Note: This article has been translated from Italian by ChatGPT and may contain errors.
The so-called Souls-like games have never interested me, and I’ve never been able to quite grasp them. Maybe someone (but probably not) will remember when I talked about my tendency to procrastinate with Dark Souls, which I ultimately never bought or played. Will I do it? I don’t know. I have to say that after my experience with Bloodborne, I might be inclined to do so, but I haven’t made a decision yet. In fact, encouraged by a price of just ten euros and my curiosity towards Elden Ring (which I’d like to buy because it somewhat intrigues me, but it’s too expensive!), I decided to pick up Bloodborne. Now that I’ve platinumed it (after around fifty hours), I’ll tell you what I liked and didn’t like about Hidetaka Miyazaki’s work.
PROS – WHAT I LIKED
Bloodborne isn’t a fun game, it’s an addictive one. It’s been a while since I got so “hooked” on a video game. The desire to progress, the eagerness to turn on the console and play, Bloodborne managed to bring that back to me, and that’s no small feat. Once you overcome the initial learning curve with the mechanics, the game becomes like a drug: between exploration, character enhancement, item collecting, and so on. It’s repetitive, of course, but it keeps you glued to the screen, and every battle requires concentration to avoid death. Bloodborne is a title that demands the player’s full attention; the enemies are numerous and diverse, and death is always around the corner. The sense of discovery is there (especially in the early areas), even though in my opinion, it never reaches mind-blowing levels. Bloodborne is a content-rich game of absolute quality.
Excluding the first few hours of adjustment, I don’t consider Bloodborne an extremely difficult game. Certainly, though, it’s much harder than the average. It’s a challenging title that can undoubtedly lead to moments of frustration and uncontrolled swearing, but I have to admit that by leveling up the character, learning to fight better, and studying the opponents, the overall experience isn’t as prohibitive. The “main story,” in fact, flowed without major hiccups. It just takes caution and thinking about the moves to make. True, a mistake can always happen, and sometimes that means death, especially against bosses. But I must say that the main bosses aren’t that difficult to defeat. I managed to defeat several of them on the first attempt, while others required a few more attempts. On the second run, I realized how much I had improved, and the initial area that seemed challenging the first time around turned out to be a breeze (not in NG+). In any case, the main challenge of the battles is that enemies are ultra-aggressive and deal substantial damage; in a few hits, they can take you down. So, it can be summarized as “dodge and attack, dodge, dodge, and attack again.” The challenge, however, is always present, and becoming better is rewarding. The efforts pay off.
Let me clarify: you can hardly understand anything from the game itself, but I read some in-depth analyses about the “plot” of Bloodborne, and I have to say that it deserved more emphasis. I understand that cryptic storytelling is part of the genre, but you really risk losing out on a very interesting work. The basics make you want to know more about that world and those characters, but then they leave you on your own in a confused state. All the background of the settings, characters, Great Ones, and so on, could be excellent material for a TV series or, better yet, a good book. Instead, it’s mostly an afterthought, so much so that what reached me is this: Bloodborne doesn’t have a plot (or does it?). Reading online to understand something was still enjoyable, and I would have liked the game to be more explicit in this sense, even though I comprehend but DON’T share the philosophy of a title that’s not accessible in any of its aspects and demands the total attention of players, making them study everything as if we were in school (okay, some people like it that way, but not me). Anyway, the lore is interesting, and you can see that there’s a lot of effort behind it.
CONS – WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
This is something I hate, and it’s why I don’t like JRPGs. The damn nuisance of spending hours repeating the same area to kill enemies (in this case, to earn Blood Echoes) to level up is a philosophy that I would abolish when it’s too repetitive. Utter boredom and repetitiveness in its unhealthiest and most rotten form. Okay, fortunately, if you stick to the “main story,” Bloodborne doesn’t require extensive effort to level up, but it does require some, and in these moments, the game becomes boring. It’s an abrupt interruption of the flow. I also don’t like all the statistics and related stuff. I prefer more action-oriented and immediate gameplay because I don’t want to spend hours customizing the character or studying all possible imaginable upgrades or weapons. In fact, I practically played the entire adventure with the Hunter Axe, ignoring the rest, and I rarely used ranged weapons, which I find quite useless (at least for my playstyle).
