Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bloodborne (Playstation 4, 2015)

Time to look at what might be the best game of this generation. I covered this game in the past (and despised it), and want to take another look now that I "get it".

Bloodborne is the spiritual sequel to the Souls games. It's basically a Super Ghouls and Ghosts for the modern era; a challenging, high-stakes action game that will smack you around until you either give up or spend a huge amount of time mastering it.

Let's get going.

I immediately found the character-creation screens a bit underwhelming. No real classes, only marginal stat differences. Why even have Blood Echoes as a stat? That's currency, and you lose all of it when you die. So whatever you start with probably isn't going to last long. I suppose stat-builds with more Blood Echoes can buy a couple items at the outset, at least. The Souls games had waaay more customization and variety in character creation.

Here's the choice of "classes". Each one just affects your starting stats, though you can balance them out early enough that the choice here doesn't matter a whole lot. Cruel Fate positively affects an invisible stat that can't be leveled, so that may be the best call. I went with Violent Past, which has a sizable strength boost right out of the gate. Waste of Skin is the "challenge build" and starts you with abysmal stats. On later playthroughs I ended up going with that one since you have more levels to work with and gain levels faster early on, at the cost of being a bit weaker at the outset.

Time for appearance editing! I try to make my dude look as vampiric as possible. He's like Richard Nixon: Vampire Hunter. The tweest is that he's actually part vampire himself.

Hey, I have to make up a storyline for this guy, because the game gives you no backstory or character development whatsoever. Or even dialogue. I have no idea who this guy is. Much like the Souls series, this game is all about projecting onto your character.

There are many hairstyles to pick from. Here's Final Fantasy Character and/or Japanese Pro Wrestler. Tetsuya Nomura just felt pangs of longing.

I try making a female character, and notice that she looks just like the dude from the neck down. Obviously they're both customizable, but they're customizable in the same way. Either gender can have a beautiful hourglass figure.

I shall call him... Cockbyrne. A true Gothic name! He has a violent past, which is how he got his name. You don't want to know.

Further tinkering results in The Latino Jesus. He looks like a cross between Seth Rollins and Sawyer from Lost.

The game starts you off in a dark laboratory with very little context. The good Dr. Cockbyrne promptly lose a fistfight to a werewolf and get sent to purgatory/limbo.

In this case, limbo is your base of operations. Here you shop and warp between the various lands of the game. It's the one completely safe area... which is very important in a game where, much like life, there is no pause button.

Before long I'm given a choice between three melee weapons and two guns. I went with the axe and the pistol. While they function primarily as starter weapons, they're good throughout the game. Much like Pokemon starters. More Pokemon coming soon! The Summer of Pokemon is in like triple overtime now. Urgh

In any case, the axe is huge and powerful, one of the best weapons if you're a Souls veteran and used to slow-swinging. The cane is the fastest weapon and can turn into an AoE whip which is tremendously useful in the first area and can make a first playthrough much easier. The third and final melee weapon is the Saw Cleaver, which is the only one I can't recommend. It's midway between the other two on speed and power and a good weapon, but the first non-starter weapon you can find is the Saw Spear which is basically a cleaver upgrade with more power/range, so...

As for the guns, your choices are a pistol (more range) and a blunderbuss (more spread).

The first area is home to some gorgeous visuals... and lots of zombies. Zombies upon zombies. It's like Walking Dead out here. The kids love zombie-killing but personally I was hoping for a bit more inventiveness right off the bat (see what I did there?).

The werewolf was scary, more of that. Some demons and gargoyles wouldn't hurt either. The good news is that if you manage to somehow survive the extremely tough first couple of areas, things get a lot more interesting in the monster department.

After plowing through about thirty zombies, I scale a ladder. Man, these awesome.

I have a design issue though: So we give the player an extensive amount of customization for character appearance. That's awesome. Then we render it completely useless by totally covering the character up with a hooded trench coat type outfit that looks like he's getting ready to get rained on by blood. (Side note: That's exactly why; as you fight, your character gets increasingly covered in the sanguine substance).

Seriously, this guy could be Vampire Hunter Nixon OR Latino Jesus for all I can tell. He might even be that redhead. Protip: If you want to actually see your character while playing, unequip your head-wear. It'll weaken your overall stats, but it might be worth it to see your character.


While it's pretty great that this game has achieved the visual fidelity of what used to only exist in FMV cutscenes (and then some), most of the gameplay revolves around combat and the challenge factor presented by it. Often you don't have time to take in the visuals.

Victory is a matter of mastering the dodge functions. You can roll while not locked onto an enemy and dash while you are locked on, and both are useful for evasion. Mastering knowing when to evade is key here, as is knowing what's behind you at all times. Protip: Dodge towards an attack to more effectively go "through" it while staying on the offensive.

Thing is, you need to basically anticipate when to evade in advance, because the protagonist is a little bit slower than most action game protagonists. This makes for a lot of frustration as you see an attack heading for you and can't avoid it because your character is stuck mid-animation for one of his drawn-out attacking motions. Especially with the axe, as good as it is overall. I recommend choosing the pimp cane.

One of the things that I REALLY like about Bloodborne, regardless of all of that, is the online component. Players can drop notes on the ground and other players can read them You can also see the tombstones of other players and how they died. I got a lot of very helpful advice from reading notes on the ground, like this one telling me to use a charge attack to take out a couple of enemies with their backs turned.

This kind of person-to-person interaction is nothing new to the Souls games, and more games should do it.

Of course, since this is technically a Souls game, that also means lots and lots of dying.

The axe is huge and scythe-like. Much like the Nintendo Switch or Freeza/Cell/Buu, these weapons all have multiple forms. With the cane, you can switch between the sword-like solid cane or a huge AoE whip. With the axe, you can switch between a one-handed axe and a two-handed axe; the latter is stronger and slower. There's an optional miniboss in the first area, seen here, which I made a personal quest to take down one way or another.

He was one tough hombre. I'll call him "The Executioner". He's sorta a PS4-generation Kandar. At least he isn't another zombie.

Have I mentioned how good the graphics are? This game gives you a pretty legitimate sense of dread when an enemy has detected your presence. The last time a game made me this afraid of dying was probably Everquest circa 1999. The reasons are similar: Death in this game means a risky corpse-retrieval to get your currency back.

Losing everything that you've collected every time something surprise one-shots you from offscreen isn't fun, it's tedious. It takes the joy out of collecting. Like I already mentioned, it's a lot like OG Everquest '99, which hardcore PC RPGers were super-into at the time. People like me came along and were like "it takes forever to get anything done and the death penalties are insanely harsh" and didn't get into the game until like 2005 when it was very different / toned down in tediousness. But for people who the game "clicked" for in 1999, it was an amazing experience, one fraught with peril and fear and legit, real emotional investment.

I get it. Really, I get it. Once this clicks, it's incredible. More on how it clicked in the next post. Happy Halloween.


  1. Been a fan ever since "The Legend of Korra, starring Kristen Stewart" but I have to disagree with you on this one. Bloodborne is pretty good and doesn't actually take a huge amount of time to "master". Once you get rolling it isn't bad at all and goes by quick. It has some very creative monster designs where the bosses are concerned and those are worth seeing (as well as the overall world design). Very impressive-looking stuff. I agree that there are way too many zombies tho.

    1. I know the boss designs are awesome and as a boss-thusiast I'd like to play through this for that alone. I'll give it another shot later on (much later on) when it's cheaper and I don't have as many existing games to get through.

  2. You're quite the dapper individual.

    At least you're not killing poor people!