I’ve been playing a lot of Bloodborne this past week. I like it… but I don’t think I like it as much as the Souls games before it.
It’s roughly ninety-percent the same concept; the mechanics, the atmosphere, the punishing difficulty. That’s all present and accounted for. However, it’s been admitted by From Software, and something I’ve definitely noticed, that there are far fewer weapons and armor in Bloodborne than in, say, Dark Souls. And while most of the melee weapons have a trick function (that is, they transform), it still feels like there are fewer options when it comes to gearing out your character.
If I ring my small resonant bell and join someone else’s game, chances are they look exactly like me. Same clothes, same weapons. That very rarely happened in a Souls game.
It’s just hard not to feel like I don’t have as much freedom to branch out as I did in the past.
With that said, the game is a lot of fun. I think the multiplayer is a lot more reliable, though not summoning via a specific point in space is a little weird. You enter someone’s game at the same place you are in your world, so it’s not uncommon to be beckoned in right in the center of a group of enemies your host hasn’t reached yet. It can be disorienting, but the process overall is more fluid than it was in the Souls games.
I also like the health recapture system, though it’s a double-edged sword. I think more than a helpful mechanic, it’s a trap the developers put in to lure you into acting rashly, which usually spells disaster in one of these games. I enjoy having the option, even though in most instances I feel it’s best to take the health loss, step back and recompose, and then reinitiate.
The difficulty is, like most Souls games, an evolving affair. An enemy or boss will give me trouble for a while, and then I’ll get stronger or more familiar with its movements and I’ll wonder how I ever died to them at all. And that is immediately followed by running headlong into some new enemy that is a huge pain in the ass and having to learn their shit all over again. But it’s what I love about these games.
I one-shot the Cleric Beast and the Witch of Hemwick, but the Blood-starved Beast took a good dozen attempts, and I’ve died attempting the Undead Giant more times than I care to recount. What’s nice about From Software’s games, though, is that if you persevere, whether it takes two attempts or twenty, you can come out on top. As I’ve said about past Souls games, they can be brutally challenging, but they’re never actually unfair. Everything follows by a certain set of rules, and it comes down to how quickly you can learn and react to those rules.
As is also typically the case, the first playthrough serves as a warmup. A practice round, if you will, for NG+. I reached NG+++ in Demon’s Souls, but have failed to finish NG+ in either of the Dark Souls games. I imagine that will be the case with Bloodborne as well. Not for lack of wanting, but free time. I have very little of it, and with Pillars of Eternity waiting in the wings, it becomes hard to justify playing through the same game two or three times in a row.
I usually tell myself I’ll just put the game down for a bit, then come back and work on NG++ or whatever, but that never happens. I don’t even think it’s viable to step away from the game for that long and then re-enter at the heightened difficulty level. Your success in NG+ and beyond almost directly relies on all of the finely honed reflexes and muscle memory you developed over the preceding playthrough.