Bloodborne (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 01.04.2015

Review for Bloodborne on PlayStation 4

Hidetaka Miyazaki's Bloodborne is what many people consider the next successor to his "Souls" series, which began with Demon's Souls and was followed up with the massively popular Dark Souls. These dark RPGs actually had even older forefathers - a series of games known as King's Field, which were more or less first-person prototype "Souls" games, and were also developed by From Software since 1994. Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at From Software certainly know their way around dark medieval fantasy RPGs. Now, with Bloodborne, the developers have decided to mix things up considerably by leaving the more traditional setting people have come to expect and having this title take place in a Victorian era. Gone with magic and dragons, Bloodborne embraces the gothic horror concepts explored in late 1800s literature, drawing inspiration from the works of Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft and even Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Cubed3 faces From Software's Bloodborne, which may be their most daunting game yet.

Bloodborne is more than an action RPG - it is a survival horror through and through. This is a game that will make players feel alive, greatly in part to its highly challenging gameplay, but also because it bleeds atmosphere, just as the unspeakable enemies (and player) bleed all over the place. The gothic architecture illustrated by From Software is utterly breath-taking - huge spires stab the heavens and the city of Yarnham is a formidable labyrinth of cobblestones, brick and gore. Gothic cathedrals domineer over the player's character instilling a great sense of smallness and insignificance. A thick fog permeates the lower dingy sectors of the city, the cut-rate filthy areas where the lost souls and monstrous dregs go to, and where they patrol looking for their next victim.

This city in turmoil and mad rioting is only the tutorial area in Bloodborne and players are thrown to the wolves almost immediately after a blood transfusion. The game wastes no time and quickly teaches its unique concepts and gameplay mechanics, and almost all the story needed is expressed visually with very little explanation. Bloodborne is a game that does not hold hands, nor will it spoon-feed information, yet things make sense to users should they do the mental math and connect the dots by following the cryptic clues. It's refreshing for a modern game to respect the player's intelligence and actually require them to play the game.

It isn't long before players descend from the civilised parts of Yarnham and find themselves getting lost in the Forbidden Woods, or stumbling around in the godforsaken Lovecraftian desert known as the Nightmare Frontier - Bloodborne does run a very fascinating gamut of locations to explore. Impressively, From Software managed to make all the game's core locations connect to each other seamlessly and maintain logical geography. The realisation when players find themselves in a location that they might have assumed was just distant cosmetic scenery is a testament to Hidetaka Miyazaki's attention to detail.

Screenshot for Bloodborne on PlayStation 4

While it is disappointing that Bloodborne only runs 30 frames per second (mostly), the game does use motion blur effects to compensate the lower frame rate for the action mechanics. It isn't ideal, but in spite of it, the game does play fluidly enough, and thankfully the action rarely suffers frame rate dips. It is only in some fleeting moments during exploration where there are sparse enemies that it dips a bit. Bloodborne never performs as badly as seen in Dark Souls's Blighttown; it holds itself together much smoother.

What is stunning, however, is the 1080p display and the gorgeous detail that From Software's artists put into this game. Bloodborne has some of the most beautiful vistas and scenery, from the pale blood sky that looms over Yarnham to the dense fog that envelopes the raggedy town of Hemwick. Everything looks and feels natural, and compounded with some of the best real-time lighting effects that truly give the world a somewhat painterly aesthetic. All the texture work is always on point, giving an authenticity to the era, especially in the cloth and cloth physics. Coats and rags drape realistically and sway naturally with every movement. Of course, there is also the unbelievable effort From Software put into their blood effects, which splatter all over the environment and even coat the controlled character's attire realistically. Amusingly, if a player is wearing a mask that exposes their eyes that gets covered in blood, then removes the mask, parts of their face that was covered will be untouched by the blood, leaving a raccoon-like mask of blood and filth around the character's eyes.

The most disappointing flaw of Bloodborne is its excruciating and lengthy load times, which can feel like an eternity, especially when it was from a careless action that resulted in an immediate death - the eagerness to get back into the action is agonising. The load times are a vulgar mark on what is an incredible game that truly hurts the experience should players find themselves dying a lot.

Screenshot for Bloodborne on PlayStation 4

There has been a great amount of care put into the balance of Bloodborne's gameplay. While it does have the same DNA as Demon's Souls and Dark Souls, From Software took a bold move when they decided to remove shields from combat to encourage a more do-or-die style of gameplay to push players to be more aggressive, and to embrace the game's more nuanced combat. Speed-wise, Bloodborne is similar to Demon's Souls, where characters are swift on their feet and are able to attack/dodge more often than seen in Dark Souls and Dark Souls II. This is a much leaner and meaner game than any past "Souls" games, however, and since the only shield in the game is a joke item, players will most likely struggle at first when grasping the intricacies of the combat animations and just how effective a gun can be to stun an enemy for a visceral attack, which is basically the riposte.

