‘Bloodborne’ is Soaked in Atmosphere, Harder Than ‘Dark Souls’

Photo from From Software

Throughout last week, “Bloodborne,” the latest in the “Souls” series by From Software, released worldwide.  To many fans of the series, this was the most anticipated game of 2015, especially with the return of Hidetaka Miyazaki, who directed all of the Souls games except “Dark Souls 2,” which many thought of as a good game, but the weakest of the series.

“Bloodborne” is easily the largest departure from the form of the series as of yet.  Almost every mechanic has been changed, or at least tweaked in some way to balance the game.  The result is a game that is clearly part of the Souls series, but feels much different while remaining enjoyable in its own right.

For all of the previous Souls games, “Demon’s Souls,” “Dark Souls” and “Dark Souls 2,” combat was heavily focused on studying the enemy and blocking or dodging their attacks, while looking for an opportunity to strike.

The series so far:

“Demon’s Souls”

Video from Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe


“Dark Souls”

Video from Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe


“Dark Souls 2”

Video from Bandai Namco Games America


If you attempt the same defensive strategy in “Bloodborne,” you are probably going to die. Instead, the combat this time is more fast-paced, focusing on attacking first and either dodging or parrying a quick strike from the enemy to defend yourself.

Even if the enemy hits you, the new regain system gives you a chance to recover. You have a short window to attack the enemy back and regain your lost health. In the most extreme circumstances, you can suffer a nearly lethal hit, stun the enemy with a parry, riposte them for massive damage and regain all of the health you lost.

However, like previous Souls games, “Bloodborne” does not reward sloppy or rushed fighting strategies. If you run in and rely on the regain system and continuously using your healing items to live, then you likely be killed very quickly.

The healing items for “Bloodborne,” blood vials, are similar to the grasses from “Demon’s Souls,” in that they are mainly obtained from killing enemies, but with fewer varieties. Unlike the Estus Flasks from the “Dark Souls” games, blood vials are not replenished when you reach one of the scarce checkpoints or die. If you want to have a full stock of blood vials to fight a boss, then you need to kill some enemies.

For the enemies in “Bloodborne,” From Software seems to have made a compromise. The normal enemies are generally easier to defeat than in previous games, only taking a few quick hits before dying. However, due to the lack of armor in “Bloodborne,” they can also do much more damage to you, and are also more likely positioned to ambush you.

The real difficulty of “Bloodborne” comes from fighting bosses. Seemingly, every boss is more aggressive than almost any other from previous games. You always need to be on the lookout for opportunities to attack, but have enough stamina left to dodge at a moment’s notice. As Gavin Dunne said, “these boss fights make Ornstein and Smough [a pair of bosses known from being exceptionally difficult] feel like a pair of Goobas.”

The combat itself is one of the most notable changes to “Bloodborne” from previous Souls games. Gone are the days of hiding behind a shield and waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. In “Bloodborne,” you have no shield. You are given a gun that you will put to good use, or else you will probably die a lot.

The main use of the gun is in parrying enemy attacks. You can shoot an enemy in the face mid-attack to stun them, giving you an opportunity for a “visceral attack,” which does significantly more damage than a normal attack.
up animated GIF

.gif from giphy, with an original Kotaku source

The back stab attack, now known as a “back visceral attack,” has also been significantly changed. In the past, you simply needed to attack while behind an enemy, and the special attack would be initiated. In “Bloodborne,” you need to fully charge a strong attack while behind an enemy, which leaves you completely open to attack for a few seconds, to stun them, and then attack again to backstab them.

The two special attacks are only an example of many combat system changes. In all previous Souls games, you were showered with different weapons of all fighting styles. According to an unofficial “Bloodborne” wiki, the new game has 15 main weapons, also known as trick weapons. However, Marcus Sanders, who worked on the official guide for the game, said that each trick weapon in “Bloodborne” is more like a class of weapons from previous games.

The combat has also gained much more depth due to this change. Previously, it was quite complex, with each weapon having a normal, running, rolling, jumping, plunging and off-hand attacks. Each of these attacks also had a light and strong variant, depending on which button the player pressed, as well as a one-handed or two-handed variant.

“Bloodborne” more than doubles the moveset of each weapon. Each trick weapon has the full moveset of a weapon from the previous games, yet they also have a transformed state with another full moveset for the weapon.
kai animated GIF
.gif from giphy, with an original lordranandbeyond.tumblr source

In addition to the doubled moveset, “Bloodborne” gives the player two entirely new kinds of attacks. The first is a transformation attack, allowing the trick weapon to switch between its two forms during combat without breaking the flow of attacks.
up animated GIF
.gif from giphy, with an original Kotaku source

The second is the charge attack, which leaves the player vulnerable, but deals more damage than a normal attack.
.gif from the unofficial Fextralife Bloonborne wiki

“Bloodborne” is undoubtedly a Souls game. The mechanics from the previous three games carry over, but are changed dramatically enough that it is a different experience. From Software completely succeeded in their goal of making a game dripping with atmosphere, although the story can get a bit too dark at times. The game is also locked at 30 frames per second and the load times as of this writing are upwards of 45 seconds.

In short, a Souls fan will love it, but will need to adjust. People who hate Souls games will still hate it. Those on the fence will get a different experience than they would with other Souls games.

Gameplay of “Bloodborne,” including Gascoigne, the second boss of the game

Video courtesy of Mitchell Saltzman a.k.a. JurassicRabbit on YouTube


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