Friday, 17 April 2015

Bloodborne: PS4 Review

Bloodborne: PS4 Review

Developed by From Software
Published exclusively by PlayStation

I'd already had a hands-on with Bloodborne and had been killed a lot.

So I'd expected the full game to be a little tougher. And I wasn't disappointed. In fact, the challenge of Bloodborne is one of perseverance to be honest - and given that it's from the same studio who brought the punishing Dark Souls into my life, I'd expected there to be some form of gaming challenge ahead.

Set in the fictional hamlet of Yharnam, you're an unnamed hunter, who has to discover what went on, why the inhabitants are suffering with a disease that's been transmitted through their blood, turning them into rabid killers with you in their sights.

But help is at hand, in the form of the Messengers, who equip you with weapons via trading to help you negotiate this Gothic Hell on Earth. A gun, an axe which can be extended out will become your go-to-weapons of choice, as you try to survive the streets. And you do need to survive because exploration will reveal many, many different ways to die and threats to deal with.

Self-preservation is a handy tool to have for Bloodborne; fighting a group of infected is not a great idea, given that they can easily overwhelm you and stop you dead in your tracks. Swinging an axe is a good way to despatch them, but you need time to re-engage the axe, gather your strength and hurtle it at them.

An early challenge sees you having to get past a wolf like dog creature that's hellbent on killing you. And given you have light weapons at that point, there's a choice - fight or flight. Sometimes, the decisions are simple, but other times, it's worth dying to visit the Hunter's Dream realm where clues unfold and tooling up happens. But it also pays to make sure you're aware of everything around you as you try to harvest extra Blood Echoes, the game's currency.

The Regain system works too - as you negotiate battles and use the chance to get back some of the health stolen from you in combat from your enemy. It takes a little time to master, but pays off in droves when it needs to.

The fun of Bloodborne (and there is fun in among all the dying and occasional frustration) is seeing how it unfolds before you.

Early stages require a patience of learning, a touch so often ignored these days as we head into games, with everything so sign-posted. A challenge is one thing these days on consoles but a lot of the time, the reward is negligible given what you go through. Like Dark Souls before it, the joy that you get for making the breakthrough is tangible and lets you feel like you've achieved something.

There is an online presence with Bloodborne too as fellow players can leave you notes to help - or hinder - you on your quest. It's a nice touch and it's up to you if you want to exploit it or use it for posterity. There are also Chalice dungeons which are randomly spawned which offer rewards (and which I have to confess, I've not had a load of time with yet) - there's already enough to do with the basics of the game, the tooling up and the exploration of it all rather than just to follow the more random elements.

It's not all positives; there's issues with loading times which have you waiting around twiddling your thumbs a lot as the game gets ready to off you again - and it's a niggling frustration that From Software is promising to fix.

The nightmarish touches of the game really give it a ghoulish edge, a fevered landscape to conquer and end of level bosses that are not easy to dispatch. It's a real feeling of satisfaction in the completion, a sense of achievement that's not been offered in quite as many titles on the PS4 since launch; everything's felt disposable to a degree and Bloodborne is not like that at all.

Bloodborne is mightily and scarily impressive.  Stick with it, immerse yourself in it and relish the challenges it presents - you'll feel something as you progress and that, in a game, is worth the hours that you pore into its ilk.


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