‘Bloodborne’ proves no need for ‘Souls’



“Bloodborne,” a combat-based video game, is the newest creation from director Hidetaka Miyazaki released by From Software. “Bloodborne” is available on Sony’s PS4.

By Colin McInerney

“Bloodborne,” an action-based, role-playing video game, takes the established formula of “Dark Souls”—a similar game that released its second version in March 2014—and expands on it. With fluid combat, a fantastic visual atmosphere and a smattering of blood, it not only stands as the best exclusive game for the PlayStation 4, but it is potentially the best game director Hidetaka Miyazaki has produced in his 10 years working in the industry.

The “Souls” series began with “Demon’s Souls” on Sony’s PS3. It became notorious for its unrelenting difficulty and what can only be described as very literal combat. Players had a light and strong attack to choose from in each hand, and the game focused on blocking and fending off enemies. Replete with interesting and varied boss battles, the game quickly achieved cult status.

The series achieved broader recognition when the game’s developer, From Software, broke away from exclusivity with Sony in 2009. Due to Sony’s ownership of the rights to “Demon’s Souls,” From Software chose to build a spiritual successor called “Dark Souls,” which released on PS3 and Xbox 360. 

Shortly after, the developer split into two teams. The B-Team began working on “Dark Souls II,” which arguably improved the gameplay of the series while the overall atmosphere and coherence of “Dark Souls” was lost. The A-Team, including Miyazaki, began working on “Project Beast,” which was eventually revealed to be “Bloodborne.”

Fans were a bit skeptical when “Bloodborne” was officially announced only because it was not a “Souls” title. The game feels similar to the rest of the series, though—it shares the control scheme, and the progression through levels leading up to bosses is virtually identical.

The game stands out in its combat focus. “Souls” focused on very shield-oriented combat, and only the best players would forsake shields and adapt a more active and dodging-oriented playstyle. “Bloodborne” does away with shields almost entirely and swaps them for clunky guns that can be fired quickly to stagger enemies, acting more as crowd control than damage. Guns can also be used to knock enemies down when shot during their attack animations, allowing players to run up and execute a special high-damage attack.

Due to this close-up focus, getting hit is much more likely in “Bloodborne” than in the rest of the “Souls” series. To counteract the likelihood of being injured, any players that are hit have a small window in which they can attack enemies and regain lost health. 

Healing items are also vastly more accessible than in previous games, though players are still quick to die when surrounded by enemies. Finding the balance between rushing into a horde of enemies and managing stamina to properly attack and dodge is the key to succeeding in “Bloodborne.”

The addition of transforming weapons also allows interesting combat opportunities. Each primary weapon has two modes that can toggle back and forth at the press of a button. The saw cleaver acts as a giant butcher knife with a saw blade but transforms to extend a long handle, thus changing its attack style to resemble that of a halber axe with long swinging arcs and overhead attacks. Weapons can even be transformed mid-attack, and subsequent attacks will use the transformed attack style.

While the game is easily the best game available on the PlayStation 4, it is not for the faint of heart. “Bloodborne” is incredibly difficult, and it is extremely reliant on trial-and-error and quick reflexes. New players can expect to run into a metaphorical wall early on, and gamers unfamiliar with the “Souls” series may be turned off by its difficulty. Even veteran “Souls” players will have to adjust to the new attack style; playing passively is a surefire way to get killed. For anyone not yet turned off, pick up “Bloodborne” for one of the most rewarding game experiences ever.