By Joe Strange
The Souls games (both Demon and Dark) from, er, From Software, live in infamy as hard, punishing and incredibly rewarding games. Games where defeating an enemy isn’t only par for the course, but a memorable event. I remember playing Dark Souls for the first time and feeling incredibly satisfied the first time I got one over on a Knight enemy that showed up fairly early on and had me down more than once.
It’s a series were the simple act of killing a single enemy can be as daunting as vanquishing a boss. They’re hard, that’s true, but the appeal of the game is in surviving, in being tested.
So, since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve just picked up Bloodborne, From Software’s newest work. Now, between work and a few other things this week, I’ve not had much time to play it and have only managed an hour before writing this in time for today.
Those who have played the Souls games will be immediately familiar with the bleak world and the tough combat, but there are a few things that are a little different. Being a gothic Victorian setting full of Lovecraftian horror as opposed to a medieval fantasy deal, for one. There’s also no shields (at least, none that you’d want to use), instead this time your left hand is given a gun. While the starting pistol isn’t incredibly strong, it’s a good way to grab an enemy’s attention, and more importantly, for stunning them when you have it. The gun’s most useful (so far) ability is to stun an enemy just as you’re about to be hit, which opens them up for a counter (similar to the parry/riposte system from Dark Souls) and big damage.
The other big difference is in the way the game entices you into combat. Dark Souls rewarded patient players, sword fights were chess matches, where a wrong move would mark the end, but so far Bloodborne has been different. This is mostly due to the new health regeneration system; when you’re hit, you’re given a window of time to strike and gain some of the health back from the enemy. This gets rid of the backstepping and estus flasking of Dark Souls, and rewards players who retaliate quickly, there’s more of a focus on brevity and agility so far, though being able to hit hard helps too (why hit something thrice when you can kill it in one?)
It’s an interesting concept, and so far has caused me to jump into fights that I may not have been prepared for, and ended up coming out worse off, teaching me an important lesson blah blah.
Speaking of Estus Flasks, the substitute this time round is Blood Vials; a consumable that you can find in the world, meaning there’s a lot less stressing about saving your healing until after the next fight.
Weapons are a bit different this time around too, while in the first few areas of Dark Souls you would find a lot of weapons to choose from, letting you adapt your play style as you go, Bloodborne gives you a choice in the first few moments, and so far I’ve not seen any others lying about.
The weapon you choose, however, isn’t just a sawblade (or in my case, a wicked cane), these weapons have the ability to morph into longer weapons, with wider reach or the like. The cane, for instance, can turn into a whip, which as well has having a longer reach, has a wider area of effect, meaning you can deal with groups of enemies.
And you will have to. While Dark Souls encounters were usually one or two on one, with there being sometimes a few more nasties to kill, Bloodborne isn’t against throwing literally half a dozen members of an angry mob (complete with pitch forks and torches) after you. Which is when you bless that whip of yours.
In my hour of playing I died 8 times. The first is scripted; you’re pitted against a huge bloody dog with nothing but your sweet judo moves, but the other 7 times? They were all on me. Between ambushes, angry mobs ganging up on me then setting me on fire, and snipers, I’ve bitten the dust an awful many ways.
Like Dark Souls, it’s possible to get your Blood Echoes (the new souls) back if you manage to get back to where you died. Though I’m not sure exactly how it works yet. The first time I found my things on the floor, ala Souls, but the second time, that I actually managed to reach my point of death, I killed a fellow with a pitchfork and the game told me I’d recovered my things. I imagine he was the one to off me last time, but I’m still unsure, I guess I’ll just have to die some more.
I’m sure that won’t be a problem.
Bloodborne has a different setting with a different story, but it still holds the Souls essence, for every reason it’s like a Souls game, there’s a little tweak that makes it something different and fresh.
Once I get some more play time under my belt I’ll likely do a proper Reaction Time, giving my two cents on the lore and the story as it develops, like why this hideous mob think that I’m the monster, and what the plague they keep yelling about is, until then I’ll say this: Bloodborne is hard, it demands repetition and improvement, but so far, it’s just as rewarding as its spiritual predecessor.