Bloodborne – Hands On Preview

Indeed, I braved the perils of encountering Swansea’s finest social shut-ins with nothing better to do on a Friday evening, all for the grand prize of a few goes of From Software’s forthcoming action-RPG, Bloodborne.

I have to admit, I’m a little rusty when it comes to the Demon’s/Dark Souls games, and I never played Dark Souls 2. When I found out about the lock-in event at my local Game store, I dug out my old PS3, and fired up the PS+ edition of Demon’s Souls to reacquaint myself with the controls. Aside from it feeling like meeting up with an old friend, playing Demon’s Souls really did put me in good stead for playing Bloodborne.

When I finally got my hands on the controller, I was presented with four choices of characters. All looked somewhat similar except for the fourth.  The first three all had some combination of melee weapons (swords and axes etc.), and guns (pistols and shotguns). The final character was specced out for agility, wielding what appeared to be a dagger and a pistol, and wearing a ragged, bird-like cloak, with matching mask. Think Big Bird, but if Tim Burton kidnapped and tortured him to the point of madness.

My first go, however, wasn’t with emo Big Bird. I went for a guy that looked like a good all-rounder, and with his pistol and awesome outfit, looked like a Victorian era Saint of Killers (if you don’t get that reference, you should remedy that, right now!). So off I went, axe in one hand, pistol in the other, cautiously walking along cobbled streets so gothic in style I half expected a Danny Elfman score to kick in.

I don’t know about most other players, but my experience with Demon’s and Dark Souls involved religious use of a shield. I loved my shields. So when playing Bloodborne I was very conscious of not having one. I felt vulnerable. Thankfully, the controls and feel of this Bloodborne demo were very familiar to me, thanks to my recent play of Demon’s Souls.  The right stick is still your best friend, click it to lock on to the enemy in front of you, and move it to lock on to another.

Similarly, performing rolls is also the same, and will likely prove to be a key element of survival in this game. The enemies come at you at a staid pace, only sometimes quickly advancing. I actually found this more unnerving than them charging at me. They appeared more cautious, and somewhat bizarrely, more human as a result. Combined with their looks, and the fantastically realised gothic streets, this created an atmosphere that is pretty much unmatched.  It felt like Wes Craven and Tim Burton had spawned some kind of horrible demon offspring, and I was the central role in one of its nightmares.

Going back to the combat, I tried a few approaches depending on the character I was playing with. Emo Big Bird’s nimble style didn’t suit me at all, and I died very quickly.  My best experience was with a character that wielded a great big sword in one hand, and a blunderbuss in the other. You may not have shields, but some of the enemy characters do, so it felt immensely satisfying to knock a shielded enemy back with my sword, and follow up with a fatal blast from my blunderbuss.  It would appear the key to Bloodborne’s combat may lie in combining both weapons to get the best out of them.

Of course, you can switch to traditional two-handed weapons. Carving your way through enemies in Demon’s Souls was always fun, and felt just as good in this, especially as your character’s clothes slowly get drenched in the blood of everyone you’ve slain – it makes emo Big Bird look particularly ghoulish. The exploration and “perhaps I’ll come back here later… much later” aspects of Demon’s Souls appear to be present as well. I decided to take a different route on one of my goes, and happened upon what can only be described as a big fat motherfucker, with a big fat motherfucking meat cleaver. “YOU DIED”.

The demo itself felt a little stuttery; for the most part it appeared to run at a solid 30 frames per second, but I did encounter the odd dip here and there. I asked the Sony rep at the event how recent the build was, and was told it’s the same demo that was at the Eurogamer Expo in autumn last year. From Software has had plenty of time to to optimise the game to make the most of the PS4’s power, and what I played most certainly whetted my appetite. The controls and combat felt just as tight as in Demon’s Souls, and the combination of gunplay with traditional swordplay adds a great new twist.  The graphical style From Software has gone for here evokes true horror, eschewing the fantasy trappings of the Souls series. I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game next month.

Bloodborne, exclusive to Playstation 4, will be released 27th March in the UK.