I’ve been a huge fan of From Software’s games since being introduced to Demon’s Souls on the PS3 many years ago. I had never heard of them or their legacy, but the bleak and brutal world was amazing. I hadn’t seen anything like it. Then Dark Souls came along. I’ve been an ardent fan of Souls games ever since. The whole thing felt like it was made for me. So, when I heard about Bloodborne, I was apprehensive about the thematic shift.
If I had known what I know now I would have bought a PS4 on the spot. I went into the game blind and I’m very glad that I did. I knew that blood was the theme this time around, also the currency and method of levelling, rather than souls from the Dark franchise of games, and that there were beasts roaming the streets, but that was about it. I had no idea where the latter half of the game was going to take me or how the narrative would branch.
I was sceptical of the period setting and the absence of the desolate medieval settings that define the Dark Souls series, settings that were so reminiscent of the worlds of Glen Cook’s Black Company or the Malazan series by Steven Eriksson, but Bloodborne very quickly established itself as a masterpiece of world building and atmosphere. The baroque cityscape of Yharnam fostered a density and claustrophobia that was never present in the Souls series and it immediately distinguished the game as unique.
I spent a lot of time being overwhelmed, dying and becoming accustomed to the new style of gameplay. There is a definite learning curve, as in all Souls games, that may deter new players, but the player who perseveres is rewarded to a ridiculous extent. New weapons, new styles, new enemies and challenging boss encounters abound, and that is typical Souls in that respect. Towering, intimidating and seemingly impossible bosses will repeatedly drive you into a state of anguish and despair until you experience the incomparable rush of accomplishment when you finally emerge victorious. You simply have to struggle on and the game will absolutely reward you.
So the game is about beasts, and it seems like standard horror fare. Something lurking in the blood of the inhabitants of Yharnam is transforming them into beasts, and you’re a hunter tasked with hunting them down. This holds true for the first few areas of the game but as you progress, and take down a few bosses the world shifts and changes and things start to get weird as the night of the hunt progresses. Things very quickly become Lovecraftian, and transcends into the realm of cosmic horror. This shift was amazing and unexpected. It exceeded pretty much every narrative expectation I had and as a fan of Lovecraft it did not let me down.
I’ve started a new game plus and the game is endlessly playable. It is an absolute masterpiece. Bloodborne has exceeded every expectation I had for a From Software game, and it has very quickly become one of my all-time favourite games. From are apparently working on a new IP and I cannot wait to see what it is. I’ll never be apprehensive about a new setting diverging from established worlds of From Software ever again.