Spoilers for Bloodborne may be abound. Take warning.
Just a short, pre-post-mortem diatribe before we begin:
Believe it or not, 900 words is not a lot of space to speak fully or eloquently on a game such as Bloodborne. To be fair, that is the restraint of writing for print over the web. On the same side of that coin, I think being limited in such a way improves the critique process. The review must be boiled down to the bare essence of what a game is really all about. Sure, I could have gone on a long winded jaunt of writing in regards to Bloodborne’s art style, combat mechanics, plot, and so forth. I could have written a boring, wordy introduction attempting to describe the game in so much hyperbole.
I’m glad I didn’t. I feel like that is something I would have done a few years ago. Bless print journalism, I truly feel as if I have improved as a critic as well as a writer.
Rant over. Let us discuss Bloodborne, the best game on the PS4, and most likely, 2015’s best game.
The biggest hurdle Bloodborne faces is convincing the unconvinced that Bloodborne isn’t “just another From Software game.” While the title shares DNA with the likes of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, I feel as if Bloodborne is the genetic superior to both games.
See? Gaming Darwinism.
Bloodborne retains the air of mystique and intrigue that Demon’s Souls plot and level structure did so very well. Everything about Demon’s Souls was a mystery waiting to be unwrapped, a trick so very few games attempt to perform in modern gaming. Each area is a sprawling architectural puzzle waiting to be twisted into place by the player.
Twist in the wrong direction and an evisceration will surely be your prize. Twist the correct way and–well, that evisceration could still be coming your way, but you’ll at least be given the chance to prove your worth. I think that is what I love most about Bloodborne:
The game is more than willing to give the player every chance to prove their knowledge and exhibit displays of learning and growth. Every enemy encounter, no matter how mundane, is a chance to etch a memory or scraping of knowledge into your repertoire.
That, in and of itself, is exhilarating.
What is even more incredible is the way Bloodborne takes this same approach in regards to storytelling. From is challenging the player to go forth and find the secrets they have buried in Yharnam. The player can gain as much or as little of the plot as they want. The small details are what matters. A piece of the story may be hidden in something as small as the placement of a single item before a boss fight or a choice phrase on an item’s flavor text.
Subtlety is the watch word.
In a way, this peeling of the bloody onion is a forgotten storytelling tool in regards to gaming. Developers, ever worried that the entire meal won’t be eaten, shove the player through course after course so they will not complain of hunger. Bloodborne is the gaming equivalent of an expensive dim sum meal, letting the player pick and choose what they savor.
Of course, nobody has told the dining guest in question that Cthulhu is hidden underneath one of the serving dishes.
I can’t describe how fascinating and incredible the narrative shift halfway through the game is. Honestly, the change from a seemingly simple story about church corruption and werewolves fast mutates into a head-spinning tale of cosmic importance that feels very similar to the twists found in the Metal Gear Solid series.
Hari Kari; I need scissors, indeed.
Truth be told, I feel as if all of these things about Bloodborne combine in a such a way that the game switches genres. More horror than adventure title, your hunter may be armed but is the player about to steel their resolve?
After all, that is the heart of From Soft’s games: Players overcoming their own mediocrity in order to rise to greatness. This is the main plot in each of their games, but is also an apt description for the player’s own journey.
I hope said journey is one that many people are willing to take. Don’t be scared off by talk about how hard these games are. They’re just words. Anything is conquerable. Eventually, you’ll punch back and feel all the more powerful for it.
Find me on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.