REVIEW – You are a lone Hunter in Yarnham: a cursed 19th-century city that is suffering in the grip of a horrible infection. The majority of the desperate citizens are all became infected with an unknown virus, and those which seems to cling still to their humanity barricade their homes against the “hunt” where horrifying beasts and mutated humans stalk the darkened streets and only the Hunters – like yourself – stand a chance against them. Welcome to Dark Souls famed Hidetaka Miyazaki’s latest sadistic and beautiful nightmare, where of course you will die a lot – and you will love it!
I must confess, that I haven’t been a big fan of the “Souls” games so far. I am not especially fond of dying again and again only to fight endlessly respawning monsters with an awkward moving character that is followed by a wonky camera. I always respected Miyazaki’s vision and understood his fan’s love for his work, but it wasn’t my cup of tea… or… my cup of sake with droplets of demon blood in it. But with Bloodborne, all this has changed. This game is so good that I swear, that I will go back and try his earlier works on PlayStation 3: Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and I am also waiting now for the upcoming remastered version of Dark Souls 2 again. Why the sudden change of heart? Let me explain…
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The first thing you will remark when you enter the game is how incredibly beautiful it is. Yes, the human characters still look strange and lips synching is also strangely missing from the game altogether (which is a bit lame to be honest). Still, everything else is the city of Yarnham and the monsters who stalks the streets are so magnificent that there were times in the game when I just stopped to marvel at the game’s graphics in safe places.
Don’t be fooled by the dark ambiance of the game either: there are parts of the city, where the cold sun illuminates the majestic looking old Victorian buildings and the narrow streets where the bloodthirsty grotesque monsters and mutated humans roam the streets.
Yes, Japanese artists are extremely talented when it comes to the design of grotesque, horrifying monsters and it’s especially true for Bloodborne’s art department’s work.
Bloodborne is simply the best looking PlayStation 4 game so far, and it’s an impressive feat, even if there are clearly noticeable stuttering of the and frame rate slowdowns in some parts of the game, like in Old Yarnham for example. Let’s hope that those will be taken care of in a patch, like the incredibly long loading time when you die as well. By the way: you might wonder if you will die so much in this game, as in the Souls titles?
Yes, you will die a lot!
Make no mistake: Bloodborne is as hard as Miyazaki’s older games, so his work hasn’t changed a bit in this regard. Mutants who were once human and horrific monsters try both to butcher you mercilessly and you need exceptionally fast reflexes as they hit very hard and there’s no defence button at all. You will find a shield later, but it’s pretty useless, since it takes the place where you hold your gun, and by that time you have to learn how to roll to the side to dodge hits from monsters.
But even if you have the reflexes of a cobra (or a trigger happy Japanese teenager), you will be either ambushed or surprised time to time and the camera views, which are still a bit wonky will cause you to die fast – and also to lose all your Blood Echoes in typical “Souls” fashion.
Yes, you will lose everything!
Blood Echoes is an item harvested from foes that can be spent on increasing your character’s abilities or purchasing clothing, weapons or items from a gaggle of ghostly imps that live in a cauldron in Bloodborne’s overgrown copse of a hub area, known as Hunter’s Dream. Die and your current stash of Blood Echoes are dropped at the point of your defeat (or, now, stolen by the foe that killed you). You can reclaim them by making your way back to the location (or defeating the victorious enemy), but die en route and they’re gone for good.
As such, the greater the number of Blood Echoes in your possession, the more anxious you become as, the greater the potential loss that’s attached to defeat. But also, the greater the number of Blood Echoes in your possession, the higher the chance that you’re approaching a new lamp, one of the game’s unique points of safety that, when lit, will offer you a new point of entry into Yarnham. Should you turn back to bank your winnings at the hub world, or press on to the next portal, wherever it may be? It’s an ongoing question.
That’s of course all too similar to the Souls series, but still there are some differences as well. One of them is the way you can use your primary weapon. It can be extended and retracted like a switchblade. In its shorter form, it releases a flurry of strikes at close distance. When extended, it’s slower but with far greater reach. Combos can involve switching between these two states, to showboating effect.
Bloodborne is simply the best looking PlayStation 4 game so far.
Of course, attack and evasion are the bread and butter to Bloodborne, which leads to a slicker, more immediate and brutal combat. Every blow lands with a wet, sickening crunch as you leap, roll, sidestep and swing, creating a heavy-footed ballet of bloody violence that leaves you covered head to toe in glistening blood.
