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The Next Level In Gaming

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Being a fan of both Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, it was with Dark Souls 2 that I started to feel as though I was losing interest in the format. I was hooked with Demons’ Souls, and I enjoyed Dark Souls – but I’ve yet to progress much further than the first boss in Dark Souls 2, after realizing that I was playing it out of some feeling of necessity rather than because I actually wanted to play it. It became almost some sort of self-imposed chore that I wasn’t actually feeling any pleasure in doing.

So when Bloodborne was announced – a PS4 exclusive from Hidetaka Miyazaki, the director behind both Demon’s Souls and the original Dark Souls – I didn’t feel particularly excited. I’d played my share of the ‘Souls style games, and ugh, guns? It seemed like a step away from the medieval fantasy simulator I’d originally fell in love with, away from the armoured knights and classic dragons.

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Regardless, at EGX I decided to give Bloodborne a try, out of curiosity. I hadn’t really researched the game, but I missed out on last year’s Dark Souls 2 EGX preview and thought it was worth a shot. And heck, it turned out to be the best thing I played all day.

Choosing an agility-based loadout from a selection of pre-leveled characters, my character came equipped with an interesting weapon – a one-handed sword with an alternate mode that split the blade into two swords for dual wielding. In the left hand, I could switch between a long-barreled gun or a lit torch, presumably for lighting dark areas or setting enemies on fire.

Once the game began, the first thing that really struck me was the setting. Whilst Miyazaki’s previous projects both felt very similar in theme, Bloodborne has a beautiful Victorian style – putting me in mind of classic horror works such as Frankenstein or Van Helsing. Night-time streets paved with cobblestones, with metal fences and buildings made of stone and wood. It felt like I had gone back in time on our own Earth, to a dark rendition of an European town.

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The enemies had a similar feel, too – while I didn’t see a vast selection (mostly due to me getting killed before I could reach the demo’s end), the citizens of Yharnam have been plagued with an illness, turning them into a crazy, mindless mob. Lurching in droves with pitchforks and other such tools, I was put in mind of Resident Evil 4′s opening chapters – which was not a bad thing at all. Sure, the whole “zombie” concept has been a bit overdone of late, but they fit in very well  and I’m sure the final product will have plenty of variety in it’s enemies.

While Bloodborne is technically a new IP, fans of the Souls series will find themselves right at home with the game’s controls and gameplay concepts – attacking is done with the shoulder buttons, and correlate to a familiar equipment setup depending on what you have equipped in each hand. You have a stamina gauge that depletes with most actions, items shine with a familiar glow on the ground, and the enemies hit hard.

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However, that’s not to say that Bloodborne doesn’t put it’s own twists on the format. The game feels a lot less defensive than the Souls titles, instead focusing much more on offense and evasive manouevers. Rather than a shield and the ability to roll clumsily away from attacks, I could quickly dash-step around enemies to simultaneously avoid attacks and get myself into a good position to counter. There seems to be more of a focus on crowd-control techniques working with groups of slightly weaker enemies, rather than singular threats. That’s not to say that enemies can be simply hacked apart – getting hit is still very unpleasant – but there seems to be a much more fluid transition between evasion and attack rather than turtling and using hit and run tactics to wear enemies down.

While I was worried about the inclusion of guns, I’m very happy with their use. They are more of a supportive weapon with a very limited ammo supply – and can be used for stunning enemies or picking one off from a distance in a bind – but you can be sure that melee weaponry is still the main focus of combat in Bloodborne – and with it’s style-changing weaponry, it adds that extra bit of variety to your attack options. Considering I didn’t have a shield, it was very advantageous to dual-wield my weapon’s twin swords, since my other hand was otherwise wasted holding a gun that I wasn’t actually firing for the most part.

Sadly, my untimely death didn’t let me see what else the demo may have had to offer, but my short time with the game has got me excited for more. While I was originally somewhat uninspired by the little I knew of the game, I now appreciate the direction this new spin on the format has taken; while perhaps I was bored of Souls, Bloodborne may breathe new life into the structure and rekindle that excitement I felt with Demon’s Souls a few years back. I know I’ll be pre-ordering my copy before the game releases next February.

- Leon

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Leon On October - 4 - 2014

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