Ah Bloodborne, I hardly know ye!
It is no secret, I love FROM Software and for those of you who have read some of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I have been an ardent fan of FROMsoft since the mid 1990s. I’ve played through the King’s Field series, the Souls series and now I have every intention of paying through (for lack of a better term) the Blood series. That’s right, today, we are talking Bloodborne!
Released March 24th for the PS4, this game scored some major points with both Souls fans and reviewers alike. It has already amassed quite a hardcore following and with its no-nonsense brutality and challenging game play, I’m not surprised that FROMsoft fans are clambering to play this title. Bloodborne brings us our first, next-gen “Souls”-like gaming experience and it does not disappoint.
Of course, in my book, the arrival of any new FROM Software game is an event worthy of celebration and Bloodborne is no exception. So lets dive in and check this game out.
Welcome to Yharnam… the Story as I Understand it
Yharnam, your starting point in Bloodborne has been ravaged by a mysterious plague, turning ordinary citizens into dangerous, blood thirsty beasts. Demented killers and crazed citizens roam the streets and werewolves track your every move. Yharnam is not a nice place to live, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here in Bloodborne, you take up the role of a “Hunter” hunting the evil, undead creatures and supernatural monsters that lurk around every corner of the city. Why? I don’t know, but it sure makes for a great jumping off point.
Along your travels, you meet a handful of other NPC hunters, characters and skittish townsfolk. Some are helpful, some are just rude and others are downright mean. In typical FROMSOFT fashion, these NPCs can’t always be trusted and you have to be very careful what/who you listen to.
Other than a few bits and pieces of story, we really don’t get much of a traditional narrative in this game. If you want to know what’s going on, you have to pay very close attention to everything. FROMSoft loves to tease you with bits of a story and reveal things through item descriptions and subtle conversations with NPCs. It was the same way in King’s Field, Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. It’s one of the reasons why I like FROM Software so much.
Bloodborne also has side quests, optional bosses, hidden areas and co-op dungeons called Chalices. It all combines into a pretty potent game, and a truly dark and ominous experience.
No Rest for the Wicked
Bloodborne tosses EVERYTHING at you and there is absolutely no rest for any hunter entering the damned city of Yharnam. Everything wants you dead and most enemies are relentless in their pursuit of your blood. By the end of every single, hostile area, my character was always completely covered in the blood of my enemies. Even in the strange, outlying landscapes and forests I found no respite. Everything is just so blood thirsty, it is amazing to watch the enemies pursue you. I’m pretty sure that I’ve been killed by EVERY creature that I have come across, but I guess that is how we learn in a FROMSoft game.
It is not at all difficult to draw numerous correlations between the Souls series and Bloodborne. We are covering some very familiar ground here. How you move, how you heal, your general approach to new sections, the difficulty of the game…there are so many parallels to be drawn here that any Souls veteran will feel right at home in Yharnam.
In Bloodborne, your currency are Blood Echos, instead of Souls (though that doesn’t stop me from calling them Souls). Like its predecessors, the more enemies you kill, the more Blood Echoes you stockpile. Of course, when you are killed, you drop all of your Blood Echoes at a bloodstain, which you can retrieve….. if you survive the journey back.
Like in Demon’s Souls, in Bloodborne you operate from a hub-world that allows you to use tombstones to warp to different areas of the game. This place is called the Hunter’s Dream and it is one of the only safe places in this game. It can give the player a much needed rest. Here you can level your weapons, increase your character’s stats, buy consumable items and equip runes and blood gems to customize your builds.
Very reminiscent of the earlier Souls games, while traipsing around the city, you will notice that most of the hostile areas in this game are all interconnected by numerous shortcuts and secret passages. Your top priority is to find that shortcut and open it. Trust me, nothing sucks more than dying and forgetting to open a major shortcut. Plus, having a shortcut available makes for a much more efficient farming situation. Why journey through an entire level, to get to your farming area, when you can just warp in and take a shortcut?
Lets talk summoning! Co-op has always been a major selling point for me and luckily, all of the Souls games have had some form of this feature. Being able to fight along side your buddies was/is so much fun. In Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, you used different colored stones to get into co-op. If you wanted to be summoned, it was a simple matter of placing down your “sign” and as long as you met certain soul level requirements, you would be summoned into another player’s world pretty easily. If you needed help in a particular level, you would look for “signs” on the ground, select one and summon them. Demon’s Souls probably did this the best, followed by Dark Souls 2, but Dark Souls 1 had some major issues in this area.
