Bloodborne feature image

Bloodborne Review: is it dark enough?

Bloodborne review score

Bloodborne is a PS4 exclusive by FromSoftware, the architects behind the Dark Souls series, and 2019 GOTY winner Sekiro. It follows a lot of the conventions set out by Dark Souls but amps up the combat and rewards more aggression. 

Instead of being a medieval, knights, and magic setting, Bloodborne is set in a Lovecraftian London type. With monsters howling through the streets and the citizens out on the hunt. It is actually a much more grim and horrific setting than Dark Souls and I think Bloodborne really benefits from this distance. 

This will happen quite a lot, but Bloodborne will be compared to Dark Souls. It’s part of the same franchise for all intents and purposes, that being the SoulsBourne series. Both are developed by FromSoftware and have a lot of similarities, so comparisons will be inevitable.

Gameplay? 10/10 – Taking the best parts from Dark Souls, and adding in its own aggressive playstyle and the fantastic Trick Weapons, Bloodborne is perfectly weighted.

The gameplay. It’s a fast paced and difficult action RPG. That sums it up pretty well, it’s not everything there is but it’s a good enough summary.

Bloodborne follows a similar style to Dark Souls, in that you have your stats and when you spend currency to level up you can increase them. Some of the stats themselves have changed however. The biggest changes are the removal of Intelligence and Faith, in favour of Bloodtinge and Arcane. 

Bloodborne opening

Arcane effectively works the same as Intelligence, it allows you access to Bloodborne’s version of magic. There is less of it, and it is much harder to come by but it’s still there.

Bloodtinge on the other hand is a lot different. This dictates your ability to weaponize your own blood effectively. It specifically improves your effectiveness with firearms and blood type weapons.

Speaking of weapons. Bloodborne does not take the slow and methodical approach that Dark Souls does. It instead favours much more aggressive play styles, to accommodate this Bloodborne has given 2 big changes to weapons. 

The first is that it does not really give you shields, there is one but even the description tells you it’s useless. Instead you are given a gun. The gun is used to parry your opponents, so instead of using a shield, by firing your gun at the right time you can parry your enemy. Your gun will not deal a lot of damage, unless you have invested a lot of points into your Bloodtinge stat. 

The second is that all main weapons have a secondary function. These are known as Trick Weapons and are the primary tool of a Hunter. You play as a Hunter in Bloodborne, one who is trained specifically to fight all of the beasts and monsters. 

To note two of the cooler trick weapons, Ludwig’s Holy Blade, mentioned in Zack’s top gaming weapons. This weapon goes from a slim long sword to a huge greatsword by sheathing the small blade.

The other weapon is the Chikage, it is a katana style weapon. When activating it’s other mode it takes your own blood to power up it’s damage. Care should be taken though, as when you attack with it

Bloodborne chikage

To level you have to use Bloodborne’s version of souls, these are called blood echoes. They function exactly the same, to be used as currency at a shop or to level up. One interesting difference between these and souls appears when you die. 

When you die you still lose your current blood echoes, however now the enemy that killed you will have absorbed them. You will have to kill this enemy before you can retrieve all the blood echoes. This has led me to lose a lot more currency than in Dark Souls but I actually love this mechanic.

Combat is much faster paced than ever before, and you are actively rewarded for going madly aggressive. Your health drops as you would expect when being hit, however it will turn yellow first. When your health is yellow there is a chance for you to gain it back, if you are fast enough. By attacking an enemy whilst you have yellow in your health bar, you can actually recover some of that health you just lost. This is a perfect incentive to make sure you don’t just hang back and try to escape when you get hit.

Bloodborne enemy

As this is a FromSoftware game there are 2 constants. Boss fights and fashion. Bloodborne does not disappoint.

Actually, I think that Bloodborne may have some of the hardest bosses of almost any game I’ve played. I think with maybe the exception of the Nameless King from Dark Souls 3, the Bloodborne bosses are harder than all other Dark Souls games. Shout out to the weird horse monster thing Ludwig in the DLC. 

