Welcome back to another Media Mondays post! Today, I’m going to be talking about my favourite game, Bloodborne. It’s been a while since I reviewed a video game, and even longer since I reviewed a more violent one! Bloodborne is rated 16 due to violence, and it’s also renowned as being a particularly tricky game. It’s made in the same vein as Dark Souls, which is a series also known for being difficult. There are no difficulty settings on Bloodborne, so if you want to play, you have to be prepared to put in the hours to practice!
The premise of Bloodborne is revealed slowly throughout the game, as is the rest of the narrative. The game gives you very little in the way of concrete story. Instead, you piece together the world around you by reading item descriptions, interacting with NPC characters, and progressing. I really like this style of storytelling as opposed to a game like Bioshock, where you get a lot of information fed to you through the constant dialogue. In Bloodborne, you have to seek out the dialogue. You can choose to interact with NPCs, and there are also lit lanterns next to doors or windows that signify the presence of an NPC if you wish to knock. Most, if not all, of these interactions are optional, so how much you learn is down to how much you explore (and trust me, with the way the game works you’ll have plenty of time to explore).
If you’re unfamiliar with the Souls Games concepts, the basics are thus: it’s an RPG that you play in third person (in Bloodborne, you’re known as a ‘Hunter’, in Dark Souls you’re the Chosen Undead), going around various areas, killing pretty much anything you come across. When you kill an enemy, you earn Souls (or Blood Echoes in Bloodborne), the more souls depending on the difficulty of the enemy. Echoes/Souls are currency used to buy materials, upgrade weapons, and level up. Sounds simple, right? It is, up until the point at which you die. If you die, you lose the blood echoes you’ve collected. And, when you respawn, the enemies you’ve killed come back. This is what I meant when I said you’ll have plenty of time to explore. The maps are incredibly intricate, with loads of openable shortcuts, and strategically placed lanterns (the equivalent of Dark Souls’ bonfires) that allow you to return to your safe haven, the Hunters’ Dream, which is where you level up and buy materials etc. If you lose your Echoes, they are dropped roughly where you died. Often, an enemy will pick them up (identified by their glowing purple eyes). If you manage to get back to that spot and kill the enemy holding them, or pick them up from the ground, you get them back. If you die before you get your dropped Echoes back, they’re gone, so be careful to regularly go back and spend them.
You usually progress from one area to another by finding and defeating a boss, which will unlock the next area. There are some optional bosses, and side areas along the way, because this game is anything but linear. For a non-open world game, the game is surprisingly, well, open-world. You can return to old areas at any time (and are advised to, because sometimes, things change as time progresses…). The Echoes concept is as rewarding as it is frustrating. You can choose to become OP, return to the early game locations and farm for Echoes to level up, but because the enemies in the early areas are worth so few Echoes, this strategy is incredibly time consuming, and doesn’t actually really improve your playing ability, because it’s so easy to become OP for the first few areas. It is a bit love it or hate it, and there are many gamers who don’t like the Souls games because of how frustrating and difficult the games can be, but I find it really rewarding when you finally push through.
The game itself looks great, and there are rumours about a PC version which… please? One issue my boyfriend has had with Bloodborne that I don’t notice is the frame rate, which is pretty low, so the game can appear a bit stilted if you’re used to games with higher FPS. The graphics themselves though look really good, and as the game goes on, the enemies become more and more Eldritch, and more and more horrifying. In the early game, the main enemies are The Mob (generic, zombie guy-type enemies), things like dogs, wolves, and giant guys with hammers. The bosses are pretty horrific-looking, but still kind of stick within the zone of recognisable shapes: the first (optional) boss is like a giant, antlered werewolf type beast, and the first compulsory boss, Father Gascoigne, is a fellow Hunter, driven mad by Blood who transforms, mid-battle, into a werewolf/beast figure. Later bosses take a variety of forms ranging from other Blood-crazed Hunters to giant spiders to amalgamations of corpses to outerspace slugs. The bosses have great variety. They all have their own attacks, their own weaknesses, their own strengths and their own unique madness. Some are fairly easy, but some are absolutely awful, and it often feels like banging your head into a brick wall. Is the victory always worth the pain? Maybe not, to be honest, but I still love it.
One of my favourite things about Bloodborne is something I mentioned briefly earlier: the intricacy of the maps. There are shortcuts within areas that help you to be able to get from the spawning point to the boss without too much trouble, but sometimes you’ll find a new path in an area, open a door, and realise you’re back in an old area, having come full-circle. There are loads of Easter eggs hidden throughout the game where you can see other areas in the distance. I can’t even imagine the amount of planning it took to make these maps actually work. My other favourite thing about Bloodborne is the variety of weapons and gear you can pick up. The early clothing and weapons are fairly standard-looking but, like the enemies, it becomes more and more ridiculous as you progress through the game. By the end of the game, you might be wearing a cage on your head, and you might have a giant, spinning pizza cutter in your hand.
Pretty much everything about Bloodborne is a little bit ridiculous. The difficulty, the weapons, the character creation menu, the enemies, and even the world it’s set in. And I love it! Have you ever played Bloodborne or one of the other Souls games? What did you think?