the end they'll provide an even harder challenge than the maingame, and you'll often die in just one or two hits meaning you'll probably need the help of others to complete them unless you're video game Chuck Norris.
These can get a bit monotonous though since while they'll definitely challenge you they can feel a tad bit similar design wise and the rewards can feel a bit lacking later on, but they're still a worthy addition to the game and one that'll likely add a lot of replay value for you. There's also a new game + mode which powers up all the enemies in the regular game and lets you start over keeping most of your items and weapons. Which , while it's a nice touch, doesn't actually add anything new content wise and there's not really much reason to go through besides trying to get all endings for the platinum trophy and possibly doing any miniquests/side areas you missed.
Though despite it being a challenging game, outside of the chalice dungeons, it doesn't feel like it's quite on the level of Dark Souls in terms of difficulty and once you start getting a bit more accustomed the game it does start to feel more manageable than those were, not to mention while there are some brutal bosses, a few are suprisingly easy to the point where it's not impossible to beat them during your first try.Bloody Brilliant
Yes, I was so proud of that pun that I had to use it twice, deal with it. But seriously I do feel like it sums it up pretty well. This is an extremely well crafted game that really performs well across the board and I can honestly say it's one of the best games I've played in the past few years. I was genuinly considering giving it a 10, but decided against it as there are still some flaws, even if they don't really affect the experience too much, I feel like a 10 would give the impression that there are no flaws at all. So I'll just settle with a score really close to a 10 (and likely my highest score to date even factoring in my early more biased reviews). While it will probably turn away casual gamers with it's very dark themes (with so much blood, it's beyond me how it only got a 16+ rating in europe) and steep learning curve, I'll recommend the game to anyone who think it seems remotely interesting. Those completely new to the style of play will likely be pleasantly suprised and those who are fans of the dark souls games will both feel at home with the hardcore style of gameplay while at the same time finding lots of new things to like.
The good and the bad
So this is a new category I'm trying out basically a short Pros and Cons list for those looking to compare, kind of a bad example to start with as there isn't too much in terms of negative things here, but hopefully You'll enjoy nonetheless. This is my first attempt at making one of these so feedback on it is appreciated. To avoid confusion the more + or - signs a particular pro or con had the better (or worse) of an impact I felt it had on the overall experience.Pros
+ Lots of variety and depth
++ Interesting story that doesn't intrude on gameplay
++ Stunning visuals
++ All around great sound design
++ Addicting, well polished, intense gameplay
+++ Just an all around fantastic game.Cons
- Not for the faint of heart
- Online functions require PS Plus
- Can be hard to find others to play with
- Steep learning curve (not a problem for everyone, but figured I should mention it nonetheless).
- No lip syncing? Seriously From Software?
- 30 FPS lock
- Story can intitially be confusing and seem shallow.