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Bloodborne Review: The Finer Points of Dirt Napping

3 years 8 months ago - 3 years 8 months ago #1 by Seifer Arumashi
Hours of boredom at work and my love for self induced brutality pushed me to share some experiences I've had with Bloodborne thus far for a friends small game review site. Spoilers reduced to an absolute minimum, enjoy!
Full article with pictures at: gamenogs.com/2015/03/bloodborne-review-t...nts-of-dirt-napping/

Bloodborne Review:
The Finer Points of Dirt Napping

*Cue the Ron Paul gif* It’s happening! When I first heard the news that Hidetaka Miyazaki, creator of Demon souls and Darks Souls, was setting out to create a new IP titled "Project Beast” I was initially overwhelmed as I reverted into a catatonic state of past emotional Souls experiences, namely rage, and an excessive drone chant of "Fuck. This", but none the less, joy. Joy that a video game creator who focuses primarily on earned accomplishment through demanding gameplay, and blends it with involving story/lore was making a new intellectual property with From Software.

That is until I remembered what usually happens when an established video game developer tries to make a new IP in today's gaming market - They usually either attempt to broaden their revenue potential with "What's hip with today's youth." or they go off on a tangent genre arc with little to no experience in that particular field. On both accounts, leaving the established fan base feeling betrayed, ignored, or abandoned altogether. Ok, ok, let’s be real for a second. Yes, From Software is a business, businesses have employees, businesses want to grow, businesses want more money, and a fan base that wants a developer to remain perfectly stagnant and predictable is an all too human response - if a little naive.

But enough about EA lets Prepare to Die in some good and bad single player points that I've had ample time to summarize and reflect on during my beast assisted face-dragging through the mud of Yharnam and back to the hunter's dream.

What's good?

Strategic Combat- The distinguishing brutal difficulty of From Software games and other 3rd person "Hack and slash" games are not forgotten and get fully represented in Bloodborne. The combat is sophisticated, intelligent, quick, and very satisfying whilst still being intuitively easy to grasp with repetition and the will to learn. Quick thinking and "the best offense is a good defense" strategy is especially encouraged with the new regain mechanic that gets challenged by the rapid attacks and movement patterns of Bloodborne's revised enemies. Your offensive strikes, dodges, parries, backstabs, back-steps, and item use priorities can take quite a while to fully master, and when executed property it feels absolutely fantastic. Then again just when you feel untouchable, a new enemy appears to completely destroy your tempered confidence with a smirk wiping slap into Ground Town; Population - Your face! Although some may interpret the higher combat tempo as ‘been there done that’ with other 3rd person action games, Bloodborne will continue to hammer in the point - you aren't handed kills, you earn them or die.

Weapons - Overall there are fewer weapons to equip that previous Souls titles, but this is made up for by diverse combat move sets with each weapon’s "Transform" ability. The saw cleaver can extend to a saw sword, the axe can extend to an axe polearm, the cane can transform into a whip, the short sword can extend into a giant Thor hammer (Wait what?), and each with their own attack dynamics. It feels great to slowly approach the impending onslaught of rushing enemies with that visually pleasing and audible “Snap” as your weapon transforms into a new menacing form. These dual transforms per weapon encompass multiple damage types, hit box multipliers for certain weapon locations (have to hit with the axe part of the polearm for maximum damage potential), rune/gem sockets for elemental and stat attributes, and move set shifting mid combo for a new and unpredictable combo (This can be potentially very dangerous when trying to read or trick an opponent in PvP.) Your offhand shield has been replaced by a wide range of projective weapons from pistols, and flamethrowers to “Holy shit I have an 18th century naval ship cannon attached to my arm!” These are primarily used as tools for parries/stuns/ranged pulls, and compliments well with the new offensive-incentive combat system.

Boss Fights - High expectations were placed from their previous Soul's titles, and Bloodborne does not disappoint. Epic boss battles with dynamic form transitions to keep you on your toes represented by hellish beasts, grotesque humanoids, and some monsters straight out of a Doctor Seuss nightmare. I know a major complaint from Souls fans when playing Dark Souls II was the overused humanoid type of bosses, and I think From Software addressed nicely in Bloodborne with extreme form variety. Each fight is unique and tests your progression in tactical decision making since the previous boss encounter. You will not find many item-locked traps like "Did you get the light arrows yet? No? You can't fight the boss yet, sorry." The death animations of the bosses are very clear and satisfying as well, instead of a limp lifeless body for you to test the ragdoll physics on (YES, RAGDOLL PHYSICS ARE BACK WOOOO!) the bosses explode in a white flash of what can best be describe as "escaping soul dust", then the screen slowly darkens to reveal that dramatic text at the top of the screen: PREY SLAUGHTERED.

