During my time with Bloodborne, I died. A lot. Each death felt fair and was a cause of something I did wrong. The first 5 minutes of the game tasks you with dying so you can experience the game’s hub world, the Hunter’s Dream, for the first time and get yourself a proper weapon. But be sure, you will die many times. But that’s a hook of the game. You learn through trial and error and this game is the perfect combination of risk and reward. While there are some elements that are easier than the Souls games, people’s main concern is whether or not the game has the same difficulty.
Yes, the game is still very difficult. Enemies are much faster and they can cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time. Even behemoth enemies are somehow very nimble and hit hard and fast making them very dangerous adversaries. Also, a huge dynamic change this time around is that there is no shield in your off-hand. Instead, you are given the option of a pistol or a blunderbuss (I went with the pistol). While, at first glance, it doesn’t look like these firearms do much damage, they are a key focus in the mastery of combat. In the game, the guns are your means of parrying. Timing a shot just right during an enemy’s attack animation will stagger them, where you can do an instant kill attack on a regular enemy and a big chunk of damage to a boss type. The combat is much more fluid as well. Overall, the pace of the game is just much faster, and it honestly feels fresh. After experiencing Bloodborne, I cannot imagine going back to a Souls game now.
There are unique weapons, skills, and items which feel a bit different, but in a good way. Gone are the very complex attributes from the Souls games and they are reduced to just six main attributes now: Vitality (HP), Endurance (Stamina and Resistance), Strength (Heavy Attack Damage), Skill (Light Attack Damage), Bloodtinge (Firearm Damage), and Arcane (Item Damage). These statistics feel much easier to manage, though it is still as challenging as ever to decide what attributes you want to level up. The weapons are very nice. I personally chose the saw cleaver and am very happy with my choice. In all the weapons however, there are two forms of that particular weapon. For example, the small cleaver is a hard hitting folded weapon to start. But by hitting the L1 button now, I can unfold the cleaver into a much longer weapon, that does more damage and has more range at the sacrifice of being slower. So, now even with one weapon we have choices.
While basically keeping the Souls currency system intact, Bloodborne uses blood echoes instead of souls as the games currency and experience points system. You still lose them all when you die, and you still have to return to the spot where you died to retrieve them, but there is a twist. Now, if an enemy kills you, you must avenge yourself and defeat that enemy to retrieve your blood echoes. I think this is a neat little twist and can be very rewarding.
The major issue in the game that has everyone griping are load times. They are atrocious. With a game that knows a player is going to die a lot, you would think the load times would be kept short. That is not the case. The load time between deaths is 40-45 seconds with a screen that just has the word Bloodborne in huge font seemingly mocking your blunder. While From Software has addressed this issue and has announced an upcoming patch that should fix the load times up, as for now, we are stuck with waiting. Also, the game is a tough entry for new players because it is so ambiguous in the beginning of how to play the game. It’s tough for a rookie in these sorts of games to know that you have to beat the first boss before you can level up by talking to a doll back in the Hunter’s Dream.
The big draw in that makes Bloodborne stand out for me, however, is the atmosphere and world building. The Souls games are known for their great atmosphere and darkness, but From Software has really outdone themselves this time. The game is dark, gothic, creepy, and genuinely the scariest game I have ever played. While most horror games rely on jump scares alone, the whole of Yharnam feels terrifying as there are noises from unknown corners in the world that you may never find the source of, but you are consistently on edge the whole time you play. There are very few times other than in the Hunter’s Dream where you feel safe from imminent danger.
In terms of world building, the game definitely excels. The world is huge, extremely realized, and most importantly interconnected perfectly. You find hidden areas with treasure that can lead back to a previous area, which can now become a shortcut for you. I encourage exploring not only for valuable treasures and items, but also to find new areas and easier paths back to previous areas.
I’m going to touch on Bloodborne’s co-op a bit because a lot of people seem to be confused about it, and they are in the right. While co-op is very fun and a new tweak this time around, it can be very confusing to get it started. For one, co-op is not available for you until you have defeated the first boss. Afterwards, you will receive an item called the Beckoning Bell. Use this item to summon other player to hopefully help you. To join another player’s game you must acquire the Small Resonant Bell or Sinister Resonant Bell.
The difference in the two is that the Small Resonant Bell allows you to help other players, while the Sinister Bell allows you to join another player’s world in an attempt to kill them and steal their blood echoes. To unlock those two bells, you must visit the Hunter’s Dream on the top level (outside the door where Gehrman is) and there is a bath messenger that will sell the two items to you. However, in order to unlock the messenger, you will need 10 insight, which is acquired by seeing bosses for the first time, defeating bosses, and receiving items known as madman’s knowledge. All this being said, you still need to do even more to join a specific friend’s game.
Communication is key here. To set up a game with a friend, you must go into the network settings in game and set up identical passwords in the password matching option. Then, one player must use the beckoning bell and the other use the resonant bell. It can take up to a few minutes so be patient. Co-op does make the game a bit easier.
For example, on Bloodborne’s second boss my friend played solo and it took him around 20 times to beat the challenging boss. As for me, when he joined my game to play co-op we beat the boss on the first try. I suggest trying the boss solo a few times at first to really get the full experience before requesting help, though of course, that is up to you.
Bloodborne is massive, challenging, wonderful, frustrating, beautiful, menacing, and bloody. The more enemies you kill, the more blood soaked your character becomes. Other than load times, a few frame rate hiccups, some co-op issues, and ambiguity for new players, the game is absolutely breathtaking and amazing. I recommend Bloodborne to anyone who wants a challenge and anyone who enjoyed the Souls games.