Bloodborne is a 2015 Action RPG from renowned Japanese developer From Software exclusively for the PlayStation 4 system. Face your fears as you search for answers in the ancient city of Yharnam, now cursed with a strange endemic illness spreading through the streets like wildfire. Danger, death, and madness lurk around every corner of this dark and horrific world, and you must discover its darkest secrets in order to survive.
The game takes place in a decrepit, Victorian Gothic city called Yharnam, which is the home to the Healing Church, a large religious organization, a pioneer in the concept of “Blood Ministration”. The blood used by the Healing Church is unique and serves as a potent medical remedy capable of curing almost any ailment, from simple flesh wounds to virulent diseases.
Over the years, many travelers journey to the city seeking the Healing Church’s sacred blood to cure their afflictions; the player takes the role of one such traveler, but one with another purpose in mind, for the player seeks something mysterious and obscure, something unknown to most if not for a select few. “Paleblood”.
And as the blood minister injects the player with blood, their journey in Yharnam begins. Upon awakening, it will become evidently clear that the city is plagued with an endemic illness that has transformed most of its citizens into bestial creatures, while the others hunt them incessantly. The player must then navigate the streets of Yharnam and overcome its violently deranged inhabitants and horrifying monsters in order to survive.
Shortly after, the player will enter a spectral realm called the Hunter’s Dream, which acts as both a sanctuary and a workshop for their weapons. The player then encounters two entities: Gehrman, an elderly, wheelchair-bound man who provides advice to Hunters like the player, and The Doll, a living life-size doll that assists the player in leveling up. Gehrman informs the player that in order to obtain the cure they seek, they must hunt down the various monsters plaguing Yharnam.
As the player delves deeper into the land of Yharnam, they begin to learn its various dark secrets, the worship of strange gods and blood, as well as the origin of the plague that is destroying its populace.
In May 2014 several screenshots of a game known under the working title of “Project Beast” were leaked on the Internet. The source who leaked the screenshots claimed that the game was the new spiritual successor to the Souls series, being developed by FromSoftware and distributed by Sony Japan. A few weeks later, a video featuring a compilation of gameplay scenes from an unreleased trailer was leaked as well.
Project Beast was officially revealed during Sony’s conference at E3 2014, but this time under the name Bloodborne. The game was confirmed to be a Playstation 4 exclusive co-developed by FromSoftware and Sony Japan Studios, who also publishes the game. More importantly, it was confirmed that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator, and director of both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, was the director of Bloodborne. The game received much attention from video game journalists and fans alike, since the game was considered the spiritual successor of Demon’s Souls, and was met with high anticipation.
Shortly after the announcement, a leaked gameplay trailer that was meant to be shown at TGS 2013 was uploaded to Youtube. Many fans speculated that the reason why it wasn’t revealed at TGS was due to the framerate issues shown in the trailer, and thus it was considered that the gameplay was not ready to be shown to the public.
Development of the game began after the release of the Artorias of the Abyss expansion pack for Dark Souls in August 2012 and was carried out almost simultaneously with the development of Dark Souls II. Miyazaki’s absence as the director of Dark Souls II was explained due to him being appointed as the director for Bloodborne.
Although the game has mechanics similar to those of the Souls series, Bloodborne shows a departure from some of the features that were present in the Souls games. One of those changes is the setting, with the game being set in a Victorian-era with gothic and steampunk influences, as opposed to the medieval setting of the Souls games. Other changes include a more aggressive approach to combat, the inclusion of firearms, and the lack of shields and heavy armor. The game is locked at 30fps with a resolution of 1080p.
A playable demo of the game was showcased at various video-game conventions, like Gamescom and TGS. The demo, however, had its difficulty level significantly reduced, in order to allow players to experience the entirety of the level. In October 2014 a public Alpha was released on Playstation Network for users who had received email invitations with a code that would allow downloading the game. The purpose of the alpha was to test the game’s online mechanics. The Alpha also had increased difficulty. The first two tests took place on October 1st and 3rd. The last test, which was originally scheduled for October 5, was postponed to October 19. While neither Sony nor From Software gave an official confirmation about the reason behind the delay, it was suspected that the reason was for fixing a bug that allowed players to access an unfinished area of the game and fight another boss, Father Gascoigne.
