If you've spent several hours with Dark Souls and its sequel, chances are you know what kind of gaming experience the developers at From Software hope to achieve – the kind that pushes even the most devoted gamers to their limits. Both of these games demonstrate a "keep pushing forward" vibe, even as you die horribly at the hands of an ogre three to four times your size. They've become huge hits ever since, prompting the folks at Sony to team up with the developer for a completely original property on PlayStation 4 – Bloodborne.
The game was playable at both Gamescom and PAX Prime over the past few weeks, giving players the opportunity to see what kind of torment awaited with this new adventure. The answer? Plenty – but like the Dark Souls games before it, they come with vast rewards for those who can master its combat.
Not much is known about the story thus far, but you play a Hunter who sets out upon a dark and spooky town, where unlikable creatures big and small wander about. They'll stop at nothing to mow you down, so it's ideal to carry some weapons, including the likes of a heavy axe, a sword and even some firearms to keep them back until you can move in for the kill.
The Bloodborne demo we tried came with two different characters, each with their own play style. One Hunter comes equipped with a sword and a moderately sized gun with low ammunition, while the other Hunter takes on a more brute approach, using a two-handed axe and what appears to be a rather large cannon; again, not enough ammo.
Let's get this out of the way – shooting enemies won’t necessarily cut it in Bloodborne. You may be able to damage groups of foes, but the most effective style of combat is with your main weaponry. Here, you can chain together different attacks, using the game's inventive combat system.
First up are your main strikes. These are good to use against smaller enemies that don't attack quickly, as you can usually take them down with one to two hits. The torch is also good to use against them, as well as lighting the way through dark halls in the town – because it's vital to see what kind of creatures lie ahead.
Then there are secondary strikes. These take more time to execute, and can leave you wide open to enemy attacks if you're not quick enough (particularly if you have the larger axe weapon), but if you land it, you're guaranteed to kill most enemies within one swipe.
These can both be tied in to transformation attacks, which allows for better range and creativity. Simply press the left trigger button to coincide with your main and secondary strikes, and you'll see larger, more effective attacks you can execute. You need to get the timing down perfectly, or else you'll pull off your normal moves. This system takes a lot of getting used to, but it's very rewarding for those looking for a good fight – and like the Dark Souls games, Bloodborne offers this in spades.
One other thing worth noting here – hacking and slashing will get you killed very quickly. We learned this within the first three times we attempted to play. However, there are defensive techniques you can master, even if you can't necessarily parry.
With the roll, you can get out of the way of an enemy's attack, and then attempt a counter-attack from behind. You'll need to act quickly, however, because otherwise, they'll pounce and you could be killed in the process.
On top of that, you'll want to master the regain system. This is a technique that you can use when you're first struck by an enemy attack. When they hit you, a good chunk of your energy is taken away. However, if you can strike back within a certain time frame and kill them, you'll reclaim some of your lost energy and continue on your way. Otherwise, the only real way you can get it back is by using a health potion – and you'll very seldom come across those in this world.
Bloodborne is a tough game, albeit a spooky and beautiful one, as the town you'll explore is filled with nooks and crannies, with plenty of hidden weapons and other surprises lurking in the darkness. One thing the developer pointed out is that a large behemoth watched our progress throughout – and he's actually a boss you'll face later on in the game. God help us.
The release for Bloodborne isn't too far off, as From Software intends to unleash it this February in Japan, with a worldwide release shortly thereafter. If you think you're ready for a good death, this game will definitely give you what you need.