By LtSquigs 10 Comments
Warning: Don't read this if you aren't done with Bloodborne, spoilers ahead
Disclaimer: I like Bloodborne, really, its a good game. I mostly writing this because every time I mention I didn't like it as much as the other souls games people ask me what I didn't like about it in particular. So since this will probably come off as hella negative, I feel like I have to say I really do like Bloodborne!
Ok warning and disclaimers out of the way, this is a quick list of the things that I thought were good about Bloodborne and the things I thought were bad about it. I'm going to do this in a format of saying one good thing, and then one bad thing (until I run out of either side, then it will just chain together).
For a little perspective before I start, I beat Bloodborne about a week ago, it was my 7th run through a souls game (DeS, DaS, DS2 + NG on all of those), and after thinking about it for a week I think I'd rank it as my least favorite of the souls games.
Now without anymore preamble, here are the good and bad points about that game:
Good: Incredible Atmosphere
Of all the souls games, Bloodborne nails its atmosphere and aesthetic more than any of them. The original design of the game is supposed to be based off of the Asylum from Demons Souls, and they nail that. The game is creepy and unsettling to a fault, and has some of the darkest and disgusting segments in the Souls series. On top of that, the variance in level design is nice, and the monster designs get nice and disgusting the way you'd expect out of a Souls game. (Although DaS might have some specific monsters that are more disgusting).
Bad: Aimlessness in Goals
One of the most frustrating things about Bloodborne is that its never really clear what the hell your supposed to be doing at any point in the game. The game starts with some simple instructions ("Seek the Paleblood"), but those never pay off (at least I still have no idea what the Paleblood was?). You often feel like your just doing shit in the world because thats just how you play Souls games. The two "bells" (to borrow from DaS) of the game are something you just sort of stumble on. The first one (Vicar) is in such a weird place that its kind of easy to skip her for a long time, and the cutscene you get after beating here barely makes any sense. Its supposed to give you the password to get past a door earlier in the game, but none of that is obvious from the cutscene itself.
Now all the Souls games are vague in some way. Usually when it comes to the story of the world itself or the backstories of specific characters, but the goals of the player are always explicit in the other games. DeS: Kill the Archdemons, Break the Cycle. DaS: Ring the Bells, Get the Souls, Light the Fire. DS2: Get the Souls, Kill the King, Ascend the Throne.
All of these games have various levels of success on directing the player (im looking at you DS2), but at least you know the general goals of the player character, even if you dont know where to go. BB is obtuse about this in every way. I never really understood what I was supposed to be doing at any given point of the game, and just did things because I figured thats how you would do them in a Souls game.
Good: Faster Combat
This is probably the biggest change to the combat in souls games in a while. The combat in BB is markedly faster than any other Souls games, and all the systems in the game encourage faster play styles. From the parrying system, the health recovery system, and the general lack of turtling gear, the game tends to reward you for just going in and attacking, and punishes you for staying back guarding.
This makes the game feel a lot faster, and generally makes exploring the regular world a bit more fun. The other Souls games are about slow animations and plotting combat, this one is about just mowing monsters down and more twitch style combat.
Bad: Lack of Play Style Choice
Unfortunately to achieve that faster combat and quicker feel they had to sacrifice a lot of the choice the player has while playing the game. Almost all the differentiation in the play styles of BB come from which trick weapon you chose to use. The trick weapons are all cool, but thats a lot less variance than the other Souls games provided. After all the previous games had that kind of variance as well with their weapons (even though none of them are as cool as the switch blades).
In the previous Souls games you could be a fully ranged character, a magic man, a miracle worker, a plodding tank, a big weapon user, or an agile weapon user. Some of these things are nominally in there but basically aren't. For example yes there are ranged weapons, but those are mostly just a new parrying system. The few that aren't that are more gimicky weapons used in support of melee. Similarly for magic, it's used in a much more supplementary manor than a main play style.
On top of that, theres significantly less variance in Equipment than in previous souls games. The first set of armor you find in the game is likely to be the one you wear 90% of the game, because theres only like one other set that has more defense. The difference in armors is mostly just in resistances, which can be cool for some bosses, but for the most part just means you wear the same armor most of the game. It's just a bit disappointing from previous games, where you could spend time making your perfect set of armor/weapon that worked for you. In BB your much more railroaded in what your equip is and how you play.
Good: Multiplayer with Friends
This is something I took advantage of a lot. For the first time in a souls game you can intentionally play games with your friends! I remember with DaS having to find hidden areas to drop signs in and hope that your friend just happened to see them. That was really the only way you could get your friends to help you. The passcode mechanic works real well at making it just much easier to play with your friends.
There are some kinks with it (looking at you chalice dungeons), but for the most part this is a good add to the series. It's always fun being able to help your friend out of a frustrating part, or to just hang out together and clear areas.
