Our good friend dark10x hasn't completely finished writing his Gamescom articles, so the German gameshow is going to be around a bit more on Gamersyde. While Until Dawn and The Order will be his next focus, here is his impressions on Bloodborne, one of the highlights of Sony's line-up a few weeks ago. Enjoy the reading!
A Partnership Re-united
While we weren't allowed to record any footage of Bloodborne we did get a chance to sit through a new presentation of the game. For all intents and purposes, despite the name, this is a new Souls game from the original creator of the series. It warms out hearts to see FROM Software achieving such success as of late with this series as they've been creating this type of game for almost two decades now with titles such as King's Field. Of course, their good ideas were always somewhat countered by poor presentations and clunky controls. Still, unlike so many other developers, FROM has never wavered from making highly challenging games that demand nothing less than mastery. With the rarity of such games, then, it's no surprise that people were ready for something like Demon's Souls when it was first released back on PlayStation 3.
The challenge level is just one aspect of what makes the Souls games so desirable, of course, but there was some concern that Bloodborne was skewing a bit easier in order to reach a larger crowd. If what the team is to be believed, however, that's really not going to be the case. The systems have simply evolved and changed in a way that one should expect from a new series even if it continues to embody the old. These same concerns were raised in regards to Dark Souls 2 last year, in fact, and while that game had its share of problems it was anything but easy. The core concepts behind these games goes beyond plain old challenge, however. Exploration of the unknown, perilous combat, and a unique online experience are the three core concepts on which Bloodborne and, in fact, the Souls games were built. The online experience portion remains a mystery but we're slowly learning more and more about the other aspects.
Regain – it's not just for hair loss anymore
The most radical change to the game's core design stems from the "regain system". At first glance Bloodborne appears to be a game designed to encourage more offensive, rather than defensive, play. When the player loses a portion of life, reflected as a red section within the life bar, they will have an opportunity to "regain" that lost health by successfully counter-attacking. So, while it does indeed appear to take a more offensive approach to combat, there is still a lot of strategy involved in attack timing. Hidetaka Miyazaki, the games creator, likens this new system to a sword and shield despite the fact that you never physically carry an actual shield. Bloodborne is still a game of both offensive and defensive play. Furthermore, he likens the red portion of your life bar as despair – as you lose life, you fall into despair – while hope represents the "regain" of health. That certainly sounds suitably FROM.
They were also happy to reveal the game's new HUD system which is rather similar, in many ways, to what has come before. You have your life and stamina meters up top along with your health and item boxes. That's actually where one of the more significant differences makes an appearance; the item and health boxes are now completely separate. Why? When observing players previously Miyazaki felt that the single item box system, which grouped healing items in with everything else, discouraged players from using other items altogether. By offering a dedicated healing button, the game now encourages more experimentation with actual item use mapped to another button.
More interestingly, items can now be combined in potentially interesting ways which, by the way, won't be spelled out for the player. You'll need to discover these combinations yourself. They demonstrated this within the game demo on hand. Within the inventory they had a Molotov cocktail, which is deadly by itself, along with an urn of oil. They started by using the urn of oil by itself which the player character splashed all over an enemy. Following that they tossed the Molotov which, as a result of the oil, caused increased damage.
So ugly yet so beautiful
The demo we were shown was quite a lovely piece. It's still early to be sure but the frame-rate was actually a fairly steady 30 fps at this point. Loading times upon death, however, were quite long but we'll remain hopeful that these issues will be corrected. The excellent per-object motion blur used in the Souls games makes a return here as well along with some incredibly detailed environments that just ooze atmosphere.
The new Gothic setting really produces a very different atmosphere from the more medieval Souls titles as well. In addition to the area present in the playable demo we also took a look at the Hemwicks Town Grave Yard where they spent time highlighting various tactics in tackling different types of foes. Here, for instance, we were shown a battle against a group of grotesque witches which could only be staggered by rolling into them before unleashing your counter-attack.
All in all, though, the game is looking incredible at this point. It's clear that this game is very important to Sony and FROM Software and they are clearly putting a lot of money and effort behind it. It's almost a return to its roots as FROM has traditionally worked on PlayStation consoles and Demon's Souls was, in fact, published by Sony in Japan. With so few interesting Japanese oriented games available on PS4 at this point Bloodborne might be one of the first that really has a shot at appealing to both the East and West.