Speaking of the DLC, this is the actual, 100% hardest DLC ever. Jeez they did not hold anything back with this. It’s very necessary to go through the DLC as well as it introduces some very cool fashion. I personally adore the Maria Hunter set. It looks incredible.

Bloodborne maria

Visuals? 10/10 – With a perfect mix of Victorian, Gothic, and Lovecraft style horror influences, Bloodborne consistently looks brilliant.

Bloodborne is mostly set in the grim Victorian city of Yharnam and its surroundings. Also in a nightmare realm but that aside. 

Yharnam paints a gorgeous and gothic picture. 

The Lovecraftian designs of the monsters and the dark victorian scenery give a kind of beautiful but sombre image.

It’s really hard to describe the visuals for Bloodborne. They’re not typically attractive imagery, but that’s the point. It’s dark, evil, and sad but in a perfect mix. It elicits the right emotions whilst also leaving you in awe of your surroundings.

It channels the same fantastical stylings of the Dark Souls games, but with less of a tight focus on the medieval Cathedral/ Castle deal of those games. Where Bloodborne really succeeds is in it’s variety, especially through the DLC. 

Bloodborne scene

The start of the game has you wake up in the middle of a cluttered town that really leans into the Victorian gothic inspirations, but later on you’ll wander through seaside areas, clock towers, castles, and of course – swamps. It wouldn’t be a FromSoftware game without a good swamp.

It’s the same variety that Dark Souls has enjoyed at times, but Bloodborne relies far less on grand architecture, instead focusing on the muck and dirt that goes hand in hand with the era that Bloodborne embraces. 

Bloodborne also has a cool… shine? If that makes sense. Not in a literal sense, but the lighting of each area, especially with the gothic influences, bounces off everything in such a… water painting way that’s honestly rock hard to describe. 

The moon in the game is white (most of the time), as a moon should be, but when its light bounces off the cobblestone streets it gives off a blue/ green tinge that works wonders to make you feel uneasy. The same goes for the mist in the areas, it refracts the lanterns and moonlight in odd ways that serve to heighten the already palpable atmosphere in Bloodborne. 

Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and by extension, Sekiro, all have their own unique art style and design language, but Bloodborne has a different hold over me. Its more personal approach to level design and visual stylings serves to feel claustrophobic, and when the Lovecraftian inspirations hop in later? Teeters on the edge of horror. Not in delivery, but in language. It’s this deft touch that stands Bloodborne out from it’s family, and I do think it’s the best looking FromSoftware title.

Audio? 10/10 – Atmosphere is important to Bloodborne, and Audio lends to that perfectly.

FromSoftware excels in the soundtracks of their games and Bloodborne is no exception to this. A lot of the boss themes are epic throughout, and the guttural screeches of your adversaries send chills down your spin. It hits exactly where it should, and it’s no surprise with FromSoftware to be honest.

Like it’s predecessors it’s very much orchestral in nature, and is intense. Focusing on the boss themes in particular here but Bloodborne has some of my favourite boss themes in the whole SoulsBorne series. It always gives you a major sense of urgency and unease, which is a mirror of the visuals presented to you as well. I like this perfect synchronicity between the two senses.

Something that I do like quite a lot with Bloodborne is the emphasis on the bosses having voices. Not all of the voices are understandable but they do have a voice. Sometimes to be honest it’s just a spine tingling screech, in most cases this would be a negative. However, when you’re in that fight, starting at some grotesque monster the screech fits perfectly. You see the enemy and you know that they would be screeching and I think that’s why it works so perfectly.

To finish up, I couldn’t talk about the audio of Bloodborne without talking about the actual combat. I think that Bloodborne may have some of the most satisfying sound effects for rending flesh of any game I’ve played. When your weapon turns through an enemy it sounds like it, it’s immediately gratifying all the way through the game.

Story? 9/10 – Despite suffering from the very small issue of presentation, the story in Bloodborne is still extremely interesting.

I think the story is quintessentially FromSoftware. This is definitely a compliment, I personally love the stories they weave and the way they present it. More of it is presented directly in Bloodborne which is a nice change too.

