E3 2014 – Impressions of ‘Bloodborne’ (PS4) From Behind Closed Doors

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I’ve never been a fan of playing Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, but I love watching others play them. It’s not just the fact that the difficulty and learning curve run on the high side, it’s simply because I don’t have the time to commit to truly experiencing these games to the fullest. Well okay, it’s also the difficulty and high learning curve!

These games are incredibly popular though, and even though Bloodborne isn’t an actual sequel, it would easy to consider it as such, just as Dark Souls was considered a “spiritual successor” to Demon’s Souls, which was considered the same to the King’s Field series.

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Bloodborne is set sometime in the 19th century, borrowing themes from the time period as the developers see fit, so at least so far, we don’t have a specific year in which it takes place. Game Director and President of From Software, Hidetaka Miyazaki, was introduced to us and the presentation began immediately with a short overview of what Bloodborne was all about, at least from a high-level standpoint. The screen then switched to the main character standing at a vantage point above the city of Yharnam. Fog rolled all around the character as he stood and immediately I thought that for a team that’s not really known for their visuals, Bloodborne has definitely raised the bar for these type of games.

Eschewing the use of armor as in the previous games, and more in line with 19th century standards, the wardrobe consisted of traditional clothing, including an almost Old West-style overcoat. This will give your character much more maneuverability and overall speed, but he also loses the protection offered by the older-style armor and shield. At least in this demonstration, the protagonist held 2 weapons: a saw mounted to a handle (kind of like a scythe), and a shotgun. The saw can be used in the traditional manner of a slashing weapon or extended for longer range attacks. You can actually even switch modes within battles too, allowing for some interesting chaining options. The shotgun is used for counterattacks in close quarters and can also be used to “dizzy” an opponent for a brief period. It seems that attacks can be chained somewhat too, and even though not mentioned at the time of this demo, I’m pretty certain that new weapons and modifiers will be attainable as you progress through the game.

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As I was reading about the past games in this genre, I kept seeing the same statement that was reiterated to us more than a couple of times when the subject of difficulty was raised by the group in my session. Miyazaki-san made it very clear that the intent is never about being overly difficult just to do so, but instead to give the player a challenge that gives them a feeling of accomplishment when that challenge has been overcome. He was even asked twice if there was any plan to add an option to play at a lower difficulty, at which time Miyazaki simply chuckled and said “no”. There will, however, be “safe zones” similar to the bonfires in Dark Souls available to the player, which should help relax things a bit after fending off numerous enemies in combat.

Online was mentioned, introduced by the term “open, explorative community”. What does that mean though? Well, we don’t know because it wasn’t explained at all. Such a tease!

The demo that we were shown was described as “a bit beyond Alpha Stage”, but even in this early form, it looked fantastic. As mentioned above, volumetric fog loomed throughout the landscape, letting moonlight through in certain spots. Animation was already pretty good, and I could see early on that the action seemed to be a bit faster-paced than the past games. Also, it didn’t seem that your character was reliant on finishing an animation before pulling a different move off, which if that remains true when the game finally hits shelves, should make gamers very happy.

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The city of Yharnam, in which the majority of the game takes place, is incredibly brooding and vast. You’ll only venture outside of the city walls sparingly, but even at this small look, I can already see that the city itself will offer a large amount of diversity in locales. It’s nighttime and light is sparse, only offered by the moon itself, torches, and gas lamps strewn along the winding and almost claustrophobically narrow roads. A bell rings signaling the beginning of a hunt and the prey are the victims of a dark curse that has engulfed the city. Once a person has been afflicted by this curse, seen as a plague by the city’s inhabitants, they change into a variety of horrifying beasts. The odd thing though, is that those affected by the curse don’t realize it, so when they hear the bell, they arrive to participate as well.

Your character makes his way down a variety of stairs to get to street level, and as he rounds a curve, a mob has one of the beasts strung-up on a post in a town square, fire engulfing the body and surrounding area. Enemies are encountered throughout the city, and some even move around the city as controlled by AI instead of having set patterns. They’ll even jump-in to help their own during battles, making things even more challenging for the player. This requires the player to use a lot of thought and strategy to best get around the area without constant encounters, especially if you require a better weapon or skill. As Miyazaki-san states, it’s very similar to the feeling that you got in the Tower of Latria from Demon’s Souls.

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Some larger beasts were shown as well and they’re really big (and I’m sure these aren’t even the largest in the game). Animation was quite smooth and the sense of hopelessness even fell upon me even though I wasn’t playing it. Luckily, an encounter with a friendly NPC happens and you’re given the choice to help him or not. If you do, he may appear later in your adventure to help with a larger enemy (in this case at least). This is also where they took the time to show that shortcuts will appear after certain accomplishments, so the further you make it in the game, traversing the complex city will become a bit easier with these shortcuts. This one actually required him to replace his shotgun with a torch though, so that Risk-Reward that’s been in the past games is definitely present here as well.

