I just finished my first run of Bloodborne. One of many, if my trend from Dark Souls is to be believed, and I found myself enjoying it a lot. However, I did find myself being overly critical at times, and I have to wonder whether this is because the criticisms are valid or whether I just set my expectations too high.
I don’t want this to become a “review,” but I will preface everything by saying that Bloodborne is a fantastic game. Sublime is the word that comes to mind, especially since it has taken a couple of years for this console generation to produce anything decent. However, it is also an acquired taste. It’s not for the faint hearted gamer who wants to play for an hour and then put it down. Bloodborne is a game that demands focus and dedication to master. Even veterans of the Souls games will find new challenges in it and I think it offers something quite different.
With that out of the way, I want to talk about the aesthetic. When I first played Bloodborne the gothic-horror aesthetic worked wonders on me. Everything fit so well within it, and the design of all the environments backed it up so well, but the problem is that I can’t really tell when one area stops and one begins. While Dark Souls’ areas seamlessly blended into one another, you could tell easily when you were in a different area because the whole design of your surroundings changes, giving each area a very different feel. In Bloodborne I felt like I wandered from one dark, haunted castle or mansion to another, each time going through a village with all the normal denizens of Yahnam. It has no relief except at the final boss, whose arena is full of white flowers, somewhat like the final boss in Metal Gear Solid 3.
While we are on the subject of bosses, I wanted to say that the bosses themselves really hold the game up. They’re always a lot of fun, though long-time souls fans may find them easier than expected. I beat 3 of them on my first try. However, I feel like the game makes it very obvious when you’re stepping into a boss arena, because the bosses seem to become more and more colossal the further into the game you pry. I guess that isn’t much of a criticism because you always expect the next boss to be around the corner in Bloodborne, but it did alter how I played. I’d be able to spot the boss arena and, instead of wandering in and having to fight, I would look around a little more outside to see if I could get anything to help me or to unlock a shortcut so my run back after my inevitable death wouldn’t be quite so long. I also feel that a few of the bosses rely too heavily, in their design, on the ideas of beastly monstrosities. While this fits with the world, I did feel like it made some of the bosses feel very similar, and this carries over to a few of the enemies you meet later in the game which, in my opinion, become more of a chore to fight than a challenge.
These were basically my only two complaints with the game. I’m yet to really have any grasp on the story but going through it a second time will help with that, along with reading the speculation on the internet that I have been avoiding until my first run through is complete. Speaking of which, I just had a quick look and it turns out I missed out 3 bosses and I haven’t even started on the Chalice Dungeons yet, so there’s still a lot for me to enjoy in Bloodborne. I’m not sure if I prefer it to Dark Souls, it would probably be more accurate to say that I like it just as much but in a different way. The aforementioned bosses are one reason, even if a few lack variety, and the more visceral, fast paced combat is much more rewarding than the slower, counter-attack based combat of Dark Souls.
On top of all that it is a stonkingly beautiful game. Aesthetic gripes aside, the design is absolutely flawless and it makes the world feel real and alive. From Software have a strange ability to put in minimal characters and story yet make their world more intriguing and more vivid than one like Skyrim, which felt like a lot of randomly generated content placed together where the cities were concerned. Everything in Bloodborne has character and think that’s what it stems from. The visual story telling is also something that they have honed throughout their years and it really shines in Bloodborne, even though I spent a minimal amount of time doing side quests in my first playthrough.