Keeping as much energy is another key factor. Learning how to pick off the most dangerous members of a group without expending so much energy that you’re without the required stamina to continue the fight against the rest becomes second nature after a few hours of experimentation. It takes time and patience to master the combat, but success is often a case of pre-empting your opponent and acting accordingly. Only those that do harness the fruits of that experimentation will make any genuine headway, though.
Something is rotten in Yarnham… (Scrap this! EVERYTHING is rotten in Yarnham!)
The story of the game is as obscure as the dark streets that you will roam in Yarnham. Everything is pretty mysterious and from the beginning of the game, it’s unclear exactly who you are and what are you doing in Yarnham. Secrets will be revealed very slowly, and the cut scenes that are either cryptic or short won’t help you to understand what’s going on either. That’s the beauty of Miyazaki’s games: it takes an extreme amount of time until the puzzle pieces are put together.
From’s new insight system also replaces humanity, and every point you earn increases your Hunter’s ability to see the supernatural. The first point you earn reanimates a doll in the Hunter’s Dream, allowing you to level up, but the higher your insight, the more you’ll see; secrets will be revealed, enemies will change – the world will evolve in small ways. Insight is also spent to summon allies or invade other players. You’ll earn it by achieving certain story elements or absorbing a “Mad Man’s Knowledge” item.
On the other hand levelling, your character with the doll is a pretty straightforward affair. You can use Blood Echoes to raise different statistics of your character and, of course, it affects your hit points, stamina and the expertise of the weapons you use. (Meaning that you will inflict bigger damage by raising the last one.) Since Blood Echoes are hard to keep, it might be a good idea to transfer your character to Hunter’s Dream and spend them as much as you can on levelling your character. Unfortunately, there’s no way to keep Blood Echoes in a safe place (not even in Hunter’s Dream) so it’s better to spend those on skill as soon as you can.
There is the same strange yet enjoyable multiplayer in the game. Besides some co-operative mode, which will appear later in the game (like everything else) other players can also be in your game and either helps you or try to kill you. I couldn’t experience the multiplayer aspect of Bloodborne, but early reports say that it can be a bit annoying to less skilled gamers if they are constantly slaughtered by others.
I was also able to leave messages and read notes scrawled by other players, discovering many a hidden item and avoiding countless ambushes thanks to carefully placed clues and by watching the Phantoms of the deceased.
The cooperative part of the game includes the “Chalice Dungeons”, which are randomized dungeons where you can also obtain random loot. (Of course, you can take part in those solo as well.) Once you’ve acquired the relevant tools you can spark these dungeons to life and wander between their walls acquiring unique rewards and tackling new boss fights.
How hard is very hard?!
Bloodborne is undeniably an especially hard game which can be frustrating sometimes – especially if you lose a large amount of Blood Echos. That said you can learn your enemies movements and tactics pretty well and after a while you can counter attack them pretty effectively.
Boss fights are another thing as repeated deaths during those can become incredibly annoying. Retracing you way until you reach the boss again and killing the same mobs is one thing, but you also must farm quicksilver bullets and Blood Vials – grinding on easy grunts for some quick Echoes and loot drops.
The story of the game is as obscure as the dark streets that you will roam in Yarnham.
The relatively fast pace of looping boss fights until you win is lost here, and it can feel like something of a chore. Lesser enemies are tightly packed but yield low blood rewards, and it can take a while to replenish your gear. A storage chest goes some way towards alleviating this, but you won’t often find yourself with spares to store.
PlayStation 4 game of the year?
Yes, there are some frustrations in Bloodborne, but it was to be expected from the makers of the Souls games. Bloodborne is undeniably the best PlayStation 4 exclusive so far and I was generally satisfied with the others as well. It’s also the best among the Miyazaki’s games and as I wrote earlier: it gave me fancy to try the earlier titles again – especially to give Dark Souls PS3 a second a chance. Of course: I have to go through Bloodborne first try out multiplayer extensively and it will take a long time and lots of extremely satisfying gaming sessions.
+ Incredible atmosphere
+ Hard but tight action
+ Just gorgeous
– Frame rate issues
– Boss fight frustrations
– Inventory problems
Editor: Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.
Developer: From Software
Genres: RPG, horror, action,
Publication: 2015 27th March