Bloodborne: Gamescom 2014 Hands-On Preview

Bloodborne: Gamescom 2014 Hands-On Preview

Last updated on August 7th, 2015

Fextralife’s Hands-on with the Next Generation of Souls

When fans read that Bloodborne was going to “appeal to a wider audience”, we quickly began polishing forks and lighting torches. Isn’t it comforting to know that the folks with forks and torches in the game are still going to kill you very, very much? With that said, a third type of mob had to be avoided to even come to that conclusion: The visitors of the Gamescom 2014 in Cologne, Germany. As my current identity claims I am located in that same country, it seemed the opportunity for Fextralife to get a hands-on with From Software’s latest project.

Finding Sony Computer Entertainment Europe wasn’t too hard, nor was finding the Bloodborne booth. Among all the shiny bright-blue stages, screens and speakers bursting loud music & trailers, and on-stage hosts rallying the crowd with giveaways and contests; the weathered, pointy steel fence and graveyard-gate-like entrance to the Bloodborne showcase stuck out like a sore, dark-enchanted, grimy thumb.

I introduced myself to the nearest member of the blue-shirted local Sony police force, who in turn kindly hooked me up with a media fast pass – and the license to cut line was badly needed, given one of the smallest kiosks got among the biggest attention. Waiting for the current crew to finish their go, obvious Dark and/or Demon’s Souls veterans eagerly discussed their tactics and while keeping out of those particular conversations, I felt that feeling rise within me. I suppressed it.

We were lead inside into a weirdly appropriate, pitch black room; only the Playstation system LEDs providing me and other, equally physically talented people just enough light not to cause serious property damage. I initially chose the center-most rig, but quickly gave it up after realizing the other two attendees in my line were not only a young couple, but also acknowledged never having played a Souls game before. I chuckled to myself, and the feeling crept inside again, but I pushed it back once more.

While I was aware that photography and recording in general was strictly forbidden, I noticed a few terms I wanted to document on the loading splash screen explaining the controls, but the Sony promoter was as vigilant as a mountain lynx. I sighed at the creeping thought of how tragically similiar that guy’s behavior was to From’s storytelling and surrendered my phone. “Just me and you, brain”, I figured. And if those two weren’t for bad enough odds, there it was again: that misleading, unproductive cockiness and certainty of having “figured out their scheme”. The feeling that cost me so many Human Effigies at the start of Dark Souls 2, because I totally aced the first one. The feeling that in itself proves that, as simple the enemy behavior seems during a second playthrough of a Souls game, it always manages to catch you off-guard and show you how crafty you really are in any next installment or DLC.

Bloodborne: This is Souls

After spawning into the Victorian city of Yharnam at nighttime, I felt right at home from the very first second. The camera, the controls, the animations & the movement itself, down to the sound of the footsteps, were familiar. This is a Souls game, hallelujah!

I was roaming about for some time, tried out what my movement options were: Dodging, light attack, heavy attack, rolling attack. The controls are almost identical and the user interface comfortingly familiar, featuring a health and stamina bar that depletes as you attack and dodge. However there were new things: Instead of blocking, L1 will now make your character “transform” their weapon – i.e. extend or collapse the blade of your melee weapon. The loading screen splash claimed doing so mid-swing will unleash what is called a “transformation attack“, but I was unable to properly execute it during my time. Given that it is a reserved spot on the button map, it is safe to assume this is not only going to be an important feature, but also inherent to the majority of weapons. Since my character was essentially the figure seen in most of the promotional material released (including the cover), my melee option was some kind of cleaver that could be extended into a polearm crowned by an over-sized shaving razor.

Bloodborne Hands On

The newest addition to the realm should be what rested in my left hand: A legitimate, good old-fashioned blunderbuss. It does what it’s supposed to do: With L2 you fire your gun. The particular piece I was carrying had a wide arcing blast, with low damage and very high spread. This is not going to be a shooter, which is also evident when looking at your ammo counter: Six. Not exactly a lot of slugs for a straightforward shootout. However, it wasn’t until my first serious combat encounter that I realized what it’s true purpose in this game seems to be: crowd control, block break and poise break. I didn’t have to wait very long for my first opportunity to put my tools of trade to good use.

Gameplay: The twists

As any veteran would feel with this wonderful opportunity, I was torn between exploring every corner and rushing forward to see “more”. After scanning every niche for deviously placed loot and exercising a bit in the dark alley the game dropped me into, the Sony promoter finally lost his cool and pointed out how I should totally climb up the overly obvious ladder right in front of me to proceed. You know, by pressing X? I grinned in self-righteous satisfaction when I finally spotted a rotten carcass with a shiny orb in its hands, and picked up what I simply felt had to be there. This is From after all – again, don’t worry. And because it is From, it wasn’t the Shining Killaxe +15, but a “Pebble“. Granted, five of them. Their usage was as bluntly straightforward as one might expect: You throw a pebble. Legions of darkness, hear me roar.