A double-edged sword. If the main quest proved manageable, the same cannot be said for the trophy that frustrated me the most… or maybe it’s the only one that frustrated me. I’m talking about defeating the Pthumerian Queen, which requires completing a lengthy sequence of dungeons, a kind of secondary mode to the main game. The first setback lies in the materials needed to perform the ritual to access the dungeons. I spent time entering and exiting the labyrinths to defeat enemies hoping they’d drop the required material. A frustration akin to leveling up. Fortunately, though, it didn’t go too badly for me in this respect, since if you explore the dungeons well, you find a good amount of useful materials. The second obstacle: the last dungeons turned out to be a pain in the neck, especially the one that reduces your health by half. The labyrinths themselves are not too complicated, but the bosses down there are quite tough because they leave you little maneuvering room, and sometimes a single hit can take you out. The Keeper of the Old Lords, the cursed fiery dog of the defiled dungeon, is definitely one of the peaks of developer cruelty, but others are no joke either. Since I don’t have PS Plus, I don’t know how the co-op with other players works (I only got to try the online mode for a few hours during a free weekend), but in solo play, you can summon a computer-controlled hunter to help in specific areas. Fortunately, this was possible in this case, and I have to say it was a big help, not so much for dealing damage to the boss (because these bot hunters are pretty weak), but mainly as a distraction. While the boss is focused on the bot, the player can hit it almost undisturbed, and when the bot dies, that’s when the trouble starts, and indeed my strategy against the giant dog was to wait for it to execute its lava attack (which immobilizes it for a few seconds), take advantage of it to hit it a few times, then move away. I repeated this until the end. But it’s a job that required attempts, time, and concentration, as the amount of health taken from the boss was very little. I’ve seen videos of players taking off a massive chunk of boss health with a few hits, but I don’t understand what level you have to be or what items you need for something like that (I reached around level 140, with the weapon maxed out, and strength value over 50, but I still dealt relatively little damage to these bosses). Except for the cursed dog, though, I struggled a little less with the others, and the Pthumerian Queen, in particular, was defeated on the second attempt.
Then, the New Game Plus, initially easy, proved to be too challenging as it progressed. When I reached the boss of the Forbidden Woods (whom I defeated on the first attempt in the first playthrough), I gave up because I failed too many times (my damage was too weak, and they could kill me in two hits), and I hate spending days and days leveling up (if I could have exploited a glitch to accumulate Blood Echoes, I would have done it without hesitation). So, I restarted the game normally, and goodbye NG+.
Another point I want to make is the confusion behind some choices. I appreciated the level design, the construction of the environments, the branching paths, the shortcuts; they were really well done and satisfying (although I think there’s a decline after the halfway point), but there are some aspects where the game isn’t clear. An example is related to the things you need to do to see one of the three endings. Without a guide, it’s almost impossible to figure out what to do and when. And in my first playthrough, I made some “mistakes” that forced me to start all over again. Certainly, with a guide, it’s easy, but especially concerning side quests or secondary content, the game doesn’t provide sufficient clues, forcing you to look for solutions.
It might be a distinctive feature of these games to be solely based on narrative background, but a story that made some sense while playing it wouldn’t have hurt. I’m not saying to fill everything with cutscenes (that’s not the style of the game, and it’s okay; besides, the few that are there are pitiful), but something clearer would have made the experience more engaging. Not that it isn’t engaging, but when I reached the end, I would describe all three epilogues as confusing and rushed. They left me with a strong sense of emptiness… and not in a positive sense of the term.
Artistically, it has its ups and downs, but overall, I appreciated it. Technically, however, I didn’t like it much. Okay, the game has been around for a while now, but it doesn’t seem exceptional in this regard, quite the opposite. And the famous weapon collisions (weapons passing through columns or other objects) were sometimes even advantageous to me, even though they work randomly, meaning: sometimes they work, sometimes not, and you end up getting hit by an enemy’s attack. Also, the save system is worth criticizing. I understand the playful intention behind it, as allowing manual saves would have made things easier, but the game always overwrites the same save, and if that one gets corrupted, you’re done. It happened to me on some occasions, unfortunately, when the PS4 spat out the disc (the console has this flaw), and when that happens, the game warns you that you could lose all progress. Imagine if the power goes out while it’s saving, and goodbye… The only solution (also to avoid redoing everything to see the endings) is to save the data on a USB drive, but it’s a somewhat cumbersome method that I didn’t want to resort to.
I LIKED BLOODBORNE
Engaging, thrilling, satisfying, and addictive. Bloodborne proved to be a wonderful experience. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece or put it among the best games of all time, but I really enjoyed it. Besides, I saw a bit of one of my favorite video games, Resident Evil 4, in some enemies (similar to the villagers and monks from RE) and some environments. In short: despite a few reservations and a bit more opacity than I’d prefer, Bloodborne passed the test, and I appreciated it in almost all its aspects. However, the question remains: will I ever play Dark Souls? No one can say…