Spoilers are an odd one for FromSoftware games. The story itself isn’t the main focus of the games, mostly because of the more vague storytelling choices. I’ll just try to keep it brief as there are some interesting turns in Bloodborne.

At some point the underground Labyrinths are discovered, many go down to explore them. This leads to the discovery of the Great Ones. Byrgenwerth is founded around this discovery, as an institute dedicated to their study. 

Bloodborne yarnham

Eventually there is a separation, some of the members of Byrgenwerth leave the institute and start the Healing Church. A faith dedicated to worshipping the Great Ones and to using their blood to heal all ailments. They take up in Yarnham, the initial setting of the game, and start to distribute this blood healing to the citizens.

Now a whole lot of shenanigans go on between the two sides, I won’t talk about it here as that would spoil pretty much all of the story plots. So let’s skip ahead a bit.

Enter you, a Hunter from a foreign land. You arrive in Yarnham and are instantly made to sign a contract and given a blood transfusion yourself. You awake alone and must fight your way out into Yharnam. It turns out that you have arrived on the night of the hunt, it’s kind of a Purge scene, but against beasts. The beasts are werewolf type creatures that turn regular humans into monsters. 

The problem is that all of the citizens that have decided to join the hunt have started turning themselves and will attack you on site. Normally the hunt is left to professional Hunters like yourself, so it’s strange that there aren’t many Hunters around to quell this scene.

Bloodborne werewolves

The rest of the game has you trying to figure out what has happened, and trying to escape your own nightmare.

I like this premise, it takes a few different ideas and perfectly melds them together. It’s a melting pot of inspirations, but even better than that is the fact that the story is better than the sum of its parts. It takes all of these interesting ideas and presents them better than has been done before. At least in my opinion.

Acting? 9/10 – Silent protagonist aside, every line delivered in Bloodborne is done so perfectly when compared to the backdrop of the world.

I very much enjoy the voice acting in Bloodborne, I especially like that every one seems just a little crazy. This is very fitting for the world that Bloodborne has crafted.

Bloodborne eileen

Some of my favourite gaming quotes.

This game holds a few quotes that I really like, to mention just the 2 top ones:

“A hunter is a hunter, even in a dream” ~ Host of the Nightmare.

“Tonight, Gehrman joins the hunt…” ~ Gerhman, the first hunter.

Both quotes also come from interesting characters, this is partly down to the writing but each of their arks play out well. I think this might be the reason I like the voice acting so much, each interaction with an NPC gives you a glimpse at an unfolding story. A story that you want to learn about.

You do play as the typical Silent Protagonist. So most of the dialogue is just other people talking to you, or shouting at you. Or just screaming at you too I guess.

Writing? 10/10 – Pitch perfect. Nothing comes across as over the top, or undersold, everything that’s said, or written, means something.

The writing for Bloodborne, just as in Dark Souls, is top notch. The dialogue itself, at least on the surface, doesn’t always tell you that much but there is always somewhere that you can obtain this information. 

Bloodborne though, unlike Dark Souls, actually gives you a lot more story directly. There are more cutscenes for example that introduce characters and events, which are especially helpful. 

Bloodborne cainhurst carriage

Although I do really like the way that everything is written in Dark Souls, it makes it much easier to follow along this way. There’s no need to watch 30 hours of Lore on YouTube just to get a grasp of the story. I mean you can still do that if you want, and I would recommend some for Bloodborne. It’s just a much more accessible story, purely because more is literally written into the game.

Following this, is the fact that the story itself is really interesting. It’s a really good take on the separation between religion and science, as well as pointing out their commonalities. With a very dark and strange take on Lovecraftian monsters and ideas.

I think that lore and world building is definitely one of FromSoftwares strongest suits in their games. They always draw you in, and they keep you the whole way through.

Performance? 9/10 – Occasional frame issues hold it back slightly, but Bloodborne still performs wonderfully, even on a base PS4.

Bloodborne for the most part is buttery smooth, even with it’s fast paced combat. There are however occasions where just a little too much is happening.

Occasionally there will be slight frame drops, this is normally restricted to things like big boss fights. Especially when a lot is happening, or say where there is a lot of fire everywhere. 

