For what it's worth, I'm well aware that this review is late to the punch. This is more or less a review for the lazy man or /r/patientgamers. Some may ask, well why now? The answer is I finally got around to actually beating the game, silly...
Before I start, I'd love to thank our newest Patrons who pledged to help us keep our site and work flowing with their contributions! So this article is written with a special thanks to: Ronald S. & Rick H. - Thank you both for being awesome people! Anyway, back to my review...
It's strange to think that it would take me this long to make any significant strides in the game. I'm a massive fan of the Dark Souls series through and through, countless hours watching lore videos, scouring wikis and threads, and NG+(+)(+)(+)(+) files. The series has been my bread and butter since I dove in around the release of Dark Souls II back in March of 2014.
But for some reason FromSoftware's Bloodborne escaped me and my interest in playing it wasn't terribly high. Part of this reason was because it took me a while to actually own the game. The other part was that it was a somewhat limited console experience. Now before I get accused of going all "PCMasterRace", I'd like to clarify that when I first played Dark Souls II it was on a PS3, and I liked it a lot. I struggled to enjoy it long-term. The chugging framerate and Dualshock 3 controller just didn't do it for me. However, that all changed with the day that I played the updated version Scholar of the First Sin when it came to Steam and PC in *2015.
*The same year Bloodborne launched.
Even though a critically acclaimed game just released, I was absolutely hooked into finally enjoying my Dark Souls adventures. High framerate, maxed graphics, and my fully customized Steam Controller layout. Meanwhile I just looked at the capped framerate and sluggish load time that Bloodborne, the most I could do is scoff as I spent the rest of the year waiting for what I deemed would be the superior release, Dark Souls III. Personally... I'm still not completely convinced I'm wrong on that, but the gap between the two games is barely noticeable. Ultimately I regret not giving the game a chance sooner, but at the same time, I'm glad I waited for a multitude of reasons.
One of the biggest reasons is the difficulty. Some of you might be confused by that statement because of the Dark Souls series and its legendary learning curve (the complete edition of DS1 was named "Prepare to Die Edition" if that doesn't cement the point). My own experience with Bloodborne's difficulty is that it's much faster and visceral than Dark Souls. Turtling and tanking wasn't a viable strategy due to a lack of diversity in the armor pool and ability to block damage. This basically left you with strategy, damage output, and your ability to utilize iframes (Invincibility Frames). If you can't dodge well, you're going to have a hard time. Dodging was something I took pride in my ability to do in Dark Souls III; I spend a lot of time in PvP as a Spear of the Church and as an Invader with a fairly high win-rate. It didn't transition as well to Bloodborne, but I can fairly say that some of that is my own fault. This current run has largely consisted of me playing as a strength build (my preferred Dark Souls playstyle), however, since Bloodborne is a fairly faster game slow weapons become a bit of a hindrance.
You can see in the screenshot above that I took to using the Logarius Wheel, the weapon can easily be categorized as: High Risk, High Reward. It's slow, powerful, and can even be charged for extra damage with a special move (at the risk of draining your health slowly). It was fun to use, but I slowly got more and more frustrated with how much time went into each swing and twirl. Especially in a game with bosses that occasionally move at warp speed. This led to me dropping the wheel for a more accessible option with the Whirligig Saw and I started to see my satisfaction rise with the game. I also adopted the Beast Claw as my alternate weapon and ramped up the speed of my fighting style. I'd consider that the turning point where I truly started to discover the value within Bloodborne.
The art direction is far better than anything I've seen in other Soulsborne games. I just love the Gothic-Victorian architecture, especially with the grim Lovecraftian themed monsters and lore that constantly finds itself caked in layers upon layers of blood. The game is just ripe for that trippy dark atmosphere. While there's plenty of macabre in the Dark Souls games, none of that stuff really crosses into the celestial realm. Aliens and eldritch horrors make up a large percentage of the bosses, along with a fair share of gruesome beasts and humans that have lost their mind along the way.
That brings me to the point of story and lore. I won't have terribly much to say on the topic because it's long and fairly convoluted, much like FromSoftware's other games. But it's one of those slippery slopes, I ended up getting roped into every little detail about the origin of the struggles in Yharnam and the various ways the the world got progressively more and more warped. If you want to learn more about the story, I highly recommend some of these YouTube channels: VaatiVidya, Fungo, and SilverMont. They get pretty in depth on the lore of the Soulsborne games and are well worth your time with highly produced content. But don't touch that dial, I'm not done with my review yet!
With the game being roughly 3 years old at the time of this review, it's not too shabby. Some stuff looks a little rough, particularly player models, but that's not something FromSoftware ever seemed to get right in any of the Soulsborne games. The overall look of the game is solid for a PS4 game; there's definitely better options out there for pure graphics, but your average player isn't going to be disappointed. Another minor gripe that I have is something I've already touched base on, framerate. It's capped at 30fps, and sometimes it struggles even be consistent at that depending on factors like enemies, environment, and physics. I found myself having some trouble with it early on, especially while trying to get used to Bloodborne's combat versus Dark Souls. That said, eventually I got used to it. It's not something you can change with better hardware, so if you can't handle the low framerate. I suggest staying away from it, but definitely give it a fair shot the game is worth it warts and all.
Another key thing to consider if you haven't hopped on the Bloodborne train yet is the downloadable content. FromSoftware has had a pretty strong reputation with making quality DLC. Artorias of the Abyss was phenomenal and the Scholar of the First Sin "Kings" all brought tons of depth and challenges; Dark Souls III is a little spotty with the DLC being mixed at first, and finishing a little stronger with the Ringed City. Bloodborne is more of the former rather than the latter. The Old Hunters is a great addition to the game, adding some of the hardest bosses I've ever faced in a game with a solid helping of new areas to explore and gear to collect. So if you find yourself at the crossroads of purchasing Bloodborne, it would be a mistake to not throw the DLC in the cart as well.
In conclusion, Bloodborne has some incredibly high moments, and some pretty low dives. It's not my favorite of the Soulsborne games, but I'm glad that I finally started to appreciate it more it's climbed the ladder to probably 2nd place behind the original Dark Souls. So if you've never played it before due to lacking the system, fear of difficulty, or any other reason. I strongly urge you to reconsider, the game is critically acclaimed for a reason. I'm far away from the first person to write a review on it, as a matter of fact, I'm quite late to the punch.
But hey, that's what this website is for! It's my soapbox to relay my experiences to you. No matter how late they may be. Needless to say, Hidetaka Miyazaki and the crew at FromSoftware made an experience that every gamer should play and I'm glad to say I finally did.