Other tidbits that I noticed, blood and dead bodies seem to remain wherever they impact. Also, rag-doll physics have been implemented, offering some pretty cool effects. At one point, an enemy was holding a torch and he actually shoved it at your character, setting his coat on fire (and yes, doing damage.) Your clothing will become tattered and stained with blood and dirt as you progress, with a wonderful visual style throughout.

Some answers to questions in the Q&A portion:

Q: What kind of penalty will be levied when you die?
A: The team is still determining what that will be. There will be a penalty, but they don’t want it to be so bad that players won’t want to play any more.

Q: Will there be any RPG elements included?
A: A full set of RPG elements will be present for weapons upgrades, leveling-up, and attributes

Q: What will the overall world structure be like?
A: If you need to compare it with something, the world structure could be considered close to that in Dark Souls, but almost everything takes place in the city of Yharnam.

Q: Will stamina still play a part in Bloodborne?
A: Yes, stamina will still play a key part in combat in Bloodborne.

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I have to say, my jaw dropped when the game was revealed on screen for the first time (I even saw the producer point at me.) When I got back home after E3, I watched some videos of Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls which helped me realize that I was right in thinking that the action seemed a bit faster and more fluid. Miyazaki-san was asked probably two or three times about the difficulty of the past games and I could see the pride in his eyes when he responded. But I do also think that he and his team are having a hard time getting people to realize that their intention is not just for the game to be “really hard” and that they want your victories to give you that tangible sense of accomplishment. Even in this early state, this one looks like it’ll be a winner, and the pedigree is undeniable. In my opinion, it was genius on Sony’s part to publish this game keeping it on PlayStation platforms. I adore the visual style and the period in which it’s set, and man it is creepy. The past titles are incredibly popular, and I can’t see anything but success for Bloodborne.

Bloodborne is scheduled currently for a Spring 2015 release, exclusively on PlayStation 4.

E3 Trailer:

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Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Tony Parra

    Great article Glenn but actually if not mistaken, it is the other way around, Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls. This is my most anticipated game!

  • Yep nice article indeed but please correct that statement Demon’s Souls is spiritual predecessor to Dark Souls therefore Dark Souls is spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls.

  • Chuck Green

    I know these games are popular in certain circles, however I’ve never been able to get into them. I honestly tried when demon souls was free on xbox 360. I put in a few hours at a time and played around but could not beat the taurus demon. That pretty much ended my time with these types of games. I know most games today are way too easy and hold your hand but I would never purchase one of the souls games or one like it.

    • Neil Bayemo

      Xbox fans dont often prefer the sophisticated/complex non-shooter games. Perhaps u should stick with cod or halo. Don’t know why they bothered putting certain awesome Japanese games like Dark Souls, Bayonetta and Catherine, etc on the dude-bro American console such as Xbox. They only like shooters. Easy ones at that (like COD).

      • Chuck Green

        Well first I’m not American (happy Canada day BTW), secondly I am not cod fan at all. And c) I have both new consoles and I prefer my ps4 for gaming. I wasn’t talking a shot at people who like these games I was simply starting my opinion.

    • Jack

      Demon souls is not on Xbox FYI

      • Chuck Green

        You’re right it was dark souls 1.

      • GotNews4Ya

        Yeah… He is probably just one of those guys who just wants to downplay the game, because its a PS4 exclusive and it just gets his blood boiling and his toes curl. Ya know.. Fanboys are like that. I should have knew as soon as I seen “I know these games are popular in certain circles” followed by “tried demon souls” and capped off by “Xbox 360”, then he basically said he gave up after he couldn’t progress.. That’s unfortunate..

        To Be Perfectly Honest.. I have never played Demon Souls or either Dark Souls games, but when the trailer hit at Sony’s E3 Conference, I was ecstatic to see this game. It is absolutely beautiful, and the story seems like something I am definitely going to get into..

        Honestly, I never heard about either Dark Souls or Demon Souls until My buddy was playing them. By that time, I was so addicted to SOCOM and other team based multiplayer games, that I just didn’t invest the proper time for them. I debate going back and playing them, but I would love for them to do a remaster collection on the PS4.. because my PS3 is in my bedroom, and every time I go in there to play.. my old ass falls asleep.. Yep.. I got old people problems! haha.

        Now I worry about how the graphics might look on the first two, and if I would actually enjoy playing them. All that said.. I am STILL looking forward to this game. So I guess it goes either way, but I just don’t understand not at least checking a game out, regardless of how its predecessors have played.. They usually change to some extent for better or worse on each game.. and from what I have heard.. the games seem to just consistently improve upon the franchise with each installment.

        Here’s to Next-Gen (Current Genn, Whatever) and the sweet games that are to come!

  • Agent HUNK

    I want to see a frontal pic of him

  • Guest

    It isn’t a real successor to Demon’s Souls. It misses a few characteristics of the previous Souls games, like shields. Hence the name doesn’t bear “Souls”.

    • Tyrion Lannister

      Because it lacks the Soul Moniker as it’s name dosn’t mean it isn’t a Successor.