Back in summer 2014, a series of GIFs surfaced online containing gameplay footage of From Software’s latest project, then referred to as “Project Beast.” The footage recalled Demon Souls and Dark Souls’ third-person, block-and-dodge close-combat but demonstrated unfamiliar qualities that distanced the project from the developer’s previous titles: the protagonist carried what seemed to be a blunderbuss in his left hand, a transformable weapon in his right, and moved swiftly, unencumbered by heavy armor. It wasn’t clear whether we were watching a modded Souls game or a new title.
Then at 2014’s E3, From Software announced that Project Beast was in actuality an early version of its 2015 PS4 exclusive Bloodborne. Since, a limited amount of gameplay previews and developer interviews have confirmed that Bloodborne, while foundationally similar to Souls, aims to alter the pace of gameplay and introduce a new vocabulary of risk, punishment, and reward, while staying true to the spirit of brutal but fair challenge that From Software is known for.
Navigating the Nightmares
Bloodborne is a character-action RPG set in the fictional city of Yharnam, a dark Victorian London-like labyrinth of streets overrun by monsters and plague. You play a Hunter, a lone-wolf armed with a transformable weapon in his killing hand and a hand-cannon in the other, on a mission to spill the blood of a variety of beasts and demons. Guns, steampunk outfits, and a blend of Victorian and Gothic furnishings and architecture make the world of Bloodborne seem closer to our world than that of Souls but are not enough to imply a real historical context.
Early gameplay footage shows off a seemingly fluid map with interconnected pathways and a deadly environmental silence, lightly prodded by the Hunter’s footsteps and broken only by the hacks and moans of combat. Rooms and buildings of are masterfully detailed and really bring the environment a sense of life whereas the streets, alleys, and rooftops of Yharnam seem to navigate like a winding dungeon rather than an outdoor city plan. The gothic world of Bloodborne looks gorgeous, bringing a palette of dark earth tones to life with dynamic lighting, slick animations and character models, and tantalizing landscapes, and is slated to run at 1080p and 30fps on PS4.
Punishment Played In A New Tempo
What really stands out among the incredible Bloodborne gameplay footage released is the Hunter’s unique arsenal. Firearms are used primarily during close-range combat to stun or – in one gameplay preview wherein the hunter held a gas can-like flamethrower – set enemies ablaze. Melee weapons have two modes for use in combat; in the game’s 2014 E3 trailer, we see the Hunter snap his comb-like “saw blade” to its extended-handle mode to gain a scythe-like reach. This weaponization combined with lightly armored, swift characters will lay the groundwork for diverse gameplay, deep levels of customization, and fascinating combos.
Developers explain that the core concept of Bloodborne’s gameplay encourages aggressive play, a major shift from Souls’ focus on stern defense parted by precisely timed jabs. Agile dodges, light-footed movements, as well a Health Regain System that allows players to regain lost health by counter-attacking opponents are just a few examples of the game mechanics implemented to keep players in motion. Despite this change in tempo, Souls fans can expect From Software’s signature challenging and at times staggering difficulty along with repeated viewings of the infamous “You Died” failure state screen.
Joining the Family
Bloodborne presents itself as a fantastic immersive experience promising unforgiving challenge, hard-fought success, and layers of gameplay. With the masterpieces of the Souls Series behind them, we should expect nothing less than great from the artful, experienced, and consistent studio of From Software. But will Bloodborne be exceptionally distinct enough a statement to warrant its fresh title? Find out on March 24.
Written by Oscar Rodriguez