It’s been over three years since FROM SOFTWARE’s BLOODBORNE has been released, and with FROM’s new game coming soon, what better time to look back?
The journey began around the same time as development for DARK SOULS 2, Sony wanted a flagship title for their new PLAYSTATION 4 and FROM SOFTWARE stepped up.
At E3 2014, FROM SOFTWARE revealed a grisly, gothic horror trailer. The town’s streets covered in plague ridden bodies, decayed ghoulish dogs roamed the roads. This was a far cry from the dark fantastical horrors of DARK SOULS and DEMONS SOULS. Finally released on March 24, 2015.m, critics and fans alike heaped rapturous applause on it. BLOODBORNE being one of the PLAYSTATION 4’s first stand-alone IP’s helped with that, not to mention FROM SOFTWARE’S impressive pedigree.
Later, in November, FROM SOFTWARE released a single expansion called The Old Hunters. It expanded on the mystery surrounding Yharnam before the plague and included new areas, weapons and armor.
Come and join me as I take a look back into what makes this entry in the SOULS series one of the most intriguing. Be warned, there will be spoilers, but they’ll be marked.
The Fog Covered Streets of Yharnam
Coming into BLOODBORNE for the first time, you can immediately see its roots in old Victorian Era horror. Cobblestone paths, overcoats, huge chapels and jagged architecture. These all conjure up images of bestial werewolves and blood covered vampires. BLOODBORNE does an excellent job in evoking these tropes, while keeping them fresh.
I have to admit I’m a sucker for this kind of aesthetic, and, like anything, it can be possible to overstay its welcome. However, the game quickly changes gears and throws a curve-ball at you.
SPOILERS FOR BLOODBORNE LATE GAME
One of the most fascinating twists come late in the game. When entering a new area called the Nightmare of Mensis, what started as a Gothic horror tale becomes somehow…Eldritch. Gone are the stereotypical werewolves and ghouls and, in their place hideous, twisted alien beings. The game throws all of the traditional tropes out the window. Soon you’re fighting carts filled with screeching corpses, fleshless bodies covered in eyes and even a large alien brain.
While ridiculous, the game handled this twist so so well, and it comes so far out of left field, that it actually shocked me. While I consider myself relatively immune to a fear of virtual things, some of the enemies actually made me highly uncomfortable. For instance, one of the first “new” enemies you’ll encounter uses the same basic shape as the werewolf. However, get closer and you’ll find that it is hairless, mostly fleshless and covered in withering tentacles. The first time I saw this thing, it actually made me nauseated.
A Story Told In Droplets
Like all SOULS games, your character is a blank slate. You create them from scratch, assigning skill points, gender and appearance. You wake up strapped to a table near a ghoulish old man. The man babbles to you about a transfusion, your character blacks out and the next thing you know you wake up alone. To the extent of exposition, this is all you get. BLOODBORNE does not info dump you. No expository conversations.
This can be incredibly frustrating to a lot of people, and it’s understandable. However, I’ve always appreciated FROM’s minimalist approach. One of my favorite examples comes early in the game.
If you travel through the city, you’ll come across lanterns near windows, and you can interact with the denizens inside. One of them is a man sick with the plague infecting all of Yharnam. He’s a kindly fellow and between his shuddering coughs, he gives you advice and even a helpful item at one some points. As you progress through the game, you can come back and visit, he has different dialogue and his coughing intensifies. However, once you reach a certain point, you come back to find a creature in that area. You’ve killed this monster dozens of times already. Once you kill it and continue on to the man’s window, you’ll notice it’s broken outward. That particular enemy never respawns (as once you exit an area all normal enemies do) and all you’re left with is a feeling of sadness.
There are plenty of instances like this throughout the game, and they help fill out the otherwise grisly world.
The Mechanics of A Fight
The rest of the SOUL’s games are known for many things. For instance, their large variety of weapons and armor and even their trial-and-error combat. These combat systems require patience and timing. BLOODBORNE has no time for that. The combat in this game is fast and messy. Blood spurts from wounds, to the point where your character can become drenched in it after combat. Weapons cut, slice and bludgeon undead monsters and abominations alike. One of the biggest changes to the combat is the rally system. After you take damage, your health bar doesn’t immediately tick down; instead, you have the chance to quickly strike back at the enemy. Hitting them enough times will cause you to regenerate some of your lost life, and each weapon has a different rally strength.
On weapon variaton, the game doesn’t have nearly as many as say DARK or DEMON’S SOULS. However, all melee weapons in this game transform. The game calls them trick weapons. There is something exceedingly cool about having a cane-sword that turns into a whip, or a spear that turns into a rifle. Along with the melee weapons, BLOODBORNE also gave you an assortment of flintlock weapons to stagger enemies and help you counter their attacks.
Another feature lacking in it’s predecessors is the game’s Chalice Dungeons. Chalice Dungeons are procedurally generated dungeons that are unlocked by progressing through the game. These dungeons aren’t required to beat the game, but doing them not only nets you experience, or blood, but sometimes better versions of already existing weapons. No one chalice dungeon is ever the same and players can share their specific ones by using codes and posting them for others to explore.
Expanding BLOODBORNE’S World
While the game doesn’t exactly bludgeon you over the head with narrative, there are plenty of other ways to get your fix long after you’ve beaten the game. Fan comics can be found everywhere from Reddit to Tumblr. These two comics are two of my favorites. They do what the game does best, expand on the outwardly horrific and expose the human element beneath.
For those who want something a bit more official, Titan Comics has released a short series detailing more stories in the world of BLOODBORNE. I know I’ll definitely be picking it up whenever the trade comes out.
The Final Nail in the Coffin
I’ve been a fan of all of FROM SOFTWARE’s works up until now, hell I’ve even played KING’S FIELD when I was a kid. While all of them are great games unto themselves, BLOODBORNE has always captured my heart. From it’s lovely fog and blood-drenched aesthetic to the creativity of its world and design, there’s a lot to love in BLOODBORNE. FROM SOFTWARE will release a new game soon. However, for myself and a large amount of other fans, we’ll always find our homes on the streets of Yharnam in the meanwhile.