The brutally difficult brand of action RPG that From Software is so popular for is all about reacting to whatever monsters and challenges are put in front of you. From the minutiae of timing your dodging roll perfectly against a single to quickly recognising which enemies pose the greatest threat to you and neutralising them quickly or simply picking the best weapon for the job.
Bloodborne is a faster paced game than the Souls series, with a quite refreshing risk and reward of being able to regain a portion of your health if you strike back at an enemy that has damaged you quickly, and weapons like the cleaver that transforms from a fast, short-ranged weapon to something a bit slower but with a much longer reach.
Even though it encourages you to play faster, fighting your way through the dark streets of the ruined gothic city of Yharnam is a tense affair, knowing that even a minor misstep could spell your demise. When dealing with multiple enemies at once, coming at you with their rickety animations and assortment of pitchforks, flaming torches and so on, it’s easy to be caught out by their attacks. Ranged enemies are particularly dangerous, shooting you with their rifles from afar, and without a long ranged weapon of your own – the blunderbuss is great, but very limited in range – you’ll need to tackle them quickly.
When you die – and you will die – you gain that element of forewarning for your next attempt; you know where certain enemies will be, you learn how to tackle them, you know how to avoid the upcoming traps. The newly announced Chalice dungeons remove the crutch of your own memories of an area entirely.
Throughout the various areas in the forsaken city of Yharnam, these look to provide a unique and interesting challenge each and every time, by procedurally generating the dungeon each time. You’ll have to stay on your toes to take on the enemies you find and also deal with the generated traps. The demonstration play through we were shown at a PlayStation Experience preview featured an Indiana Jones style boulder, for example.
Running away from that boulder saw the player drop through another trap and down from into a swamp-like area, with the Chalice dungeons to be typically made up of three separate and distinct looking layers. Those layers can present their own particular challenges, and with the possibility of multiple routes to get to your ultimate goal, finding your way through successfully could hinge upon turning the swamp’s flammability to your advantage. It’s certainly perilous when there’s a hulking monster wielding a flaming torch.
Again, the need to have the right weaponry and know how to take on your enemies comes to the fore, but there’s also the tantalising possibility of teaming up with a friend via co-op and having different and complimentary weapons, alongside the asynchronous multiplayer, where people leave behind ghosts of their actions. So it was as a white hunter came into the battle with a ludicrously large hammer that was ideal for taking out the larger and slower enemy, allowing the pair to unlock the door to face the boss.
The Chalice dungeons do something quite interesting for Bloodborne, taking away an element of predictability or trial and error gameplay, and instead presenting you with a new and unique place to explore each time. It takes the ideas and style of the Roguelike genre of game, with their procedural generation and unforgiving nature, and marries it to the similarly unforgiving style of action RPG of the Soul series and Bloodborne. It feels like the perfect combination.
We’ll have hands on impressions for The Order: 1886, Tearaway Unfolded, and Until Dawn very soon.