Bloodborne is a third-person action RPG. Just like the Souls games, the core mechanic of the game is that it uses death to teach players how to react in perilous environments, encouraging the use of trial and error in order to overcome its difficulty. By defeating enemies, the player will obtain Blood Echoes that can be used for leveling up, upgrading equipment, and buying supplies.
The combat in Bloodborne is similar to the one present in the Souls games, although a few tweaks have been made to the formula. Bloodborne encourages the player to approach combat in a more “aggressive” way, instead of the “passive” style of combat present in past games. This not only makes the combat much faster-paced but also forces the player to rely less on defense in order to survive. According to Miyazaki: “the enemies are strong and fierce, and if you wait passively to respond, you’re going to be eaten and killed.”
A few changes have been made to the controls: By pressing L1, the player can transform their weapons (for example, the saw can transform into a large blade with a longer range). The healing items have been assigned to the Triangle button while other usable items, such as Molotov Cocktails are assigned to the Square button. With the Circle button, when the player is not locked to an enemy, the character will perform a roll like in past games. However, when the player is locked to an enemy, the character will do a dashing sidestep instead, which is a far faster and more agile move than the traditional roll. By holding the R2 button for some time and then releasing it the player will perform a powerful charged attack.
A new feature present in Bloodborne is the inclusion of firearms, which have been introduced in order to fit with the Victorian setting of the game and the new style of combat. Guns, however, are meant to stun enemies, not deal a huge amount of damage (although this is slowly being called into question), and work better at close range. Shields will be largely absent from the game, forcing players to rely on their dodging abilities to avoid damage. Magic will have a minimal presence in the game and it will be replaced by gadgets.
Bloodborne takes place in a large and continuous open world environment. The world is interconnected like in Dark Souls, with some areas being available to explore from the beginning while others are unlocked as the player progresses throughout the story. Each area is connected to one or several other areas and players will be able to find and unlock shortcuts in each area which will ease navigation through the levels in case the player is killed. Although the game takes place mostly in the city of Yharnam, players will be able to visit several other locations and small villages on the outskirts of the city. The game will have a heavy focus on exploration and sometimes it will be required to use a torch in order to navigate through pitch-black areas.
During their quest in Yharnam, players will have to face nightmarish creatures, including demented townsfolk, lycanthropes, and giant crows among others. The enemies in Bloodborne have an improved AI and will be able to wander and patrol several areas, even forming large mobs to hunt down the player. The demented citizens of Yharnam are able to talk to each other and create strategies to take down the player and the beasts alike. Along with the standard enemies, players will have to engage in battles against powerful bosses, another trademark of the Soul series. The game will also feature a day and night cycle, which will affect the behavior of enemies.
The healing system has been modified. Blood Vials will be the healing items of Bloodborne, replacing the Estus Flasks from Dark Souls. By pressing Triangle the player will use a Blood Vial to recover health. Another way to recover health is through the regain system. After receiving an attack from an enemy, a yellowy orange-ish bar will appear in the player’s health meter, representing the amount of health that can be recovered. If the player manages to counterattack before the bar runs out, the player will recover a portion of health for every hit they land on the enemy. This system encourages the player to be more offensive, but it is incredibly risky as well since the players are opening themselves to other attacks by nearby enemies.
Bloodborne will also feature online mechanics. Players will be able to see the phantoms of other nearby players and the Message and Bloodstain systems from the Souls games are back. However, the Bloodstain will be replaced by Gravestones, which will allow seeing the phantom of another player seconds before their death, which can be used to the player’s advantage to detect ambushes or other environmental hazards. Both the Message and the Gravestone system are carried out by the Messengers, demonic creatures who act as the player’s servants. Bloodborne also features a co-op mode with up to three players, which can be triggered by ringing two bells: The Beckoning Bell, which summons hunters from other worlds, and the Small Resonant Bell, which allows a player to be summoned to other players’ worlds. As opposed to the Souls games, where summoned players appeared as glowing phantoms, in Bloodborne the “summoned” players will have a small glow about them corresponding to their role (green-blue for a summon, crimson for an invader). Invasions can be triggered with the Sinister Resonant Bell (typical PvP levels are between 70-125). Alternatively, members of the Cainhurst Vilebloods and Executioners can sometimes ring the Beckoning Bell only to find themselves being invaded by a member of the opposing covenant. Invaders summoned through this method are referred to as having been “beckoned”.
