Settle in with some hot cocoa, a blanket, your significant other (if applicable), and hang with me for a bit. This one got long quick…I apologize.
As a casual gamer, there are games I am…apprehensive to partake in. Games so deep in the underbelly of the gaming world that only the hardcore/elite can digest them without developing gaping ulcers in their pride. I had heard of FromSoftware…I planned to tell my casual gaming children bedtime stories about FromSoftware some day, to keep them from misbehaving.
My first experience was when I crashed with a few guys and gals I didn’t know (it’s a long story). One couple, dressed in all black, tattered clothes, with metal skulls, dragon pendants, and crosses adorning different parts of their bodies, was cuddled in the living room playing a video game. Common ground, right? Wrong…so wrong. The girl offered me the controller. I took it from her black nail polished hands. I smiled confidently. I had just made a friend.
I proceeded to die more times than I knew possible in a video game.
The game was Dark Souls. The mere mention of Dark Souls causes me to retreat as I mutter, “I am not worthy…I am not worthy.”
Enter my wife.
Fallout 4 left me burned out. I honestly wasn’t going to attempt another review for a while. My wife, however, pushed me to snap out of it and get another game. The Critics’ Choice Sale was live on PSN and after a lengthy discussion, she honed in on Metal Gear Solid V. However, having just had my gaming soul crushed by Fallout 4’s meaningless, behemoth quest flabs, I was more than hesitant. I was…resistant. “It’s too big,” I kept saying. “I won’t finish it because I don’t think there’s much understandable story…it’s too tedious.”
When that didn’t convince her, I had no other option. Ladies and gentlemen, I went nuclear. “It has a character who has to wear nothing but a thong/bikini to breathe, and she can’t speak…her name is literally…Quiet. Do you want to support that?”
While it wasn’t quite the nuclear warhead I had hoped (her quick response being, “then include that in the review”), we did agree to wait for the price to drop again. The next words out of her mouth made the room grow so silent you could have heard a pin drop on our carpet floor.
“What about Bloodborne?”
So story…well let’s see, you’re a hunter and you kill beasts. That’s about it. There really isn’t a story. Which spells death for RPGs unless they have an addictive loot system. There are some cutscenes in Bloodborne, though. They make less sense than my grandfather with Alzheimer’s Disease, but they’re there.
The world though…the world. It doesn’t quite make sense. There aren’t a lot of people to talk to, and when you do, it’s never obvious what you’re supposed to do for/with them. But people, this game has character. Simply finding new areas was so exciting/terrifying. What strange and unexplainable thing was waiting around the corner? Why is there a giant in a wheelchair pointing at a cliff? Why am I killing every single thing that moves? No clue. But it sure is a fun ride.
The character designs, while not as terrifying as other reviews proclaimed, were freaky as…fiddlesticks. My general reaction to seeing any creature I had not encountered before can be seen below:
Bloodborne has such a good atmosphere. If there had been a compelling story with interesting characters, this review might not have happened. My brain would have exploded.
Simultaneously Bloodborne’s best and worst category. At the start of the game you die. And then you repeat that step multiple times. While you are still low level, the game simply obliterates you…yet you improve slightly each time around. And that is how Bloodborne slowly sunk its deceptively addictive claws into me. Unlike The Last of Us, I could improve my stats until I dominated those fools.
Combat…holy ovary/scrotum sacks! It sounds and feels like nothing I’ve experienced in a game before. The Witcher? Methodical but good…Batman combat? Satisfying…Diablo III? Quite pleasurable…Bloodborne? Heroin.
Beating the first boss had to be one of the most satisfying moments in my gaming career. Let’s remember, I was afraid of this game. I had just been killed countless times. I was beginning to think I had made another huge mistake and wasted more money on a game I would not finish. And then this happened:
I was hooked. It was over. There was no going back. I wanted more.
My wife, who had white knuckles the entire battle, jumped off the couch to give me a high five. I had finally defeated a boss. I had confidence. Maybe I could rise above my lowly place in the gaming world and, for a few brief moments, walk among the stars.
Maybe I could beat a FromSoftware game.
But Bloodborne wasn’t a perfect experience. The game is so uninformative about how to do things and where to go, I felt like I was a kid helping my dad work on cars all over again. I had no clue what to do with certain items I received. It was infuriating. However, my wife (a Legend of Zelda veteran) loved this. With her help, I was able to figure out most of the item uses and random things to do that I would have never found on my own.
If you like stumbling around with no idea what to do (my wife calls this “puzzle solving”), this won’t be an issue for you. If you’re like me, this could honestly be a deal breaker.
Are you a crush/dating kind of person or a marriage person? Because once the game ends, the thrill of discovery is gone. The draw that sucked me in, finding those new places and discovering more about this bizarre and strange world, vanished. I know Bloodborne. There may be a few minor discoveries here and there, like any relationship, but new bosses? New areas? No such thrills remain.
All in all, replay value is tricky. I can see both sides of why you would or wouldn’t return to this game. Compared to RPGs like Mass Effect, Witcher III, or Persona 4, Bloodborne does not have much replay value. But compared to the campaigns of inFamous, any Call of Duty, or other non-RPG games, it is way above average in replay value.
Think of it as a more complex Tomb Raider, or The Last of Us. There is leveling, but not tons of choice like a full blown RPG. If that sounds good to you, then go slaughter some minions! Including the little yellow ones…I have no idea why people love them so much.
Okay, what a strange game to have online, right? Bloodborne is at its best as a single player experience. You can leave messages for others and it shows tips and help. But I didn’t want that. You also can use a little bell to simultaneously call another player to your world and give an angel its wings. This part takes getting used to because someone else could ring a different bell which allows them to invade a player calling for help as an enemy and attack them. Presumably this bell also gives demons their wings…because what kind of a turd would ring that bell, anyway?
You can set a password so that only friends can join you. Some people may like this. You may like this. But this was my world and my boss to hunt. I didn’t want anyone else to come in and do anything for me. I wanted to do it. I had been killed so many times, it was personal.
So the online is there. It’s okay.
Before I conclude, I just have to say…the three hunters in Yahar’Gul Chapel…really, really, really hate them. If you get stuck there because of me recommending this game…here you go…and again, I apologize.
The universe wanted me to like Bloodborne. There is no other explanation. On paper, it had the makings of my first catastrophe rating. Plus I haven’t had a good track record with PlayStation exclusives. But the stars aligned. I had nothing left to lose after Fallout 4 broke my spirit, nothing else to play, a weekend with no other obligations, and a wife who enjoys…’puzzles.’
Should you buy this game? I believe it truly depends on your mental state. If you are prepared to die, enjoy finding things without any guidance, prepared to die, are okay with no story, prepared to die, love unique settings, and prepared to die, then I think you have a shot at enjoying Bloodborne.
I got it for $24 and, against all odds, had a ton of fun. It’s now back up to $40, and I’d recommend waiting. Also keep an eye on Amazon. $25 or less…I say get it. The nice thing about Bloodborne is that it’s best as a single player game. Play it today or next year and it will still be a similar experience. Plus the DLC might be included in that bundle.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go paint my nails black…seriously…I actually have my eyes on Dark Souls III now…what is happening to me? Who am I?