Beasts and AI – Although the classic “Fuck this, I’m out!” Approach to ambushes and large mob encounters are still acceptable with monster zone locks and “rubber banding”, the speed and gap closing attacks at their disposal do an adequate job at stopping you from your “Strategic retreat”. Beasts have varied group dynamics, different class types, multiple move sets with random attack order use, and each attack within a move set needs a different timing to parry, stun, backstab, and dodge (If possible). Good safeguards to help limit your tactical reliance on such powerful techniques.

Parrying and Backstabbing - As stated in the strategic combat section, nothing feels as good as mastering your first parry. Watching that 12 foot monster that two shots you, and can take 7-8 well placed hits to defeat get absolutely dominated in a one-two parry/visceral strike finisher. This is the type of earned reward mechanic that makes souls game so appealing to me - gameplay mastery by technique and precision, not press the fucking circle button during the cut scene to auto advance your plot progression. In the previous section I mentioned each enemy has its own move set with each attack in that move set, having a different parry and dodge timing for you to learn. I'm glad they particularly tried to revert to a more middle ground Dark Souls approach to parry windows and activations. I feel this was a natural evolution in response to criticism from Demon Souls and Dark Souls fans that parrying made the game too easy with a low parry frame window, but high weapon activation animation making that twitch reflex more tolerable. So in Dark Souls II, From Software tried to correct this by making parrying notoriously difficult with relatively the same active parry window, but 3-4 times the animation start up required for each weapon. Was it impossible to parry? No, but damn it was ridiculous, and made roll dodging the more popular alternative

Lore – Cleverly nuanced into cryptic item descriptions, NPC life experiences, encountering an increase in monster deformity, and inferred from location scenery. One established viewpoint may be completely debunked by a small, easily skipped trinket description, casting doubt with an ominous foreshadowed revelation. There will be no cut and dry ten minute story-time cut-scenes here, you’ll have to piece together the fragments acquired from your journey, and interpret the information on your own. I’ve tried not to reveal any spoilers during these points, but I just want to reiterate on the importance of reading item descriptions. Perhaps it will help you defeat certain bosses, and hint at new destinations? There is also a heavy emphasis on a depressing environment, shocker I know. One side quest in particular helps drive home the fact that people are suffering, and that trusty story element does an expert job at amplifying your sorrow, thanks Miyazaki. Then again what the hell were we expecting in a From Software game? Rainbow candy and adorable puppies? Well…There are some dogs to see in Yharnam, and Bloodborne has done quite the job presenting them to you.

Art Style and Music – Supplemented with the challenging level design and blended with complicated lore revelations. Bloodborne displays impressive prowess in creating a nightmarishly immersive experience in Yharnam that will suck you in for days. The epic boss music scores to the ominous church bell toll in the distance, everything has such a high amount of detail and careful attention placed to its location, timing, and artistic flair that one can’t help to stop, if only for a second, and revel in its masterfully crafted glory. Then you die as a result of the distraction, throw the controller across the room, blame the game for its Siren trickery, gnash your teeth at the 30 second “Bloodborne” loading screen, and then try again. I still find myself at work humming the soundtrack from time to time, and not even realizing it until I hit a familiar chorus section. As the game title may have hinted, yes there is blood, lots of it. You will we drenched in it, wade through pools of it, cause your enemies to spray it in every direction, watch your enemies dismembered corpses writhe in it, replenish health in it, make blood gumbo out of it, blood salad, blood stew, blood pudding, blood ice cream, blood and potatoes, blood on a stick…and that’s about it. Bubba’s shrimp reference aside you will witness some truly gruesome, and at some points nauseating, hemoglobin goodness that would make even Quinton Tarantino and Kenshiro themselves proud.

]What’s bad?

Loading Times – With how long the zone change loading times are I was half expecting the game to ask “Please insert Disk Two”. Ok maybe not as bad as the PS1 days, but still 25-30 second loading times for zoning to and from Yharnam/Hunter’s dream while waiting for your character to respawn is a little much. Especially for the volume of death you will be experiencing on your first play through. Yes, you can buy a SSD for your PS4 at a relatively cheap price ($80-200), but the majority of console gamers don’t have or want to upgrade this option, hence its continued attractive appeal as a simple and easily operable gaming platform.