Zack would like to draw attention to Darkbeast Paarl in particular. He had a real drop in frames whilst fighting in that boss fight. It makes sense, Paarl is a giant, kind of skeleton doggo, who is covered in electricity. 

Bloodborne paarl

I’ve only played this on a regular PS4 so I would imagine that the frame drop probably isn’t an issue at all if you were on a PS4 Pro.

Other than this however I don’t think I’ve experienced any problems with the game. No crashes or problems with texture loads.

Fun Factor? 7/10 – Bloodborne is a fantastic game, make no mistake. But the difficulty spike through the DLC is a touch too far.

Ok, this will be one of the lowest fun factors I have done so far. I love the game and it is fun, especially as a FromSoftware game it’s perfect for me. Here’s the issue for me, some of the bosses are so hard they aren’t fun. 

That’s a weird thing to say about a joint series known exclusively for being hard but there it is. The difference for me, is that when you’re repeating the Nameless King or Ornstein and Smough, it’s still fun. You might take a dozen tries, maybe even 30… But it’s still enjoyable throughout. 

The problem, to be fair to Bloodborne, mostly comes in the DLC. It may be the hardest DLC of any game I have ever played. The bosses are off the damn chain, all of the bosses that are added to the DLC are hard, even by SoulsBourne standards. 

Most people that have played Bloodborne would assume I’m talking about Kos, I’m not. Kos has never given me that much trouble, the first time I beat him it was only my like eighth attempt. The second time I tried it was my second attempt, I’m fine with Kos. It’s Ludwig. Ludwig is so freaking hard on your own, there I said it. 

Bloodborne ludwig

Having to attempt a boss 100 times because you’re trying to do it on your own, alongside your friends, pretty much kills the enthusiasm for me. I’m not afraid to admit it either, we all found it so ridiculous, it’s just a little much.

I will admit that Bloodborne also retains the same elation at finally overcoming these obstacles. Finally beating Ludwig gave me one of the most genuine senses of relief I’ve ever experienced.

Other than that though, I do enjoy the game greatly, and the rewards after beating Ludwig are definitely worth it.

I find the faster paced combat a little more difficult, because I’m so used to Dark Souls but it’s an enjoyable challenge. I’m happy to keep rising to it and eventually overcoming all that is on offer.

Value? 10/10 – Bloodborne is infinitely replayable, and it’s regularly on sale now.

As with the rest of the SoulsBorne series it is incredibly good value for money. That is unless you do not already have a PlayStation 4 as it is a PS4 exclusive.

Just as a side note, there have been some, completely unconfirmed rumours about Bloodborne making the leap to PC. Whilst there’s no guarantee, what I can say is that I would absolutely love this jump of platform!

Bloodborne cleric beast

You can normally pick the game up for under £20, the DLC will set you back around the same. It is definitely my recommendation to buy the DLC at the same time. Doing so gives you a lot more content as well as more weapons and outfits.

With a decent run time, being around 45 hours on average, it also has the normal replayability for SoulsBorne games. With many different weapons, and specializations that you can take, every playthrough can feel drastically different to the last.

How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 10/10 – As with most FromSoftware titles, I adored Bloodborne. It has some of the best weapons, and best themes of any FromSoft game so far.

I may be quite biased when it comes to FromSoftware, so far I’ve loved everything I’ve played of theirs. Even so, Bloodborne is an amazing game, with some of the best Lovecraftian themes, and most fun weapons and combat.

It holds itself as one of the few genuine reasons to own a PS4 for me, and it is something that I have played multiple times and will continue to do so.

Like it’s siblings in the Dark Souls series it is tense and difficult, but gorgeous and rewarding. This is a perfect combination for me and FromSoftware absolutely nailed it here.

If you like the Dark Souls formula, with the storytelling and combat, but find that DS itself is a little too slow, then Bloodborne is definitely for you. It’s much faster paced and really rewards full on aggression. It also has one of the coolest weapon mechanics in the Trick weapons, every weapon has a second form, or alternate mode. 

Bloodborne review.
Written by Kyle Munn

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