Developer: From Software
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Release date: 27/03/2015
Your eyes slowly open, adjusting quickly to the dimly lit surroundings. A Victorian surgery greets you as you wake, a somewhat sinister wheelchair bound man dressed in tattered brown clothing has given you what appears to be some kind of blood transfusion. Rising from your slumber, you climb from your bed and begin to search for a way forward. Two great heavy doors gently resist as you force them open. Standing atop a large staircase you begin your uneasy descent, candles flicker in the distance, illuminating your destination.
Reaching the bottom, you hear noises coming from the adjoining room, with nowhere else to turn, you hesitantly proceed. Turning the corner, the sight of what welcomes you freezes steadfast. A wiry, fur-matted werewolf is hunched over an eviscerated corpse, its teeth gnaws at the flesh of this forsaken soul. Noticing your presence, this terrifying creature lifts its head and slowly turns to face you, the blood which drips from its jaws glistening in the light. Its body stoops low, its muscles tighten, it’s about to pounce. You have no weapon, no way to defend yourself, but this monstrosity blocks your only exit. It leaps towards you, flailing its limps, sharp flesh shredding claws rips through your skin. You roll away desperately searching for a way past, but it too late. This beast is far too fast, another pounce and this time you are too slow to react, its talons tear through your flesh again and your demise is swift and brutal.
Thankfully, death is not the end in Bloodborne and you awaken at the foot of a derelict chapel, its gardens adorned with old headstones. You have arrived in Hunters Dream, the central hub area of Yarnham. It is here that you will be presented with your first important choice, strange glyphs adorn the steps of the chapel and upon drawing closer, small creatures called Messengers crawl up waist high from we know not where. These friendly little imps are here to help and will present you with a choice, you must pick one of three available weapons, the Hunters Axe, Saw Cleaver or the Threaded Cane. Each one varies in speed and damage output, so it’s best to choose something that will fit your play style. Next you will be given a choice with regards to a pistol, the weak, but durable Hunter Blunderbuss or the Hunter Pistol, ideal weapons for disturbing the attacks of your foes allowing for deadly attacks from your melee weapon. Your final gift is a notebook, this is used to leave messages for other players to read. With these newly found tools in hand, you venture back into the centre of Yarnham, ready to face whatever horrors which lie before you.
Rising from the lantern you take your first cautious steps towards the centre of the city, winding your way through the moonlight cobbled streets you come across a band of men armed with pitch forks and other rudimentary weapons, flaming torches light the area as the smokes escapes from under the city streets. Taking your time to approach, you hesitate, their heads quickly turn, you have been spotted. Rushing towards you the air fills with sounds of fear and panic, metal swishes as it cuts through the air, striking bone and slicing through flesh. You flail wildly, trying your best to keep the mob at bay, you manage to kill one and then another, but there are too many. The crackling of the fire is the last thing you hear before you awake at the lantern, ready to try again.
You quickly realise that to survive the world of Bloodborne it will take a mixture of cunning and speed. Never rush in blindly but, survey your surroundings, plan your attack and when you do, don’t hesitate, make their end swift and brutal. Your ferocity must outdo those of your adversaries, but be warned your stamina will affect how long you can sustain an attack, it’s a balancing act that, given time, you’ll master and when you consider that some of your health can be replenished by striking your enemies, being aggressive is the best form of defence, even when you face the most fearsome of foes.
As with previous From Software titles, their character design is truly exceptional. Yarnham is full of interesting beings and terrifying creatures. Rabid dogs, overgrown rats, lame man-sized crows, huge Goliath pigs, enormous spiders hiding in the rafters. But it’s not just the animals you should be scared of. There are little old ladies that will happily slice your throat wide open if you let them get too close, hulking great grave robbers with unmatched strength, the blade carrying madmen with ferocious speed, to name but a few, every enemy you encounter should be feared and respected.
Along with these sinister creatures the Gothic design found with Bloodborne is both majestic and foreboding. The Giant Cathedral penetrates the skyline as it reaches towards the heavens, narrow dimly lit streets feel claustrophobic and intimidating, venture into the nearby forest and you can easily become lost and confused, find yourself underground and the water here will eat its way to your bones. Take your time though and you soon realise how beautifully all these areas connect. Fighting your way forwards to a gate or door and you will find that, once its open, it leads to an area that’s somewhat familiar, you begin to piece it all together and the initial confusion of this labyrinth is replaced with a deeper understanding of your surroundings, a map begins to form in your mind. It is an absolute masterclass with regards to structure and design.
The lack of direction and unforgiving difficulty will no doubt alienate some and the occasional problems that you may encounter with camera will be frustrating. You may find in particular heated exchanges the viewpoint obscured or the screen spins erratically as it tries to keep up with the action, especially during boss fights, but this does not happen often enough to break the game.
For those with the time and patience Bloodborne is highly recommended. The epic boss battles, the visceral and gratifying combat, the astounding musical score, the rich and detailed environments, the staggering character design and the harrowing sound effects all combine to produce a title that is truly outstanding. Yarnham is home to one of most horrific and rewarding gothic adventures of all time and if you’re up for the challenge, I urge you to pay it a visit.