I want to start off by saying that this is my Game of the Year 2017 (despite it coming out in 2015). And I’m telling you that just in case I show any bias towards it, but I will try and be as fair as possible. Onwards!
What is Bloodborne? Bloodborne is a Souls like action role-playing game set in a Gothic Victorian-era city called Yharnam, where the inhabitants have been affected by a plague of beasts.
Wow, that was a lot of information, let’s break it down, shall we? What are Souls like games? This label refers to the Dark Souls series of games, specifically that this game shares a lot of mechanics with them. Which mechanics? It’s hard….like really hard. This is the type of game where you can bang your head against a wall for some time in certain sections, but when you finally figure it out it’s immensely satisfying. As you explore the city of Yharnam you will come across lanterns (fast travel points, sort of) and shortcuts. Discovering a shortcut is a huge relief because you usually have to make your way through miles of danger to reach the next boss or lantern, during which time any death will send you back to your last lantern and respawn all the enemies. Find enough shortcuts and soon you’ll be taking a simple stroll down a few dark alleys to the area boss fight…I mean you could run to the boss fight without using the shortcuts, but with the number of times you’re likely to be doing that fight on your first playthrough, I don’t recommend it. Anyway, more on boss fights later.
I won’t go into what an action role-playing game is, I think you’ve got that one, but what is this Gothic Victorian-era city of Yharnam I speak of, and what is the plague of beasts. Yharnam is, to put it mildly, a place which has seen better days. It’s filled with grand cathedrals, paved streets, gothic looking crenelations and people/beasts/not-saying-anything-else-because-spoilers, that want to kill you. Little backstory, Yharnam discovered a way to use blood to heal wounds and illnesses, it worked pretty well and for a time, and the Church (the ones doing most of the healing) prospered from it…until they discovered that drinking/injecting/whatever-else blood every day causes bad things to happen. And so the Plague of Beasts was born. Whoever contracts this plague slowly gets more and more sick until eventually they lose their minds and turn into beasts. I’m not just talking people crawling around acting like beasts, I’m talking full-on transformations here, which range from the mundane to the downright huge and terrifying.
So you’re thinking, stop drinking blood and kill all those infected. Sadly it’s never that easy and the disease seems to have found various ways of spreading itself, so there is no avoiding it. You do find isolated pockets of ‘normal’ humans left alive in Yharnam, hiding behind incense protected doors, but for the most part everyone is either a beast or a half-mad hunter trying to kill the beasts…and you. Needless to say this is a basic overview of the story and there is loads of depth to it if you are interested to look far enough. I, for instance, have completed the game three times now and have spend an inordinate amount of time googling the story.
Ok so boss fights and game mechanics. This is by no means an easy game, and I won’t lie there will be times in the ‘intro’ area that you are going to want to give up completely. Please don’t. While hard to master at first the combat and game are immensely satisfying if you get to grips with it. You do have a gun in the game but this is mainly used to stun enemies through well-timed parries, your main weapon is your ‘trick’ weapon. There are a great many trick weapons in the game, examples of which include a spear that is also a rifle, a scythe which you can remove the blade from for quick close work, and a cane which turns into a serrated whip. These are a lot of fun and one of the highlights of the game for me.
One of the other highlights of the game is the boss fights. The creatures/men/other-things-no-spoilers you face are weird and wonderful as much as they are incredibly difficult. There were only a couple of bosses I managed to do first time, and I think that was just luck more than anything. Most took me 10+ attempts and some took me 50+ attempts, or I had to summon in help from other players (you can do that by the way, it’s sort of online but not online. And can be played fully offline too). There is also this weird phenomenon that happens where some people find bosses really easy that others found impossible, and visa-versa. For example, one boss took a friend of mine about 12 hours of gameplay to complete, and I did it on my second attempt. Who knows why this happens, I guess because everyone’s brains work differently.
Lastly, this game has a really good soundtrack that emphasises the atmosphere perfectly.
I’ll conclude by saying that I’m still playing this game, almost a year after buying it, and that’s a rarity for me. If you have any interest in any single part of this game, be in the mechanics, the creatures or the aesthetic, I’d recommend picking it up as you’ll probably find you like the other parts too. It’s been long enough now that the game is pretty cheap to pick up almost anywhere, and if you enjoy it then I also recommend buying the DLC. I won’t go into detail about the DLC as I don’t want this review to be as long as some of my short stories, but let’s just say it makes the game even better and adds more depth to the story, and it already has plenty.
Enjoy your gaming in 2018, I hope I can find a game in the new year which is even half as good as this one.