Bloodborne Review – Part 2
Continuing on from Part One of Player2’s Bloodborne review, Part Two see’s Stephen discuss bosses, Chalice Dungeons, online elements and some bug fixes before giving his overall impressions. You can read Part 1 here
It should be no surprise that Bloodborne’s PVP and Co-op play are interesting elements when taking into account the vast range of opinions and beliefs these modes inspire in the FROM Software following. Some players regard co-op play as the casual way to play – if it isn’t done solo, it might as well not be done. There are portions of the Dark Souls community who view any form of healing in PVP battles as the highest form of rudeness and rage at anyone who suggests their ‘honour duels’ aren’t necessarily the method in which brutal battles should take place. Others joyfully engage in jolly cooperation and invasive ganking in equal measure, deriving happiness from helping and hindering players at their discretion. I believe that Bloodborne has something to offer every player in regards to co-op and competitive play thanks to a few tweaks to the formula. Messages left on the ground by other players are still an integral part of the experience – my belief is that this system is in there for a reason and I choose to use messages whenever I find them, even though many of them promise rare items just over the edge of every cliff in the game (Protip: The items are a lie). Co-op and PVP however now require the use of Insight consuming bells to activate, even when already playing the game online.
This provides an interesting quandary – searching for a co-op partner with the Beckoning Bell also opens up the possibility of a bell-ringing enemy to be summoned; one who will continue to pepper your game with invaders unless they are found and dispatched. However, invaders also face the very real possibility that by the time they reach you, you have a friend or two to back you up. Although I didn’t engage in any invading, I did have a few invaders track me down in the aforementioned late game area, who from my experience had yet to fully embrace the aggressive nature of Bloodborne combat and met their end swiftly by my Saw Cleaver and blunderbuss. No doubt due to the fact that there are many players currently online, jolly co-op play in Bloodborne is generally easy to engage in, provided you maintain character levels with the majority of the community for the area you are in, as there is a cap in place to prevent over-levelled invaders destroying newbies or carrying them through co-op. I offered my services as a co-op partner to a few other players and found the system relatively painless as there is nothing to lose but time when assisting other players. This system also makes it possible to try out a boss in another players’ world prior to taking it on in your own – invaluable for anybody wishing to develop strategies, learn a bosses move set or simply have at them once more before moving on to New Game Plus.
While on the brink of New Game Plus myself, I decided to invest some time into Bloodborne’s Chalice Dungeons, a collection of pre-designed and procedurally generated dungeons situated under Yharnam itself, the former of which tie into the narrative of the game fairly heavily. Chalice Dungeons initially become available after defeating an early game boss and acquiring a key item, which lets players, summon them in the Hunters Dream hub area. In hindsight, just after receiving this first Chalice item is probably the time they should also be delved into. Unfortunately, I was very overlevelled for the first few Chalices’ and therefore found the bosses in these areas very underwhelming despite their ferocious looks. That isn’t to say that Chalice Dungeons don’t get harder – indeed, it seems that later dungeons are aimed at co-op players or those well past their first run of the game, as Chalice Dungeons are the only part of Bloodborne that don’t scale in difficulty in New Game Plus modes. How much mileage a player gets out of the procedural Chalice Dungeons will likely depend on their tolerance for mixed and matched areas – while on paper procedurally generated areas sound like a method for nigh infinite possibilities, that they must also remain cohesive with one another tends to affect their versatility. I will say though that of any area in Bloodborne, Chalice Dungeons seem the easy way to introduce DLC and keep the community engaged if FROM wishes to follow such a path. Given their track history and the success of Bloodborne thus far, DLC seems like a foregone conclusion. Chalice Dungeons also play host to a number of bosses not seen in the main story, which is a shame given the state of some boss encounters in Bloodborne.
Boss encounters are generally fascinating experience in FROM titles – some players will breeze through a particular boss, while others may attempt it 50 times or more with no success. Some fights can be regarded as puzzles akin to those found in the Zelda series; once you know to use a particular item or move, it’s easy to reach victory. What I found from my personal experience with Bloodborne is that it has a number of enjoyable boss encounters early in the game, only to see variety taper off as the strategy to beating later bosses seemed to rely too much on the same set of principles; get behind them and attack, parry where possible. This could simply be a symptom of the pacing of Bloodborne that ensures the first half of the game is, in many ways, the more difficult.
That said, it can be a mistake to make sweeping statements regarding how easy, difficult, disappointing or rewarding boss encounters are as they will vary for every player. For example, I killed the penultimate story boss of Bloodborne on my first try, in what was a nerve-wracking experience that went down to the wire. Had this been a later attempt, I’m not sure the same surge of adrenaline would have coursed through me. Meanwhile, the first boss encounter of the game killed me many times, again linking back to my feeling that familiarity breeds success in Bloodborne and the further you are, the more adaptable and competent you become. I will say though that I feel there is definitely a ‘wall’ boss, much in the same way Ornstein and Smough in Dark Souls were perceived. Feel free to toss your ideas into the comments over which boss I’m talking about.
A lot of the controversy surrounding the earliest reviews of Bloodborne were concerned with what many writers identified as the biggest issue with the game; its loading times. Fortunately for Player2 readers, our meticulous nature means we often get to experience post-launch patches before putting our reviews up, which allows me to report that as of Patch 1.03, load times in Bloodborne have been significantly reduced, in some cases less than half their previous time. The only noticeable repercussion from this is some textures appearing at a lower detail level when first arriving in an area. Many of the bugs and glitches have been cleared up at this point, which means that those on the fence have a dwindling list of reasons to not give this game a go.
Overall, Bloodborne is a tighter experience than any game of its ilk thus far. Playing it is akin to running into a friend you haven’t seen in a while who has hit the gym in a big bad way – it’s a leaner, more focused beast. In terms of the single player storyline, there is no fat left to trim – no half-finished, underdeveloped areas, as was the case with Dark Souls, nor the horizontal, meandering sprawl of Dark Souls 2. The world created by FROM here is top notch, with both striking visual and audio design combining with nerve-wracking gameplay to create a truly mesmerising, atmospheric experience. While Bloodborne is by no means a game for everybody, it is sure to satisfy eager fans of this particular genre while also being, in my mind, the best place to start for those who have been curious about trying the Souls series but apprehensive about the much rumoured difficulty level. I hope to see you on the Hunt.
Stephen del Prado