To my caretaker’s sigh of relief, I finally went to climb up the ladder. Halfway up, I heard a terrible shrieking and glass shattering.  It’s moments like this you appreciate the “sprint climbing” of DKS2, apparently being here to stay (it does not drain stamina anymore) – false alarm. Having reached the rooftop safely, I looked back down to make sure I hadn’t been followed. Relieved, I turned around just in time to dodge the lunge of my very first enemy. An inhumanely slender man, wearing tattered, Victorian age clothing and a hat, his face covered with mold and pieces of rags. He shouted at me. Those weren’t all guttural noises we was making. He spoke. A distorted, feral and angry voice, but those were actual words. I had no time to process this new and unexpected behavior.

Without thinking, I executed my inner Dark Souls-choreography – locked the camera onto him, while dodge-rolling under his crude, makeshift blade, and unleashed a flurry of R1s. With my brain still turned off, I waited for his counter attack with my finger resting on L2, as it always had – only to see my character, much to my unaware surprise, yank the blunderbuss upwards and virtually blowing my opponent into the metal fence at point blank range. My ammo counter went down to five, and while it may have been wasteful and also a tad overkill, it felt very empowering at the same time.

Bloodborne Hands On

Having annexed this particular rooftop in my mind, I proceeded down a set of stairs, only to be greeted by another pair of similar (yet slightly different) looking enemies. One of them carried what seemed like a plank shield and I took that as his personal statement against firearms – respecting his beliefs, I transformed my cleaver for additional range and disposed of both of them the old fashioned way. From where I stood, I was able to look down onto yet an even lower roof, with yet another pair of enemies, which I could access by jumping down; as well as an alley at the very bottom, led to by a set of stairs to my right. There was an entire mob carrying torches down on the street, though luckily they were patrolling away from my position. I decided to use that to my advantage and slip past them (I reportedly tend to prefer this approach) by descending the stairs and then running straight into the opposite direction as soon as they had passed me. At the end of the alley, there was an opulent golden metal gate. It was closed still, but next to it was classic, huge ground lever. Fewer animations are more satisfying in Souls games than your character pulling those, especially when that metal gate turns out to lead to my initial starting point – I had just opened my very first shortcut. Relief. The world is once more intricate and interconnected, and we will be able to find quick hidden paths to get around it.

I went back where I came from, feeling slightly more confident now, prepared for my inevitable encounter with the mob I avoided with so much improvised elegance – they were awaiting me now. Making my way back up the street, I didn’t think of how they’d changed direction and were now coming straight at me, all five of them. Panicking, I pressed L2 hard enough to hear the gamepad’s plastic protest. This time, I could really see the pellets flying, and the arc they formed: I hit all of the mobs for low damage, but curiously, they were all immediately poise broken. One of them shook loose and charged at me – I dodged his initial swing and countered his attacks often enough to keep him on the ground in a more permanent fashion. When the rest of them began to close in again, I fired a second time and repeated the process. So this is what rifles do! Took me only a frantic fight for my life to figure that one out.

I wondered for a moment if I could have executed the new “Regain” mechanic. This nifty trick allows you to recover health after a hit by executing a timely counter on any enemy while your health bar is still yellowish. Alas my quick reactions had allowed me to escape unscathed and without a chance to test this.

As I was breathing heavily and looked at the mess I barely managed to make, the poor individual who will surely award me an A for enthusiasm in my psychiatry report, tapped me on the shoulder. I hastily removed my headset and looked around as if I just awoke from an intense dream. The lights had gone back on in the meantime. Play time was over.

Bloodborne Hands On

As I walked away trying to recall every detail in my mind, thinking of the new Recovery mechanic, the guns and their poisebreak, the cleavers, transformations, pebbles and build options, the dodge and stamina changes… the aspect that has jumped out the most is the fact that there is true loneliness in the game. Demon’s Souls aside, Dark Souls had you walk into idle landscapes and “awaken” them. Death was all around you but it had already come to pass. Bloodborne changes this. You are invading an active, frenzied city. You can hear voices and noise. The enemies walk, talk and seek for intruders. You are now not just alone, you are also against an entire city who is vividly and actively out to kill you.

This time, they are hunting you.

Fextralife will be hearing more about Bloodborne soon! Let us know what intrigues you or apply to write for us to be the next one to get to play!

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is the resident goodie-sneak-shoes of Fextralife, mostly handling design works. Sometimes I say things and people laugh - I'm too German to understand why.

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19 comments on “Bloodborne: Gamescom 2014 Hands-On Preview”

  1. Avatar Fexelea says:

    Hype!!! HYPPPEEE!!!

    Thank you Thief for checking this out for all of us, I’m sure there will be many incoming questions, here’s hoping your memory holds :P

  2. Avatar Mephistophea says:

    Thank you Thief, it was good read. :)

  3. Avatar Thief says:

    Thank you very much.