FPS Stuttering – Probably more of just me being a PC gamer snob for not having that consistent 60fps comfort window and instead a blended frame transition farce (LOOKING AT YOU DESTINY!) The fps varies around 40-60 depending on environment, and has noticeable animation stutters with 10+ enemies on the screen. Yes, I know the PS4 is a console and hasn’t quite had time for developers to find that optimal threshold performance, but damn fps drops can be annoying. One of the nicer things about partnering with a console publisher is the provided manpower in game engine development, and support for that particular device while the actual game company can focus on assets and improving content. So I shall blame Sony for something again, and finally redeem my 1,304,982 hole-punched hate rewards card for a free sandwich of my choice.

Inconsistent Player Invincibility Frames – I know, I know, someone complaining that From Software made an unfair game. I must be an awful filthy casual who should drag his broken and defeated carcass back to the land of quick time events, invasive tutorials, and “Very Easy” game slider options, but some things in this game just aren’t consistent. Just about every scenario in From Software’s history of Souls game design provides you the option to counter-interact with your enemies and surroundings, even if futile, amongst overwhelmingly difficult situations as a tool to instruct the player on what works and doesn’t work – Sometimes not so much in Bloodborne. When you receive a knock down hit by an enemy and go from 100% to 60% life then go from 60% to 0% because the enemy can still continue to ground and pound combo the fuck out of you during your soil face-time. I wouldn’t necessarily get so pissed off about this if it wasn’t so incredibly inconsistent, you are invincible during certain attacks like the visceral, backstab, parry critical hits, and even while opening doors which is a new concept in Bloodborne, but when it comes to being knocked on your ass, you better spam that roll button and pray your dirt picnic ends early.

Regain Mechanic Became Optional – Championed by the developers as the “enforcer” to rethinking your Dark Souls tactical muscle memory, and incentivizing a more offensive approach to situations. It turned out to be just an optional strategy compounded by the excessive supply of healing items, that didn’t encourage that level of tactical shift in play style I was hoping for.

Overabundance of Healing Items – This closely ties into my last complaint about having at your disposal a gluttonous amount of healing items. Being able to brute force heal your way through harder boss battles and difficult group encounters instead of reevaluating your situation and tactical response is well… Pretty lame, and it lmits the growth of the player. Normal monsters drop 1-5 of them which you can farm over and over again that get auto-sent to your storage chest, NPCs give them to you, you find them on the ground, AND you can buy them from a vendor NPC at The Hunter’s Dream in “limited” amounts. This type of healing abundance was a major complaint in Dark Souls II, not just by elitist shitlords, but by a large majority of the fan community. What happened was there was an unlimited vendor quantity of life gems available for players to purchase on top of the other regen items like rings, Elizabeth Mushrooms, higher tier life gems, refillable Estus flask charges, and other direct healing items. Everyone just ended up running around with a stack of 99 life gems, 99 divine elixirs, and 12 refillable Estus flask charges with absolutely no use for the other healing items except maybe to decorate the town storage chest. I’m hoping Bloodborne’s New Game+ introduces severely reduced healing quantities and potency, but we’ll see.

What’s the verdict?

All nitpicking aside, Bloodborne’s good points remain top notch in this brew of immersive, memorable, and difficult but fair (Well most of the time) 3rd person strategic combat gameplay. I didn’t get to discuss everything like chalice dungeons, invasions, and pvp because I wanted to focus on the core experiences that have made From Software worthy of gaming cult followings. As a From Software and Souls fan I was nervous about them doing a new IP, but my blood borne infection of doubt has been cleansed by this divine transfusion of Miyazaki brutality. Yea, that was an awful attempt at whatever I was trying to get across, but screw you I’m leaving it in! Everything about this game delivers a complicated, dark, and grandiose experience from your first successful parry to reading your final dramatically presented “PREY SLAUGHTERED” victory message after 2 hours of getting wreaked by a boss. I can say whether your experience was good or bad, you WILL remember this game and make references to it during your future gaming comparisons. That’s saying a lot in this current industry climate of pushing that half-finished-white-noise debacle of a video game into the public market so your shareholders don’t panic at the thought of a prolonged deadline affecting the next quarterly report.

But hey, let’s not end on a jaded note. Bloodborne demands not to be experienced as a spectator through written reviews or even “Let’s Play” videos, but as “The Hunter” themselves, lost among beasts, and twisted truths with nothing but your gaming wits and instincts to guide you through this waking nightmare of a challenge.

