Developed by From Software and published by Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively for the PlayStation 4, the Bloodborne video-game is a spiritual successor to and plays very much like iterations from the Dark Souls franchise. I don't know about you, but Dark Souls is a franchise I have a love-and-hate relationship with. Demon's Souls was one of the first video-games I ever played for the PlayStation 3 and I enjoyed and loved it so much that I soon after found myself having to explore its Dark Souls successor. And one-hundred grueling hours, I concluded that no matter how much it infuriated me to seemingly no end, Dark Souls was one of the best and most immersive games of its kind. Fast-forward a little bit, however, I found that the laws of diminishing returns started to feel more and more abundant in the series.
Although I enjoyed Dark Souls 2, I found myself much less enthused for Dark Souls 3, but whether or not that's because 2 is better than 3, I feel that it's probable it simply comes down to which one I played first. Although the series has offered new features, I find that Dark Souls, for the most part, regressed in some areas and other-wise hasn't evolved past its initial niche appeal. Let's be clear – I think that Demon's Souls and Dark Souls were great with Dark Souls being Perfect, sitting as one of my all-time favorites, and while I don't have the same fondness for Dark Souls 2 and Dark Souls 3, I enjoyed myself and appreciate them as Very Good video-game experiences. I simply believe it has gotten stale because a lack of fresh approaches and innovation.
This is why I was excited for Bloodborne, because I was convinced this would be a different, unique idea. I didn't have a PlayStation 4 until recently, and although I had many video-games exclusive to the console I wanted to experience, Bloodborne was among the two titles I wanted to play the most. I usually avoid trailers and footage, and so, I was very much married to the idea Bloodborne would bring the elements of Dark Souls and blend them with horror elements. I wanted it to feel new and, as said, like it's own unique experience. As I finish off Bloodborne's campaign, however, I am left to unfortunately discover that, for the most part, it amounts to Dark Souls with a new coat of paint.
This isn't the most heinous of insults I can throw at something, because, like I said, Dark Souls is a cool series, but it's one I feel has been on a decline through repetition. Bloodborne brings a Gothic Victorian setting and a Call of Cathulu, murky Van Helsing-like aesthetic, but it doesn't bring fourth a whole lot of game-play components. The reason this feels so fatal is because Bloodborne, like the experiences that inspired it, depends so heavily on game-play to carry it.
The storyline is minimalist with an added lore that can supplement, but can't fully replace a truly rich narrative. The experience is more personal, it's about immersion and capturing ones' imagination. In a lot of ways, how I'd describe a Souls video-game at its best is by saying that it's what you make it. You are you and you're faced with an adventure that is more about the "how" than the "why". Although, Bloodborne adds new weaponry with its aesthetic and faster action with its combat, it never goes the extra mile to shed the weight of the constant comparisons it's bound to have.
But, what does Bloodborne's own merits have to say for themselves? For starters, Bloodborne's is backed by a uniquely fantastic soundtrack that helps set the mood very well. The graphics and visuals make for a dreary, desolate, and depraved landscape, one that's very good, although, not very varied and likewise, has monsters that accomplish the same, but are not ones I found very memorable or original. The difficulty feels more balanced for From Software. One of the complaints I've always had about From Software is not about how difficult they are, but how flawed or inconvenient certain aspects are. For instance, it isn't very often in Bloodborne that I find myself behind a pillar and the enemy attacking me is able to slash magically through the pillar and hit me, or able to hit me with an attack when I am on a ledge five feet over them. I can still account for a couple times this happened, but it isn't as much.
And, also, although, Bloodborne still has the inconveniences of having to make a 2-minute trek from a lamppost through a horde of enemies to traverse through to a boss-battle, it isn't as overboard or as unnecessarily punishing with it. I thought that Bloodborne was approachable, which is helped by the quicker movements and pace it has.
As far as game-play's concerned, I found that most of the dungeons and areas in-general felt like I would go through the motions in-order to move fourth with the next boss-battle, and I think that took away some of its variation. I also found that most of the boss-battles felt very similar and I would oftentimes forget about them shortly after I completed them. I would have liked for them to have been more visually imposing and it goes back to what I said earlier about how I thought that the monsters looked aesthetically good, but not very noteworthy and not very distinguishable.
I found that the game-play itself, if I compare it once more to the other Souls' canons, strictly as far as controls and fighting is concerned, is probably the best and most fully-realized of the series as a whole.
In summary, I think that Bloodborne is a good video-game on most accounts. I remember talking with various individuals while I played and I remember them telling me how much they loved it, also telling me that it was their gateway into the Dark Souls series. I thought that was an intriguing fact and it made me curious about whether or not I was simply jaded by the overexposure I've had with the Dark Souls series. I've come to think back to how coveted I look at Dark Souls and Demon's Souls, and wonder whether or not it's simply diminished returns. That being said, I do still personally hold the opinion that while Bloodborne had good visuals and a fantastic soundtrack, holding the high standard for presentation that game director Miyazaki is known for, I found that it didn't introduce a whole lot of new ideas and didn't offer as strong of an experience as I would have wanted.
These are my thoughts, but if you agree or disagree, please do, feel free to share your thoughts over Bloodborne, I know that it has a lot of dedicated supporters and I would love to hear what you think.