Bloodborne takes familiar Demon’s Souls-style combat to a warped vision of Van Helsing’s world.
Bloodborne, From Software’s latest action RPG, was revealed at E3, but wasn’t made playable. At this year’s Tokyo Game Show, I was finally able to get my hands on a playable demo of the Gothic take on the Demon’s Souls formula, and it may just be the first PS4 exclusive to truly impress me.
First things first, yes, this is a Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls sequel in everything but name. The gameplay will instantly feel familiar to veterans of the series, though the setting, characters, and pretty much everything else have been given a complete makeover. An accurate description of the game’s setting would be to imagine if Tim Burton made a Van Helsing movie. Your player character bears a striking resemblance to the legendary demon hunter, and the game’s warped, gothic castles take a page from the likes of A Nightmare Before Christmas.
The demo build I played let me chose between four different characters, two with heavy, two handed weapons, one with a short range axe and spear, and one with a dagger and a gun. Naturally, aiming to complete the Helsing vibe, I picked the one with the sword and the gun.
Straight away, I could feel the Souls combat engine. Heavy attack. Light attack. Dodge. Thrown item. The only difference was, this time I had a gun. I had a badass Gothic monster hunting pistol, that can only be described as… underwhelming. Aiming was super hard, I had very limited ammo, and when I did manage to pop a monster, It had a very lackluster effect. Thankfully, I could pull out a second dagger, and either combine them into some kind of crazy double-bladed monstrosity, or use them separately. The game’s combo system naturally let me switch between the two configurations, and it felt really satisfying to smack a monster, dodge his counter-attack, and then finish him up with a cool combo.
But, when you mess up, and you will mess up, you should be very pleased to know that the game is still mercilessly punishing. One-hit-kills are still very much a thing, and the series’ infamous “learning by dying” philosophy became quite apparent. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to discern what kind of penalties would accompany death in the full game, as the demo would simply boot me back to the main menu whenever I kicked the bucket.
Yharnam, the city you’ll explore in Bloodborne is absolutely beautiful. The way the game builds atmosphere with its gorgeous graphics, atmospheric sound and silky smooth gameplay is like poetry. Unlike Deep Down, that went for a similar gameplay style but felt “clunky,” or The Order 1886, that goes for a similar “fantastical Gothic” art style but ends up looking bland and gray, Bloodborne manages to nail both.
I could tell that the game was really trying it’s best to take full advantage of the system, something that I have yet to see an PS4 exclusive do. It’s definitely what Souls fans are looking for, and even those who aren’t really that into the series like myself will be surprised at how much more fluid and natural it feels than you would expect from a game that tries its best to kill you over and over.