2015 was an incredible year for new games. Great titles were released for all of the current consoles out. Games like Until Dawn which set a new standard for the “choose your own story” style of games and the horror genre as well. Black Ops 3 proved that the Call of Duty franchise still has some life in it and broke new ground in multiple ways. Even the Wii U received a 3rd party game on par with current gen consoles with the release of Xenoblade Chonicles X which is perhaps one of the best RPGs to release on a Nintendo console since Chronotrigger. But of all the gems we received this year only one stands out as the Gamerilla game of 2015, and that game is Bloodborne.
Bloodborne is the best title to be released by developer FROM Software. It takes all of the best parts of the “Souls” games they’ve previously released while adding a ton of new features to set it apart. Bloodborne is a gorgeous action RPG set in a Victorian looking time period with both gothic and cosmic horror influences. Hidetaka Miyazaki must have been channeling H.P. Lovecraft when he came up with this one and truly shows his genius. In fact we believe that Bloodborne is one of the most important works of art of our generation and shows that the video game medium is worthy of being considered an art form. Let me tell you why.
To the uninitiated, Bloodborne and games from the “Souls” series are often criticized for lacking a story or having a vague story which is not really ever explained. This thinking is the farthest from the truth. Bloodborne creates an entire mythology and has such a deep story that months later I still debate the true meanings behind the clues left throughout the game. The reason for the criticism is that the story is not spoon fed to you through cut scenes or written down in books or long segments of dialogue like a traditional story is told. The game does have some cutscenes and there are a few NPCs you can converse with to gain insight into the events happening around you but to get the real story and rely understand what’s going on you have to explore the world around you. There may be a note left in an area, an item with a detailed description you pick up, or even a statue in the background that helps to narrate the story as you play. So what’s the game truly about? I plan to write a more detailed evaluation of the story in another posting but for this I will keep it short as not to give away spoilers.
You begin the game with the longest cutscene you will get out of the game. You learn you are a foreigner who has come to the gothic city of Yharnam to be cured from an unnamed disease that affects you in an unknown way. During the game you take on the role of “hunter” which is a person who goes out to slaughter the beasts that roam the street. Your mission as mysterious as it is; find the “Pale Blood” to transcend the hunt. But what is the true purpose of the hunter? What is causing the beastly scourge? And the most important question, how will you survive the night? These are all questions that will be answered as you explore Yharnam and the surrounding areas and find new items while overcoming the many challenges Yharnam has to offer. But with those questions answered a plethora of new questions will surface.
Bloodborne has the tightest controls of any game FROM has developed to date. Unlike the slow and steady approach you would take in Darksouls, Bloodborne is all about quick movement and fast action. This is an action RPG very similar to the souls games but with it’s own structure and style. As a hunter you will gain access to “trick” weapons. These are various kinds of melee weapons that can literally transform while using them. For example the saw cleaver which starts out looking very similar to a hand saw with serrated blade but when transformed turns into a giant serrated edge cleaver with a decently long reach. The weapon variety is actually impressive; other examples include things like the Reiterpallasch which is a rapier that transforms into a long pistol with bayonet and the threaded cane which appears to be a rigid bladed cane but transforms into a notched chain whip. The wide variety of weapons suits many play styles. Instead of having a shield (there are 2 in the game but they are mostly useless for defense) you have a firearm as an off-hand weapon which is used to defend yourself. By shooting an enemy with the right timing during their attack you can parry them and then do a visceral attack which does a significant amount of damage.
If you’ve never played any of the “Souls” games there will be a learning curve. In fact with the faster play style and different types of weapons there is a bit of a learning curve even if you are familiar with the “Souls” games. The main thing you need to know is that the game is very unforgiving. You will see “You Died” fairly often at first. One thing many players agree upon is that as you play this game, even though you level up your character, it is actually the player who is leveling up. Basically you will learn a new set of skills and way of playing the game. You will actually feel a sense of accomplishment once you defeat the boss who you’ve died to 10 times before.
The level design is not only a brilliant labyrinth of interconnected paths that bring you through the city of Yharnam and beyond, it also has a direct impact on gameplay. When you die you return to the last lamp post you activated which could be frustrating as it basically feels like you have to do an entire area over again. As you progress through the various areas, in what feels like inching yourself forward, you will uncover shortcuts that will make returning to your current area easier when you die. It might sound like it could get repetitive, and it is, but not in a bad way. Replaying the same areas repeatedly in most games is not a lot of fun. But in Bloodborne it works. You will want to master every inch of the game.
There are not a lot of games that have such a superb soundtrack that you would find yourself listening to it in the car on your way to work or at home relaxing. But the soundtrack to this game is incredible. FROM Software has put together great soundtracks for all of their games but this one really stands out from the others as something special.
The sound effects and voice acting fit the game perfectly. In fact the sound effects could get really creepy at points and help add to the tension that builds up while playing. Ambient sound in the game actually even has a purpose in the story telling. For example if you have over 60 insight while standing next to a certain NPC you will hear a baby crying. I won’t explain the significance of this here but it definitely is a clue that adds to the story. This is definitely a game you want to wear headphones with surround sound or play on a system that has a decent surround sound setup.
Bloodborne is visually stunning, if not gloomy and depressing all the same. The game runs at a smooth 30 fps which many believe to be the optimal frame rate for an action game. Although some people have complained that the game isn’t running at 60 fps; 30 fps is ample enough. The game really does look smooth and the detail in the rendering is at times astonishing.
The visuals in this game play so nicely with the sound effects to give a truly creepy atmosphere that begs you to explore around the next corner while simultaneously dreading the prospect of what could be laying in wait for you. The artwork in this game really adds to the story as well. Different areas might have a statue that resembles something, there might be a cage with some unidentified creature’s corpse inside, or even just some medical instruments on a desk which adds one more clue into what was really going on there. In fact it reminds me a bit of the work of Moebius who is the master of story telling without words.
Like all the games from the ‘souls’ series, Bloodborne is a game that has NG+ (New Game plus) and NG++ and so on. You can technically replay the game indefinitely although the difficulty stays the same after NG+7. The game does however add new challenge with each new game giving you reason to come back. Plus you probably won’t find every little secret on your first play through and in order to obtain all 3 endings you would need to play multiple times as well.
That isn’t the only reason to return to the game though. There are also chalice dungeons which are extra stages you can unlock by collecting certain materials throughout the game and eventually through the dungeons themselves. There are a bunch of dungeons that are actually part of the story and significant (although optional). Then there are “root” chalice dungeons which are randomly generated and a lot of fun although they could eventually feel a little repetitive. The dungeons add 15 different new bosses to the game although a few of them have multiple variations. You will also meet some bosses you already fought in the main game like Rom or Amygdala.
In honor of naming Bloodborne the Gamerilla game of 2015 I have added an entire category to the website just for this game. I will be adding more articles explaining and speculating on the lore of the game as well as posting some strategies and videos. Subscribe to the site to get notified when new content is available.
Game of 2015
- Replay Value
Naming Bloodborne Game of 2015 was an easy decision to make. Although there were a lot of great games released in 2015 and a lot of them were contenders, honestly nothing else in gaming has compared to Bloodborne for me. I've never had a gaming experience that has been so engaging.