The next game from From Software (no word processor, that wasn’t an error), the guys behind the “Dark Souls” series was demoed at MCM. It was in a no recording booth section with “The Order: 1886”. They both are sort of the same. Both have a steampunk setting and both are Sony (PS4 specifically) exclusives. That is pretty much where the similarities end. I got to play both so I don’t want to say to much about ‘The Order’. That’s for another article.
For those that have played any of the “Dark Souls” games, “Bloodborne” will be immediately familiar. You play as a person dressed entirely in black who’s job it is to kill things. In the demo I played as a guy. Seemed like everyone else did as well because there was no option to do otherwise. It may seem like a petty comment but the “Dark Souls” series had a ‘Fallout’/’Elder Scrolls’ style character creator where you could chose what you looked like including gender. If there isn’t a character creator and you just play as yet another nameless, voiceless male protagonist that it would be a step back. Or they could be going for a more streamlined approach and have a named character whose story we play. He wouldn’t need a voice, only a name. It worked with the Mr. Freeman so following a voiceless but named protagonist would be ok. It would just be a chance to the formula.
The style of the game, if the demo is to believed, is Gothic steampunk. The company became known for their Gothic style because of their past games and it hasn’t gone away. The whole thing dripped with Gothic style but it was dressed with steampunk highlights and décor. It’s dark like the other games but where the other games had their magical medieval style, “Bloodborne” has a more modern, horror feel to fit to go with the more modern Victorian aesthetic. It’s that combination that becomes something special. It’s best explained with my film history hat on, (and in as few sentences as possible). After World War One, a new art style rose up from the dark and grim nature that was the war, expressionism. Germany became the centre for it, they after all where blamed for the whole thing (historically). During the 1920’s people like Friz Lang made films in that style, like “Metropolis ” (1927). The game feels like a kindred spirit to that expressionist style, having a look that is very like “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920). The enemies being pale face and long limed. Lumbering and swaying with each movement, never being really still unless that are ready to attack you. It seems like From Software has accidentally fallen into the expressionist style but they wear it fantastically well. I say by accident because I have found nothing that would show that they set out with an expressionist style in mind. They may have but at this point, I just can’t tell.
The game controls much like “Dark Souls” albeit slightly simplified. There still is the dash in to attack quickly and roll away style of combat but there is also the blunderbuss which gives you some range. All of the enemies I fought in the demo (before I was dispatched) where all melee fighters so you have a distinct advantage. But the damage that the blunderbuss does is very limited. It felt more like a stun then an attack. My way of attacking was firing a blunderbuss round to stun, dash or roll in to sword range and take them out in one or two swings. That work for a while but I quickly ran out of rounds. The blunderbuss can only carry 5 rounds and pick-ups are very limited. This forces you into the traditional ‘Souls’ style of combat. It worked fantastically well. If the levels are sprawling and open, as they where in ‘Souls’, then having a easy way to dispatch single enemies is welcome. It stops problems like being mortally wounded while your wondering around looking for the boss door meaning you get annihilated easily and quickly. But it also doesn’t make the core of the game to easy that all challenge is lost.
For me, the demo felt like an entry point into the “Dark Souls” games if you felt they where too unforgiving meaning you didn’t play them for long. It is very much like them but is softer in the right places so people new to their games or people who just didn’t like the hardcore nature can ease themselves in.