Now in Bloodborne, you use different types of “bells” to either summon or to be summoned. Instead of using the appropriate stone and placing your “sign” on the ground, you ring a particular “bell”. There are three of these “bells”: the Beckoning Bell, for summoning, the Small Resonance Bell to be summoned and the Sinister Bell to invade someone’s world. We also have an ability to set passwords so that we can summon specific people and keep out any random riff raff. This however does not work for invaders, which I am not as happy about. Sometimes I just want to co-op without the constant threat of invasions. On a side note, there is a way to stop invasions by PVP’ers and that is to find and kill the Sinister Bell Keeper that is sometimes automatically summoned into your world. She usually shows up when you use your Beckoning Bell for co-op and can be found deep in the level. Getting to her can be a difficult venture, but if you succeed, you will be invasion free…unless you die as the host…then it is back to square one.
Now, the whole summoning process seems pretty simple, right? Well, it is not as simple as you might think. For some reason, trying to summon other players into your session, even with a password, can take a considerable amount of time. It will eventually work, but it seems like it takes forever. In order to make the whole summoning process more efficient, my friends and I use the following method. As far as I know, this is unofficial, but others have found this to work for them and it seems to work fairly well for us.
- First, all of the players have to be in the same vicinity, gathered around a lamppost, boss door or some form of landmark.
- Next, you should setup a password that is unique. A password of 12345 will not yield good results, but a more complex one usually does the trick.
- Then the players being summoned need to use their Small Resonance Bells first and wait until a message appears, telling them that they are “Searching for the chime of a Beckoning Bell”.
- Once that message appears on their screen, the summoner needs to ring his/her Beckoning Bell and the servers should be able to do the rest.
Following this process seems to sync us up fairly effectively, but every once in a while, it can still take some time. This isn’t really a good thing, especially if you have been invaded and you need help ASAP! If that happens, consider yourself on your own and don’t rely on the matchmaking servers to help very much.
Issues and Rants
Even though Bloodborne is a very entertaining and fun experience, I do have a few gripes with the game. Allow me to share these with you:
Summoning: As I mentioned before, in Bloodborne, like in most Souls games, co-op is a ton of fun. That is one of the main reasons I spend so much time on these types of games. Just hanging with friends in a chat party, helping each other kill enemies and bosses and hearing each others reactions to the numerous “Oh Shit” moments is such a blast. Unfortunately, I have found that summoning in Bloodborne can be a bit of a pain. It can take such a long time to bring in a co-op buddy. Even with a co-op password in place to help you link up, I have had it take anywhere from a few seconds to 15 mins. just to be summoned or to summon one of your friends. And yes, this is after the April 1.03 patch that was supposed to help shorten these actions. That is not to say that it isn’t improved from the original launch version. It is for sure, but it is still a huge time-suck. I miss the days when you could simply place your sign down and carry on with a level until summoned, like in Demon’s Souls.
Camera Angles: I can’t stress enough the importance of proper camera angels in these types of games. If your camera isn’t placed in the right spot, it can mean the difference between life and death, or at the very least, a missed item. Even though Bloodborne has a very fluid and controllable camera, I have been killed numerous times, due to locking onto a target and having the camera absolutely freak out when I get to close to them. It really only happens with very tall enemies and large bosses, where you will find yourself underneath their legs or beneath their gigantic bodies, but it is pretty disorientating when your camera rotates and rapidly switches angles on you. Of course, I understand that it is a struggle for developers to create flawlessly operating camera angles, but it is still a source of frustration.
This is a fantastic game. Dark, foreboding, brutally enjoyable and dripping with the macabre, From Software has really outdone themselves with Bloodborne and I am so excited to see what they come up with next.
Despite all of my horrific deaths and the few minor frustrations I have with the game, I keep coming back for more. Even though I have already earned the Platinum for this game and reached 100% completion, I don’t really see myself NOT playing this game. For me, Bloodborne will continue to be in my rotation, allowing me to continue my exploits in the city and surrounding lands of Yharnam. Also, playing with friends in the Chalice Dungeons and trying out new character builds will help to hold my attention. Plus, I hear rumor of some DLC coming our way….so that should be interesting to see unfold.
Really, in almost every aspect of this title, from graphics to music, from the storyline to its presentation, Bloodborne stands out as a truly awesome, very FROMsoft, next-gen experience. If you haven’t played it, you should go give it a try. Pursue the beasts of the night and slay them for the goodness of Yharnam and of your soul. Happy Hunting!