Starting with its zippier movement speed, Bloodborne seems bound and determined to strip away anything that might encumber the moment-to-moment flow. Shields are no longer central to gameplay, replaced with dodging and a new “regain” system that allows you to regenerate lost health by striking the creature that inflicted the damage (don’t expect to mash buttons hoping for an easy health boost, though). These strategic tweaks further heighten From Software’s blissful blend of risk and reward and encourage you to stay on the offense.
Character creation will be familiar to veteran Souls players. In selecting a character “origin,” you’ll choose from colorful descriptors such as Troubled Childhood (high resilience), Violent Past (high strength), and Waste of Skin (nearly helpless). I opted for the Military Veteran, which gave a balanced boost to my strength and skill ratings.
Moments into the game, it’s clear that From Software is putting PS4’s processing power to good use. Bloodborne’s grim hellscapes are a clear generational leap from the castles and courtyards of the Souls games. Bottles and boxes tumble realistically when struck. Fog flows like spilled blood. Light sources glow menacingly. The environments look and feel alive in ways the eight year-old PS3 hardware just can’t accommodate.
After ogling the environments, my Military Veteran set to work. Some friendly demons presented me with a choice of three starting weapons: I skipped the Hunter’s Axe and Saw Cleaver in favor of the Threaded Cane, a nasty piece of work that bashed skulls up close and expanded into a bladed whip for longer distance work.
Bloodborne’s weapons are multifaceted marvels, each effectively serving as two weapons in one. Combined with firearms like the Hunter’s Pistol and Blunderbuss, I strung together wicked multipart combos that shredded enemy mobs quickly and efficiently.
Bloodborne also taps into some of DualShock 4’s unique control features, starting with the touchpad. Click the right side and you’ll see your personal effects (molotovs, notebook, etc); click the left side and you’ll see your available gestures, which you’ll activate using DualShock 4’s internal motion sensor.
Then there are the new Chalice Dungeons, procedurally generated levels set in the vast ruins beneath Yharnam. I test drove one dungeon called “Chamber of the Seal,” and its gloomy atmosphere and haunting ambient audio gave a tantalizing preview of what’s in store.
After hacking through a mob of scuttling rats and hulking horrors, a towering undead giant flattened me in two mighty blows. This experience perfectly encapsulated the major differences — as well as some key similarities — between Bloodborne and the Souls games. The melee combat felt more immediate, and I made rapid progress thanks to my faster movement speed. But in classic Souls style, all it took was one moment of hesitation to seal my fate.
I’m dying to dive back into Bloodborne when it lands on PS4 March 24th.