“I enjoyed trekking through their dark and desolate worlds, but I do not wish to put up with their technical and mechanical issues.”
That’s how I ended my Dark Souls PS3 review. With those thoughts in mind, I skipped Dark Souls II on the PlayStation 3 and banked on an inevitable PC version to go on sale. Meanwhile, Bloodborne was unveiled as a PlayStation 4 exclusive and I decided to put my “Souls eggs” in that basket and wait for it instead.
From a strictly technical perspective, I made the wrong choice. I should have picked up Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin for the PlayStation 4. That re-release operates between 48-60 FPS while Bloodborne continued From Software’s track record of valuing graphical fidelity over performance. Their target was 30FPS but frame pacing and the occasional drops left me wanting. On the bright side, the framerate never dove to the depths of Dark Souls’ Blight Town on PlayStation 3. There was only a handful of instances where I found the framerate butted heads with gameplay. This time around, there were new technical issues including sound stutter and long and the load times.
Unlike the diehard Souls fans, I’m unable to recall the different areas and characters of previous Souls game — I can only recall Blight Town because of its technical issues. To me, the other Souls games were a blur of medieval fantasy settings. Bloodborne’s Victorian styling was more up my alley. I was more receptive to the setting and characters this time around. The characters were not as cryptic as before which could be due to my familiarity with From Software’s storytelling style but I believe they made the conscious decision to be less obtuse in that department as well.
I’ve heard the criticisms laid against Bloodborne looking too uniform for far too long but I felt it was a sensible layout for newcomers. The frequent checkpoint lamps and relatively narrow approach to the city streets made it easier to approach. It seemed like a different game in itself when I was wandering around in those confines. I felt Bloodborne hit its stride when the game finally opened up. Gone were the city streets replaced with forests, old villages, swamps and eerie mountainous regions. However, when the credits finally rolled, I couldn’t help but wish for more. On one hand, they did well to leave me wanting more but on the other, I couldn’t help but feel they rushed towards the finish line after spending so much time in the city. I was hoping for more quality time in each area or more different areas.
There were randomly generated dungeons to explore but they lacked the delicate touch of a designer. The dungeons that I’ve explored were nothing more than a series of boxed shaped rooms stitched together. Cynically, it was the Souls games distilled to its purest form: a bunch of fodder and then a giant boss to fight.
Numerous changes were made to streamline the Souls experience in Bloodborne but one brought a series old staple to an end: shields. In an effort to promote a more active game, From Software removed shields and replaced the off-hand weapon with a firearm which was meant for countering than offense. I didn’t counter as much as I should have but it was a far cry more than the amount of parrying I did in all the previous Souls games combined. I realized that I played the previous Souls’ similarly to how Bloodborne should be played. I only used the shield as a safety net and dodged and rolled often already.
I chose the relatively quick cane as my weapon of choice and stayed with it until the end. I tried other weapons like the Ludwig sword but I found it to be too slow and weak for my taste. Although there doesn’t appear to be as many weapons to choose from in this game, I loved the diversity of each weapon; quality over quantity. Each weapon’s transformation showed completely changed how the weapon functioned. My trusty threaded cane transformed into an effective crowd control metallic whip.
Only the Cleric, the Blood Starved Beast and the final gave me bouts of frustration. The source of frustration with the Cleric beast was everything terrible about the Souls games crammed into the first boss. I ended up getting stuck in geometry on two occasions and had no choice but to succumb to a pummelling. The camera was uncooperative and it was the first boss after a long hiatus from these types of games. The Blood Starved Beast was confusing because I had forgotten how poisons worked in these games and not being patient enough. The rest of the boss battles were wars of attrition with me outlasting the bosses because I had twenty Blood Vials to draw from. (By the way, farming for healing items was a chore; I prefer more convenient Estus Flask system of the Dark Souls games). I even managed to defeat a boss on my first try which is a Souls game first for me.
Giant bosses were always a Souls game trademark but I think the humanoid hunter duels in this game were more engaging. The were less cumbersome and thus I wasn’t frustrated by camera issues. I wish they showed more personality though. Even the flightless crows were more colorful than the typical hunters.
Like other Souls games, the story was there for the taking or ignoring. I visited characters throughout the course of the game in order to see if they had something new to divulge. I usually endured the long loads to check in on people but I yearned for a better way. I hated going back and coming away with repeated dialog.
Despite all the faults, I still enjoyed Bloodborne. In fact, it may be my favorite Souls game. If From Software manages to fix the frame pacing and loading issues, it will cement its status in my books. I’m even considering earning a Platinum trophy after the performance patch is released. I know there’s still a few nooks and crannies that I missed the first time around. I may even crack open a wiki to demystify the game, however I like trying to solve games like this on my own. Even though there are four of these titles now, they’re still feel like unique puzzles to me.
I Like It