Dubbed the spiritual successor to 2009's “Demon's Souls,” Bloodborne is From Software's first title to be released exclusively on a next-gen console. It's a challenging and violent third-person role-playing game that rewards tactical, offensive combat from players. Don't be fooled by it's hack'n'slash-like gameplay: while there is renewed focus from the developers on the flow and speed of the game's encounters, charging in with all guns blazing and little consideration for strategy will almost certainly get you killed.
Bloodborne drops players into Yharnam, a sprawling, gothic metropolis that has fallen victim to a terrifying plague. It's inhabitants have become little more than crazed lunatics, pursuing anyone or anything that they believe to be infected, while all manner of horrific creatures also stalk the streets. Players take the role of the Hunter, whose origins are determined during an in-depth character creation process, and who has become afflicted with a strange illness. The Hunter opts to travel to Yharnam, which is said to be home to an incredible medicine capable of curing any ailment.
From Software's 'Souls' games have been heralded as some of the most difficult games to ever come out of Japan, and Bloodborne (as a successor) is absolutely no exception. Some exciting changes have been made to the core gameplay this time around in order to not just keep things fresh for returning players, but also to try and entice new players to the series who may not have previously found appeal in the series' punishing mechanics and deliberately slow tempo.
In what is probably the biggest departure from formerly established staples, shields have been almost completely removed from the game and replaced with guns, which have not been usable at all until this instalment. Before now, it's probably fair to say that most 'Souls' playstyles have involved a shield, as they are typically suited to more tempered engagements and defensive situations. Shields aren't completely out of Bloodborne, but the developers have warned that a more offensive approach is going to be much more effective. Guns have replaced them almost entirely, but don't expect to be able to use a firearm on its own: used primarily for taking advantage of openings left by your opponents and stunning them briefly, they do very little damage and should not be the main focus of your attacks.
In addition to these changes, it has surprisingly been reported that there are actually fewer weapons in the game. Instead, each weapon has multiple forms that can be switched between on the fly, altering their range and strength in order to better suit your situation. One example we've seen a few times now is a piece of metal chain that morphs into a two-handed staff. How the attack modes will differ between weapons remains to be seen, but they are certain to be interesting.
Another huge alteration from previous 'Souls' gameplay is the new 'Regain' mechanic. Rather than simply losing health when you are damaged by a foe, the game grants you a small window of opportunity to instantly recover some of your vitality before it totally disappears. By swiftly counter-attacking an opponent after taking damage, you can 'Regain' some of your lost vitality almost instantly. This is yet more proof that Bloodborne encourages a much more aggressive approach than ever before.
From Software have also released details on multiplayer in Bloodborne. Player summoning and PvP (player-versus-player) situations make their returns with interesting new twists. You can invite your friends to journey through Yharnam with you, but it comes at a cost: it also increases the chances that the “Chime Maiden” will bring hostile players into your game to try and kill you. There's also a mysterious new area named “The Chalice Dungeon,” which Hunters are encouraged to explore together. It's hallways, caverns and traps are all randomly generated, as are its enemies and bosses. It's unclear whether you can keep entering the Dungeon and it will be a different experience every time, or whether there are limitations on the number of instances you can create. You can however share a Dungeon you have just played in, and challenge other players to do a better job than you did at conquering its perils.
Bloodborne is set to be the PlayStation 4's first must have title. It's grotesque characters and eerie locales, whilst unsettling, are utterly stunning. It promises to be a gruelling, deeply fascinating experience that will have existing 'Souls' fans singing praises of its new take on combat, and new players clambering to see what the fuss is all about. There's likely to be a rise in the number of broken controllers in our living rooms over the next few months, but finally taking down that one boss who's been absolutely wiping the floor with your Hunter for a week now? The sense of accomplishment will be totally worth it.
Preorder the game at Grainger Games for access to the “Bandages” Messenger Skin.