The most interesting game of 2015 finally began its Alpha last night (or early this morning depending on where you are located). Having lucked out with an invite, we finally got to experience for ourselves the wonder and mystery that is Miyazaki’s new baby, Bloodborne.
Editor’s Note: This article was approved by Sony for publishing, and features Castielle’s observations primarily, with some Skarekrow13 thoughts chiming in on occasion because he likes to stick his nose into things.
The level the Alpha occurs in is easily recognizable by anyone who has watched any gameplay footage to date. You are dropped into the game in exactly the same spot as the Playtester running the booth at E3. Except this time you get to choose starting weapons. There were 4 premade setups to choose from, all involving one melee weapon and one gun. Choices for melee included a range of weapons in the right hand (from the light daggers to the ultra heavy Kirkhammer). These were pre-paired with either a Blunderbuss or a Pistol in the left hand. Castielle decided to go with the dagger(s) and the pistol as he likes speed. Skarekrow13 chose the more methodical bringer of death known as the Kirkhammer, which has the added bonus of a very sexy looking sword in the handle. From here on assume it’s Cas speaking. Or writing. Or whatever. Skare will make his presence obvious (yes, we’re such fans of the Souls games here at FextraLife that even our articles have invaders).
Having seen the gameplay at E3, I was relatively familiar with the level and knew where the first few enemies were, but what I didn’t know was what the personal effects on my character did (personal effects in the Alpha is a menu of items opened by pressing down on the right side of the touchpad). After messing around with them for a little while, I learned that there are two bells: one you ring to summon and one you ring to be summoned. There was also a “parting shot” which sends you or your phantom(s) back to their respective worlds. Of course an item for sharing messages with other players was present, as in the Souls games. In Bloodborne the item needed to do this is a notebook. Having sorted that out, I set out on my journey toward the boss.
After fighting several enemies and seeing a good portion of the level, I can say with confidence that the number of enemies is much higher than in the Souls series of games. Around 2 to 3 times higher I’d wager. This is something that wasn’t overtly clear to me at E3 when I watched the gameplay there. You certainly have to be more careful or you will just get overrun by enemies. I’ve heard comments around the internet that the combat is much faster than in Souls games and some people have even compared it to Devil May Cry. I believe that the speed of combat is generally the same as Dark Souls (Skare agrees, movement general seems to be nearly the same). In Bloodborne though, you sort of have the option to just jump in and make it hectic and fast (which I must say is a lot of fun). The difference here, is that in Bloodborne you are given the movesets to be able to handle many more enemies at once in comparison to a Souls game. You are even rewarded health back for striking an enemy who has struck you (if you can do it quickly). Skare’s pro-tip: hitting enemies who are in their dying animation will continue to recover your life. You are rewarded for smashing them into a pulp after the fight is over. Once they hit the ground for good, recovery ends. Editor’s Note (again): You should have mentally inserted a “Dark Spirit Skarekrow13 has invaded” message in a few moments ago.
The dodge and dash mechanics take some getting used to, but after about an hour you’re flying around the screen, getting comfortable. Combat feels much more exciting that Dark Souls. It may also feel more frantic and nerve wracking. I’m not sure this will appeal to all Souls fans, as there are many who like to take it slow and methodically whittle away the enemies. It is still possible to take this approach, however, it just really isn’t as much fun! Unless you’re using the Kirkhammer, per Skare.
- Great combat and gameplay. For an alpha there’s a ton of variety in weaponry and tactics. It’ll be familiar to Souls fans but with enough twists to feel like a major overhaul.
- Epic Boss fight (I’m sure there will be more) with epic music. Much like the Souls games, music is played only during key moments for atmosphere. This is, as usual, masterfully done and the argument could be made that Bloodborne is even better than what we’ve experienced to date. Add in well timed shrieks from a certain boss (even when you’re nowhere near it) and enemies cursing you with their dying breath, and this game has achieved the “best with headphones” recommendation.
- Great environment that really sets the tone of the game. How would you feel if I said dead horses with clouds of flies were a thing in this game? Now what if I said that the environment is so engaging that you might need a few minutes to notice that? Yeah, consider yourself immersed.
- Tough enemies that seem much smarter than previous Souls games. From standard mobs staring at you and assessing your threat level, to marksmen just idling away their time until you come into range, enemies often feel like they know what they’re doing.
- Summoning, seems to be simplified and (when working) seems to be a real breeze. Ring a bell. Walk around. Worlds merge when suitable partners are found. Simple.
- The camera angle. Most of the time it’s fine, but every now and then you are fighting in narrow alley ways and on bridges where the camera pans right behind your character and you get to see a close up of a wall or a railing instead of “the fight.” This makes it difficult to do much of anything but die. This was actually the most challenging thing about the boss fight.
- The Gun. Either I’m doing something very wrong, or this weapon serves almost no purpose in the game. The larger guns have a spread shot that staggers enemies in about a 120 degree arc for about a second. The smaller guns deal about ¼ the life bar of damage to one enemy. Neither one is useful. You can easily mow down enemies with your melee and it’s actually better to do so as you can regain health if you are hit. There was no time where I couldn’t pull enemies to a choke point and take them out one by one if I so chose. And when I didn’t choose, it was more effective to just swing wildly into the crowd, as 2 or 3 swings killed most enemies. Skare seconds this. The Blunderbuss is mostly useless as I couldn’t get the stagger to trigger consistently on even small enemies and the spread shot didn’t help me in crowd control (they just kept on pushing). The pistol does do decent damage at range and was able to stagger a large enemy consistently, assuming you timed your shot well.
- Lock on. Although the lock on works 90% of the time just fine, there is that 10% where you can’t lock on to the guy standing 10 feet in front of you no matter how many times you click the button. Or you try locking on to a guy and running back as there are more enemies nearby only to not and have your camera swing wildly. Sadly this issue exists in previous FROM titles and has yet to be fixed.
All in all, the game is shaping up to be about what people are expecting. The 3 hours of the Alpha flew by before I knew it and I had a blast. The combat was challenging, the world was intriguing, and all I kept thinking was how much fun this is going to be with my friends. I’m not your typical lore junky like some Souls fans, but I can honestly say I’m dying to know more about the story. Why am I here? What is happening to everyone? How do I stop it? Hopefully soon we will know more. Until then “Praise the Moon!”
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