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.

Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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