    If anyone has any question they think I might be able to answer, please post them in this thread. I tried the hardest to include every detail into a somehow readable article, but it’s easy to skip things that way.

    Some things I failed to mention in the original article:

    Pebbles work in a similiar way to Alluring Skulls. Giving the nature of the fights and the amount of enemies, I assume one will be using them quite often.
    An item I forgot to mention is the Molotov C0cktail. Its function is identical to Firebombs; I was unable to find out whether there will be "environmental damage" this time with fire though.
    Holding down R2 will unleash an even stronger, Charged Attack.
    Backstabs MUST be initiated by attacking an enemy with a Charged Attack first and then tapping R1 at the correct moment during the stagger-animation (similiar to parry-riposte in DKS2). Since you have to stay put beforehandedly, you are no longer able to "save yourself" into the backstab animation as easily in group encounters.

  4. Avatar Mephistophea says:

    You can add that to the end of your article so more ppl see it. Btw is it okay to share it hear link it on my blog? :)

  5. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    Sounds neat. I might have to give this title a go

  6. Avatar Serious_Much says:

    Sounds promising. Becoming it’s own entity with a selection of unique mechanics and gameplay features whilst keeping a gameplay style that is tried and tested and workin it into something new.

    I’m still waiting to see more gameplay myself, but it is sounding promising

  7. Avatar DarkNoobz says:

    I want to know more about blocking and if you block at the exact second an enemy hits you do you do some sort of critical strike?

    i looovvveeee action games like that. DMC comes to mind.

  8. Avatar ManatuBear says:

    From what i read of others hands-on articles, there are no more direct backstabs and no parries for riposting.
    R2 attack can be charged up (pressing the R2 for 1-2 seconds), using the charged R2 attack behind an enemy will stagger him and allow a backstab with R1 (this will be just AWESOME for PvP, NO MORE bs fishing!).
    Parrying + riposte has also been replaced by using the gun at close range and while the enemy is staggered, pressing R1 will do a riposte.

  9. Avatar Thief says:

    Simple: ‘tas disappeared.

    There is no mapped button for blocking any longer, and I did not come across an measure to do so either. Two-handing your weapon and pressing L1 will still transform it, rather than hold it in front of your character in a protective manner.

    On the other hand, I imagine the button layout shown in the demo’s loading splash is specific to the demo only, since there was also no assigned function to D-Pad Up…

  10. Avatar DarkNoobz says:

    you mentioned something about health regen on proper counter strikes? more deets plx

  11. Avatar Thief says:

    It’s as simple as it’s cool:
    Everytime you are damaged by an enemy**, you have a small timeframe during which when you attack the respective enemy right back, you will regain a portion of your lost health. Hence it is called the Regain System. The amount of health is significant enough to make it worth the risk, and small enough not to nullify any mistake just like that. From explained on the press conference (which I did not attend, but have been in direct contact with someone who has) that the intention of this is to "reward bravery up to a certain degree". Obviously if you get overpowered it will not save you from death, but it appears like a very satisfying chance to keep pushing by risking even more.

    **take that with a grain of salt though, I only consciously saw it when getting hit straight up by a regular melee attack, and in turn melee attacking right back so far. Given the small window, it seems impossible against ranged enemies anyways.

  12. Avatar Clovin64 says:

    Health Regen sounds like a fantastic change and should really encourage and reward risky offensive playstyles. Along with the lack of shields and the presence of gun, its one of the main things I feel is going to make BB feel like its own new thing rather than just Victorian Dark Souls 3.

  13. Avatar Tayman_Gaming says:

    Very well written article. :thumbs up:

  14. Avatar announakis says:

    thanks for the well written feed back on the demo mate!

  15. Avatar Fexelea says:

    The new gameplay video that mana linked is getting a lot of people excited. yay!

  16. Avatar skarekrow13 says:

    The shriek of the Cleric Beast better make it to the final release

  17. Avatar Windy98 says:

    Thank you, Thief, a very good read indeed.

    Two questions if I may:

    Firstly – How was the in-game music? If there was any to be spoken of.

    And secondly – Did you see the massive Spider like creature after climbing the ladder? I saw it in the gameplay demo.

    Once again, thank you. :biggrin:

    And also, HYPPPPEEE!

  18. Avatar Thief says:


    1) There was absolutely no music. However, I must say that given I was wearing closed headphones, the ambient noises are another masterpiece already.

    2) It probably would have been. I played the same thing as is seen in the revealed footage. That shriek was the moment I mentioned climbing the ladder & looking back down etc. – My mistake was playing way too careful out of habit however (I am a Souls gamer, not an experienced journalist), so they ended my group’s session before I could reach it.

  19. Avatar Windy98 says:

    Thank you for the answers, Thief.

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