Bad: Boss Design
This is one of the more frustrating parts of the game, because it starts out so well. Overall though I just really dont like the boss design of this one. There are basically two tricks they rely on over and over again for the bosses, and they just get boring real fast.
The first trick is that almost all the bosses have 2-3 "phases" that they reach upon being injured. The first time this happens its kind of a cool way to shake up the boss fight, the 10th time this happens its just too predictable to be interesting anymore. The practical result of this for most bosses swing from a part thats just boringly easy to a part that is just stupidly hard (or the opposite in the case of the Martyr). As a result theres usually some section of a boss thats just borin because you feel like you havent gotten to the real part of the fight yet.
The second trick is, much like Dark Souls 2, they just throw a lot of bosses with minions or multiple enemies in it. Some of these are actually really clever (the Witch in the forest), but most of these just feel lazy. Just like the phases idea above, this is one of those tricks that works best if used sparingly, but just feels bad when you see it the 5th or 6th time. (Example DaS, S+O work because there are almost no bosses with multiple enemies in that game).
Finally the last problem I have with the bosses is that they seem intentionally designed to be trivialized in co-op. It's hard to describe this idea generically, because it tends to be specific from boss to boss, but almost every boss's gimicks and such kind of become trivial with 2 people. I know every souls game is easier with co-op, but for some reason this one just feels like they are even more so. On top of that the game feels designed for you to be playing co-op (with things like the insight system in place).
Good: Interconnected World
This is something that they took to heart post Dark Souls. They did a real great job interconnecting all the areas in strange ways. They are very sparse with the bonfires, and instead prefer making you unlock shortcuts to previous areas. On top of that some of the overall areas connect in some super interesting ways (forest -> clinic), that are just super interesting.
It's a breath of fresh air after DS2 where all the areas feel very separated. The only weird connecting point in DS2 just feels kind of meaningless (giants castle -> lost sinners area). Whereas with BB everything feels interconnected in a real fun way.
On top of that there are some real good ways they block the "hidden" areas (they arent really hidden as you discover they are all areas you have to go to anyways, but you can get to them early). The bag men trick in particular is just really nice.
Bad: Reversions to DeS in core gameplay
I was going to split these out, but I guess at the end of the day they are the same problem. The Hub World and the Blood Vial systems are terrible. They both harken back to the DeS style of doing things. However, unlike DeS, Bloodborne is coming out after Dark Souls exists, and therefore has no excuse for reverting their systems back to a shittier model.
The Hub World stuff is baffling. DS2 did the same thing, forcing you to teleport back to the Hub World in order to level up, manage storage, and other menial tasks. This is a pretty big downgrade from Dark Souls where you can just do all of that in the world itself. It has real impacts on the gameplay as well, thanks in part to the load times, in that you very often don't want to teleport back to try new weapons, equip new runes, or level up. It's just a pain.
Similarly, the Blood Vial system is a reversion to the way DeS works. Instead of just giving you healing potions whenever you hit a bonfire, you have a static # of potions that you have to farm from enemies. Unlike DeS though, there are a lot less you can carry (20 vs 99), and there are less variations. As a result you end up running out a lot more often than you did in DeS (and yes people I know that they auto refill from storage). Especially later in the game when you hit areas where enemies just don't drop any at all.
I don't know a single person who at some point had to farm these vials. Wether it was being stuck on a boss, or struggling with specific areas, everyone I know eventually ran out at some time. There is nothing more frustrating then having to farm for fucking potions when your already stuck in the game. It's just an unnecessary punch in the gut, especially with the load times as they are.
There doesn't seem to be any practical gameplay reasons for the system to be this way. Dark Souls kind of figured out how to handle potions perfectly with Estus Flasks. The Blood Vials don't add anything more strategic over the flasks, other than just sometimes you have to spend your time farming them because you ran out. Fun Fun Fun.
Bad: Loading Times
Ok this is the last parting blow I have for this game, and I acknowledge that this may eventually be fixed in a future patch for the game, but right now its still a real problem. The loading times in this game are terrible. You'll spend anywhere from 30-60 seconds on a loading screen in this game. Combine that with having to go to the Hub World to do shit, with having to farm Blood Vials, and with the general difficulty of these games leading to a lot of deaths, and you just have a storm of gameplay directing you to these load screens.
I think I probably spent a full hour on load screens in this game, but I won't beat this horse to death, I think we can all agree that its bad aspect of the game. Hopefully they fix it.
And there you go, those are my thoughts on Bloodborne, and like I said at the start of this thing I'm sure this will come off as super negative, because anytime you focus on the bad parts of something it will come off as negative.
I have to stress though: I really do like this game. All of the negative aspects of this game ultimately don't outweigh the fun you have while playing it. This list is more just a breakdown of why I didn't like it as much as the previous souls games.
Anyways, if you've reached this point, thanks for reading through a huge wall of text.