10/10 Would Shill For.
Last edit: 3 years 8 months ago by Seifer Arumashi.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Kittra Thelder
3 years 8 months ago #2 by AIMonster
I'm going to get a full review up myself, but I'll just comment on your review a bit Seifer if you don't mind.

I'm enjoying the game, but it has bits where I get really frustrated. For the most part it's great in every aspect. My full review will be mostly positive, but I do have a few more complaints to add and a few more comments:

1. The overabundance of healing items is only a problem in the early game. I rarely get blood vials to drop now and I'm probably about midgame (just killed my 4th boss and have some progress into some of the later game areas). I think the problem is more due to the fact you can carry 20 blood vials at a time and increase this maximum with runes later on. That's too much in my opinion for this type of game. At least when you are using a vial you are significantly vulnerable and against some bosses knowing when to safely use a vial is often times just as tricky as trying to avoid the bosses's attacks and get hits in.

2. I echo the inconsistent difficulty of some things. Some bosses (and regular creatures) just have to land a single hit of their combos to kill me. Other enemies with big slow attacks aren't as threatening even when they land their massive attacks on you (which are easy to avoid). To was especially apparent when I fought a boss that poisoned me. Despite having high vitality and possibly being overleveled the boss would combo me, knock me down, and with a silver of health I'd get up just to watch myself die to poison as I desperately try to heal myself and if I did manage to start my blood vial or antidote animation in time so the poison wouldn't kill me, the boss would immediately strike as I was healing anyway so it was a 100% kill with absolutely nothing I could do about it every time. While the game often remains "fair" it has a few places and instances it's unfair, especially when you are going through the area your first time and you don't have the required knowledge, like urns that explode when shot by enemies, but don't explode when you melee them?

3. I realize the game wants you to try to figure things out on your own with no hand-holding, but mechanics in the game are intentionally obtuse and obscure and the game doesn't do a good job of giving you indicators on how things work. I still don't know what this "parry" thing is people are referring to after playing the game for almost 20 hours as far as I can tell I never actually parried anything. I had to look up with the "Frenzy" effect does after dying repeatedly to it with no indication of how it worked. Insight boosting difficulty is never explained, nor is stats like "Beasthood". How to participate in coop and PvP multiplayer is never explained either.

4. Speaking of multiplayer, trying to play with your friends seems impossible. The multiplayer doesn't work, and has all sorts of requirements that aren't explained. You lose insight when you attempt to summon other players, even if it's UNSUCCESSFUL. WHY? I realize that games like these are mainly designed for single player experiences, but if you are going to have multiplayer at least make it functional and enjoyable.

5. Checkpoints (lamp laterns) are often way too far apart and many of them require boss kills to earn. It just feels like an artificial way to increase the difficulty of the game, honestly there is no good reason for this other than the game has to be hard in just about every aspect.

And yes, there are a few technical quirks in the game like the overly long load times (probably the worst offender), the frame rate hiccups, sometimes poor AI, enemies getting stuck under terrain, and at one point (which was hilarious since I found the spot accompanied by a note: "Nothing but madness here") my character getting stuck in terrain and forcing me to warp back to spawn.

Again, don't think I'm hating on the game either as despite it's issues it's still a fantastic game. If I were to give it a score right now, I'd probably go with an 8 or 9 / 10 and that's only because of some of the issues highlighted above. As for the positives, I pretty much agree with everything Seifer said.

I'll leave this here:

3 years 8 months ago #3 by Seifer Arumashi
I take back everything nice I said about this game.

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3 years 8 months ago - 3 years 8 months ago #4 by Jintu
Least you only lost 79 echoes. :P

Last edit: 3 years 8 months ago by Jintu.
3 years 8 months ago #5 by Grey
LOL PS4 is aw3s0me.
3 years 8 months ago #6 by AIMonster

Seifer Arumashi wrote: I take back everything nice I said about this game.

You should have dodged.
3 years 7 months ago #7 by Seifer Arumashi
Kind of mad at myself that I trophy hunted and platinum'd this game. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM ANYMORE!

3 years 7 months ago #8 by AIMonster
I'm almost there.

Here's fucking bosses I fucking hate. Made me want to throw my controller at the screen:

3 years 7 months ago #9 by AIMonster
I published my review on my site. Full disclaimer: I haven't proofread it yet and my site isn't anywhere close to done, I'm still a month away from launch which includes custom artwork for it, so ignore the site design for now as a lot of that will get redone and I need to touch up and correct some sentences in the review itself, but here it is for those curious:

Bloodborne Review