Back-stabbing is also gone, which may seem like a down grade at first, but soon it becomes apparent that it was removed in the interest of PVP, since past "Souls" games became a round of chasing each other's backs and no one actually fighting. Also gone is the "kick" move, which was a point of contention in the first place because players would typically do this move by accident a lot during combat. With such features missing, From Software found new ways to deepen Bloodborne's gameplay with trick weapons. Transformable weapons that have two forms have replaced the old ways of using a weapon one- or two-handed. This has added a much greater amount of fluidity to combat, since modes can be switched mid-combo - a step up from having to pause to change stances in the "Souls" games. Guns replace shields as methods to parry an enemy's attack in the form of "visceral attacks," and magic has been completely reimagined as consumable items that are now tied to character stats. All of these mechanics work very well and have a very tight responsiveness to it.

Bloodborne is a challenging game, which is par the course from the team that made Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. In the beginning, the difficulty will seem insurmountable and players may even assume that grinding is in order, but the reality is that Bloodborne is a very free form game, with a ton of options and methods to go about it. There is a learning period at first, but when users get that moment when things click it will feel completely natural, and they will find themselves improving and defeating bosses at much lower levels than previously. This is a game that is so carefully balanced that even creative novelty character builds have a shot at beating the final boss should players be skilled enough and understand Bloodborne's systems.

Screenshot for Bloodborne on PlayStation 4

As seen in Demon's Souls, there is a version of the "world tendency" system, but in Bloodborne it takes the form of "insight," which can be accumulated. "Insight" will not only make enemies more powered up, but also can be spent in a special shop for some special gear or powerful items. The daring challenge in Bloodborne is most apparent in its regain system, where players can get health back by quickly attacking enemies, which turns out to be a very effective way to encourage more aggressive fighting and to compensate for the lack of shields. The regain system is so simplistically genius and effective it completely changes the whole PVP dynamic, which now requires players to face each other head on instead of being passive and waiting for an opening.

Bloodborne is a lengthy game with an unfathomable amount of replay value and variety of options in it. Aside from cooperative play and PVP, From Software has also included a very curious feature known as the "Chalice Dungeons," which could almost be a game in itself given how it adds rogue-like elements by having randomly generated content that gets absurdly difficult, but reaps the greatest rewards, some of which are only obtainable by engaging the "Chalice Dungeons." Bloodborne is certainly a title that will have unbelievable life after beating the main game, but this is most apparent with From Software's version of New Game Plus, where the game steps it up by powering up the enemies with every subsequent playthrough, keeping things interesting - players may even discover just how out of sequence the game can be played.

There were some steps taken backward from Dark Souls, however, like how the lantern system and fast travel was handled. As it turns out, always having to go to the game's hub, "The Hunter's Dream," requires players to take extra steps to do basic things, as well as endure the highly irritating load times. In Demon's Souls, returning to the hub made sense, since the levels weren't connected like they were in Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Having the checkpoints be spots where players can level up and fast travel took less loading (no need for hub) and could handle their entire weapon upgrading from the same location as they fast travelled. Bloodborne has added a pointless and long extra step that wasn't necessary, but thankfully "The Hunter's Dream" is an interesting enough location and Doll is an endearing character.

These flaws aside, Bloodborne certainly could be "Game of the Year" material, especially should some of them get patched in updates. Anyone who liked any of the past "Souls" games made by From Software should not miss Bloodborne, as well as anyone who is interested in survival horror with Lovecraftian concepts.

Screenshot for Bloodborne on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The unreasonably long load times are truly the biggest flaw in Bloodborne and do legitimately hurt the game's core design, which revolves around death, risk and reward. Long load times are not a substantial or legitimate punishment for failure; they just are a waste of time. The other flaw, which is also tied back to the load times, is the "Hunter's Dream" hub, which only creates needless steps and extra load times to do basic things. These aspects of Bloodborne are undesirable, yet the game itself is just so wonderful and hard to put down. Quick and aggressive combat with systems like the "regain" and transforming weapons keep pushing players to be bold and daring when engaging the enemy. There is so much to love about Bloodborne, despite its flaws; it would be a shame to miss out on its finer qualities. It's a sight to behold and makes a striking impression that only expands the longer people will play it. It will intimidate with monstrous foes and unimaginable horrors, but the satisfaction that is felt when they are overcome is quite real. Is Bloodborne a reason to get a PS4? Maybe. This game will keep people talking about it for a long time.


From Software




Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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