Bloodborne NEARLY-Hands-on Preview


From Software once again stepped out of the shadows at E3 2014, revealing the next title in the lineage of the developer’s Souls series. Bloodborne, however, is not a part of the Souls franchise , despite its many similarities to those games. Instead, this PS4-exclusive collaboration with Sony’s Japan Studio takes players to a different time and place, with a new story currently held tightly under lock and key.


In the behind-closed-doors private demo I was shown, a dual-wielding character clad in a long duster and leather cap navigated multiple levels in a Victorian-era town called Yharnam. The architecture was distinctly Gothic and the atmosphere was suitably dark, with countless ornate spires and buttresses blending into the night sky. My virtual tour guide and demo driver noted the development team’s admiration of H.P. Lovecraft, and told me to expect to see the celebrated horror author’s influence to varying degrees throughout the adventure.

From what I saw of the game’s enemies, who lurched along in groups, and sprung at our character from around corners, there will indeed be a certain grotesqueness to the character design. Most appeared to be warped townsfolk, and stood tall and gnarled with oddly shaped limbs of extreme proportions. At least one roared a few intelligible words at us, and there seemed to be a community dynamic among them, as evidenced by their ritual monster-burning in a small square near one of the town’s gates.


Though story details were sparse, I was told that Bloodborne‘s central plot revolves around a spreading affliction in Yharnam that evidently causes the aforementioned mutation among its inhabitants. The game’s title seems to allude to such a pathogen, curse, or whatever the case may be. Whatever the cause, “It’s all your fault” was the line I was able to discern from one of our assailants, so perhaps the game’s protagonist is more closely tied to to the town’s fate than From Software is willing to reveal at this point.


Anyone who’s familiar with the signature mechanics of the Souls franchise will recognize the way Bloodborne is controlled: attacks for each hand are mapped to the shoulder buttons, and players have the ability to lock on and dodge laterally when engaged in battle. I didn’t see any magic, however, and as the setting is far removed from the medieval fantasy of previous titles, there is no guarantee of its inclusion. The hero in the demo did carry a rudimentary firearm, though, so ranged combat does have a place in the game.

Players shouldn’t worry that guns are suddenly tainting their beloved From Software games, though, as the blunderbuss is a limited-capacity weapon with a slow rate of fire, and ammunition is said to be scarce. It seems that guns will fill an occasional support role rather than acting as viable primary weapons. Speed of combat was emphasized instead, with one notable example being a weapon that converts from small and fast to long and deliberate with the touch of a button. In Souls weapon-class terms, it was a small axe one second, and a polearm the next, which may suggest that switching quickly between multiple different weapons could be a way of the past, replaced by these convertible tools of the trade. What we definitely won’t be seeing in Bloodborne are hulking suits of armor turtling behind tower shields. The setting does not integrate such equipment, and our spry protagonist more closely resembled the classic image of a vampire hunter rather than a knight of the round table.

One does have to wonder if taking away such options will result in diminished diversity among player characters. From Software’s games have thrived on open-endedness when it comes to character customization and build optimization, with almost innumerable ways for players to plan, experiment, and engage. It’s entirely possible that, in this regard, Bloodborne will be a more standardized experience for everyone. On the other hand, the game is said to be entirely open world, with no obvious indication of how to proceed through the adventure. If paths do not quickly converge or become available in sequence a la Metroid games, but instead leave the world to be explored in any order, players might expect to trade one set of freedoms for another.


Though my mind raced with the possibilities just out of reach, on the other side of the “we can’t talk about that right now” answers I got to the irritatingly numerous questions I asked, the demonstration did eventually have to end. And in true From Software fashion, it ended with a hulking beast bearing down on our hero, flayed chest cavity and matted, werewolf-like fur glowing under the game’s phenomenal-looking lighting system. After only a few swipes back and forth amid the shattering environmental object, the screen went black, with the ominous Bloodborne name flashing across the screen.


If there’s one thing From Software has taught us via the studio’s games, it’s that patience pays off, so at this point, I’m just waiting patiently for the next scrap of information about Bloodborne, the most exciting game I was able to see at E3 2014. If you haven’t yet jumped onboard with Sony’s newest console, this looks to be the most compelling reason yet to do so.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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