Bloodborne may be my favorite game to have released in the last 10 years. The game that pushed me to purchase a PlayStation 4 is far from perfect, but the creature design, environment, story, razor sharp gameplay, and overall tone of the game have never stopped captivating me. The seemingly simple tale of a hunter slaying beasts in the night unfolding into a cosmic horror fest of daunting proportions is fascinating, terrifying, and completely unique all at once. Achieving both critical acclaim and great sales, it is highly likely a sequel will emerge. But what was it that made the original so damn good? And better yet, what could be refined upon in a sequel to make for an even better experience?
But what was it that made the original so damn good? And better yet, what could be refined upon in a sequel to make for an even better experience?
Bloodborne nails tone and ambiance in a way that few pieces of media, let alone games, can. Screams echo throughout an abandoned and cursed Yharnam city, the townsfolk perverted and burning anything they can find in the streets. Ghastly choirs accentuate empty churches, scorned for their misdeeds and harboring twisted secrets, the walls painted in blood. Thick woods are infested with writhing piles of snakes, overlooking a bleak and vast ocean. Every inch of Bloodborne drips with blood and style, from the gut wrenching audio to the beautiful visuals, the game is a sight to behold. Bloodborne takes players to unbelievable locations and constantly surprises with both boss encounters and level design. In true Hidetaka Miyazaki fashion, the levels often wrap and layer over one another to create a world that, despite having a central hub area, feels interconnected and sprawling. The world of Bloodborne is an absolutely beautiful nightmare and the sequel will need to be just as gripping.
It isn’t just about looks, though, as the gameplay is just as important. Blindingly fast, precise, and intense, Bloodborne urges the player to rip and tear through their opponents as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is also what keeps the game feeling wholly different from the Dark Souls games, and it is vital that they keep this style moving forward — without it, this could just be a gothic offshoot. The game arms the players with versatile trick weapons, each of which has 2 forms to switch between, adding depth and variation to how to build your character. Heavier weapons allows you to smash monsters into the ground with colossal damage, while others allow you to zip in close for quick bursts of damage before retreating and switching the weapon to something with more reach. Players can also regain health after suffering damage by immediately attacking their foes instead of retreating to heal. Rewarding the player for aggression pushes the gameplay from tactical blocks and rolls to all out brutal dashes and musket blasts, where victory is gifted to the frenzied, not the careful.
FromSoftware is well known for creating highly difficult games, where the difficulty is merited by the fairness of the gameplay. Bloodborne manages to strike the balance between teeth cutting toughness while also being fun to play; the game teaches players the hazards of the world by making them wade through it. It rewards cunning and aggression with victory, and punishes defensiveness with failure, all the while being tuned to perfection for the speedier combat that Bloodborne establishes as its own. Hit boxes feel reasonable on both the creatures you face and yourself, and no matter how intense things may get, understanding your opponent will help you prevail in the end.
Some of my most vivid memories playing Bloodborne involve a bridge at the very beginning of the game, and my endless grind for healing items. I’m sure many Bloodborne players remember the same bridge, and in a sequel, I don’t want to remember a location for this reason. Bloodborne’s punishing difficulty is both rewarding and fair; if you play the game well, you will survive and eventually prevail. That said, the game is also brutally difficult at points; some of the bosses took me a dozen attempts or so, even after multiple playthroughs. Exhausting all of your healing items during a boss run, just to fail and have to go back and grind for more doesn’t add tension or weight to any encounters — it’s just annoying. The Estus Flask system that works so well for Dark Souls would be an incredible adjustment for Bloodborne — healing items that reset to “full” upon death.
To be blunt, chalice dungeons may be the weakest part of Bloodborne and they need to be left behind entirely. These labyrinthine chambers filled with enemies sounded interesting from the onset of the game, but when you realize the absurdity with which they are designed and how much content, like new enemies and boss encounters, have been subverted to the chalice dungeons, it’s a little sad. Some cool, and some not so cool, bosses are located deep within the chalice dungeons making many fans miss them entirely. The repetitive nature of going room to room killing enemies, only to be cast to the beginning upon death, grows old very fast. Attempting to fasten roguelike qualities on a game that isn’t a roguelike seems both out of place and disconnected from the rest of the experience.
The final drawback revolves around the convoluted co-op system that caused me never to summon another player into my game, despite the feature being included in the game upon release. Compared to the simple co-op features of Dark Souls which just allows any player to lay a summoning sign on the ground, ringing a bell simply never worked for me. Perhaps I never used it at the correct time, or there were never any players nearby, but I felt like this feature was half-baked and could use a tune up. Bloodborne can establish its co-op uniquely of mother game, it should just make it a bit easier to connect with others.
Luckily my dreams of a new Bloodborne entry aren’t just fantasy. Rumors of a sequel to Bloodborne have been swirling for a while now, and FromSoftware has confirmed they are working on a sequel to a pre-existing IP that isn’t Dark Souls. As E3 2017 came and went without a show of anything FromSoftware related, fans were quickly disappointed, as this will be the first year without a Dark Souls (or Bloodborne) release since 2013.
Fortunately, the Playstation Experience 2017’s dates were just announced a few days ago for December 9th and 10th 2017 in Anaheim, California. With Bloodborne being a PlayStation exclusive published by Sony, this would seem the perfect event to drum up hype necessary to get pre orders locked and loaded with a potential release for holiday 2018. This is all speculation, of course. Dark Souls 2, 3 and Bloodborne have all released in spring, which could mean if FromSoftware follows suit a Q1 2019 release would be more likely. Regardless, I stand in the camp of releasing a completed game instead of rushing a product, so if patience will create a sweeter, gorier fruit with Bloodborne 2, then so be it. I am more than ready for a second endless night of hunting beasts, and it can’t come soon enough.