Bloodborne received critical acclaim from critics upon release. It holds an aggregated score of 92/100 on Metacritic based on 77 reviews.
Daniel Tack from Game Informer gave the game a 9.75/10, praising the game’s unsettling atmosphere and the aesthetic visuals, which he stated: “had brought horror to life”. He also praised its challenging gameplay, which he compared to the Souls series, as well as its intimately-realized story, high replay value, deliberate, rewarding, and fast-paced combat, sparse storytelling, and satisfying weapon customization. He was also impressed by the well-crafted boss battles, unique enemy-design, and soundtrack. He also praised the multiplayer for extending the longevity of the game and the game for allowing players to learn and adapt throughout a playthrough. He summarized the review by saying that “While this new IP doesn’t stray far from the established Souls franchise, it is a magical, wondrous work that admirably instills both terror and triumph in those brave enough to delve into it.”
Kevin VanOrd from GameSpot gave the game a 9/10, praising its religion-themed story, energetic boss battles, precise combat for making encounters with enemies fun, as well as its unique artistry and varied environments. He also praised the sound-design of the enemies, the difficulty, which he compared to Dark Souls II, and the melee-based weapons featured in the game for allowing transformation during battle. Regarding the survival horror portion of the game, he stated that it has successfully made players to feel disturbed. The interconnected design of the game world is also praised for making discovery rewarding.
Writing for Games Radar, Ben Griffin gave the game a 4.5/5, praising the game’s detailed environments, Gothic-styled visuals, rich combat, fresh challenges, the randomized chalice dungeons for extending the game’s length, and the rewarding character upgrade system. He also praised the game for delivering a sense of progression and offering players motivation to finish the game, as well as the narrative for “intertwining with the geography of Yharnam”. However, he criticized the game’s non-divergent class system, as well as the specialization, as he stated that “lack of magic, miracles, pyromancy, archery, heavy, medium and light options discourages experimentation.” He also criticized the game for always forcing players to upgrade and stock weapons only in a certain section of the game.
Chris Carter from Destructoid gave the game a 9/10. While calling the game “the most stable Souls game to date.”, he praised the game’s emphasis on melee combat and raw skill, as well as the game’s interesting NPCs, sidequests, and interactions. He criticized the game’s less-inspiring setting and environment design, limited competitive multiplayer, low replay value, as well as the occasionally blocked area in the game, which he stated “feel less sprawling and less replayable” than previous From’s games. He summarized the game by saying that “Bloodborne is an interesting mix of everything From Software has learned throughout its storied developmental career. From Software is still one of the only developers left that makes you work for your satisfaction, and Bloodborne is damn satisfying.”
Nick Tan from Game Revolution gave the game an 8/10, criticizing the restrictive builds and the unreliable firearms. He also noted that the game suffered from lock-on and camera issues. He summarized the review by saying that “Though not as refined and freeform as some of its predecessors, it continues in the longstanding Souls tradition of lending credence to challenging games and making the seemingly Sisyphean task of conquering ruthless, malformed monstrosities possible and downright commendable.”
After Bloodborne had received heavy criticism at launch for severe loading times, From Software announced that it was working on a patch to improve the issue. A patch addressing various issues was published on April 1, 2015, though not the issue of loading times.
An expansion called The Old Hunters has been confirmed to be available for download worldwide on 24th November 2015, with a hard version being sold a week later.The expansion focuses on many of the old hunters being trapped in a nightmare world who are no longer sustained by Hunter’s Dream but are becoming more dependent on blood and the hunt. There are few story elements that have been released to date, but it has been confirmed that there will be up to 15 new weapons, new outfits, three new areas, and new bosses. The first Church Hunter Ludwig has been confirmed to be making an appearance