Okay, I've finally gotten around to playing the Bloodborne DLC! And since this is the only game in the series that I didn't review due to my crippling laziness, I figure now would be a good time to finish up my collection of reviews. Gotta catch 'em all or whatever the fuck. Especially because I also played the whole game all over again from scratch, which, by my calculations, makes me a goddamn authority on this shit. So what I'ma do is talk about Bloodborne with the DLC, which is similar to talking about the base game but not exactly, because the DLC adds quite a bit of important content to the game, as I'll get into later. After playing it, the original Bloodborne almost feels like an incomplete game.
So anyways. Bloodborne is sort of a special game for a number of reasons. It's the most different game of the Souls series, and while it has a lot of areas where I feel it does worse than the other games, it also has a lot of unique things that it does better than any of the others.
Firstly, Bloodborne has by far the best setting and style out of all the Souls games. Not only that, I would even go as far as saying that it has one of the best settings of games in GENERAL. It's like something out of Dracula, which is funny considering that I've always felt like the Souls games are more or less what Castlevania would've felt like if it had ever managed to make a successful transition to 3D. It's no coincidence that the best looking area in Dark Souls 3 has a heavy Bloodborne atmosphere. That's because when they wanted to pull out all the stops, they had to go to the game that did it best. And that's this one. Seriously, I dare you to play this game, look me in the eye, and tell me that Yharnam doesn't look cool as shit. I'll kick you in the dick. Because you're lying. And it's not just the setting either. Everything oozes style in this game. The weapons, the outfits, everything just LOOKS the coolest. Look at how cool something as basic as the saw spear looks. Look at dem bloodletting teeth. Why does it have bandages wrapped around the blade? No reason other than that it looks sick. Or how the threaded cane is held backwards in its transformed state. Why is it held backwards? Just because it looks way more badass. And I mean really. Why even have transforming weapons at all? Because it's fucking badass, obviously. A fucking cane that transforms into a serrated whip? Nigga please. I may be a sophisticated gentleman, but you step to me? I bring the pain, white boy.
Same deal with using guns in the left hand now. It is a truth universally acknowledged that guns > bows. Or shields for that matter. And if you can shoot one sideways like a gangsta, then clearly that is objectively superior. I mean, who could argue? Even if you're missing 20% of the time due to stylin' too hard, nobody cares about petty details like that. Nobody who ain't a bitch made nigga, anyway. Aiming straight is for pussies.
The Hunter's Dream is the best nexus in the series. I like the juxtaposition of the dark, scary, tragic outside world full of blood, death and beasts with the Hunter's Dream which feels so nice, calm and safe. It evokes similar feelings of safety and isolation from the world's problems as the Demon's Souls nexus, except it looks better with its vegetation, beautiful moon (a dominant motif of Bloodborne), and misty ambience. It's like your own personal garden. It just feels good and relaxing to be there.
The doll is the best leveling girl. Just for the record, the tiers go: doll > maiden in black > fire keeper > emerald herald >>> whatever the fuck they were thinking in Dark Souls 1. So yes, doll is the best. Evetta Muradasilova is back and better than ever. I love her voice and her accent. She does an even better job with the doll than with the maiden in black.
Bloodborne also has the most interesting story/lore of the series. Granted, it still falls into the same problems as all of the other Souls games in that the story is very light on details, it's relegated to the background, rarely explains anything and leaves tons and tons of unanswered questions. Plus, things alway get progressively more depressing as you go on. This is common to all the Souls games, as they tend to be a very dark and negative series, but Bloodborne is probably the worst in this regard. It seems that just about everyone is destined to death, tragedy, and madness. There are no happy endings to be found in Bloodborne. So all that is shitty in the same way as the other games. But among the rest of the games it's definitely the best one. I love the concept of a looming invisible alien threat in the background, which doesn't quite mesh with the apparent beastly gothic theme of the game. You think it's just people turning into beasts, but no, there's something much deeper, sinister, and mysterious going on. It's such a cool combination, and especially how you don't know about it at first. The true state of things is invisible to you, and other normal people, until you begin to acquire more knowledge and insight. The first time you gain enough insight to be able to see the gigantic Amygdalas clinging to the buildings it's like what the fuuuuuck. And to think that they were there the entire time but you just couldn't see them. And then to think that the weird statues in the church, in the unseen village, and even the rocks in the forest are all depictions of these alien entities. It makes you realize that these beings have been here for a very, very long time.
The music is generally unimpressive, as per usual. Only tracks that particularly stand out to me off the top of my head are the Cleric Beast/Vicar Amelia theme, the Maria theme, and the Yahar'gul theme (pre-blood moon), but even these can't stand up to the likes of Abyss Watchers and other songs in Dark Souls 3. Especially after playing both games back to back, I'm now more convinced that Dark Souls 3 had the best music.
The combat is the best in the series, but honestly not by very much because at the end of the day it still plays very similarly. Sure, when the game was coming out we had a bunch of lies peddled about how they made the game more action-y, how you'll have to fight large hordes of enemies, how the combat will require more of an offensive approach. Bull. Shit. Taking it slow is still the best policy, splitting enemies up so that you can take them out one by one is still easy and the best strategy (unless you're so higher level that they can't do shit to you anymore), and there's no reason to be any more offensive than in previous games. They've added the new rally mechanic where damage you take stays as recoverable health for a few seconds, and you can regain it by hitting the enemy back during this small window. Supposedly this was their attempt at making the game more offensive? Or something? In practice it changes little. In situations where it matters, being too eager to hit the enemy back during those 3 seconds after you've been hit usually just gets you a dick in your mouth. It's better to not even worry about the recoverable health. If you need to heal yourself just use a blood vial. Fuck knows the game gives them out like candy. Maybe if they didn't make healing so easy and plentiful you'd have a reason to give a shit about the rally mechanic. But as things stand? Pfft, naw nigga.
Which, speaking of healing, dude. They really screwed the pooch here. It's the worst. If you thought healing was fast and easy before you ain't seen SHIT. Bloodborne takes the cake in how quick blood vials are. It's absurd. And they give you a default maximum to carry of 20! Twenty fucking vials?! Are you fucking kidding me? You'll never go through them all! And they drop so frequently that you'll just have hundreds waiting for you in storage. Oh yeah, that's another thing. They inexplicably went back to the old inferior Demon's Souls method of healing being items that you find and stock up on. I mean, I understand that in theory this allows healing items to be a finite resource, which theoretically would encourage you to think twice before using them, and to feel good when you pick up more. But in practice this is absolutely not the case because they are all over the place and farming them is incredibly easy. Seriously, you can easily farm about a dozen vials per minute or some shit. There is no incentive to be frugal with blood vial use, and this ends up being a worse arrangement than estus flasks in Dark Souls because at least in those games they cut out the middleman and simply replenish your 5-15 estus flasks every time you go back to the bonfire rather than make you have to farm for a few minutes if you do somehow run out.
As I said before, there are certain things that this game does better than any other, and in terms of the combat there are three things that really stand out to me: the dodge in Bloodborne is the best one of the series. Specifically, the quickstep that happens when you're locked on to an enemy. It's a little surprising to me that they didn't keep it for Dark Souls 3 and instead only made it accessible through a weapon skill in certain weapons. The second thing it does is that it removes the ability to snipe enemies from far away. In this game, you cannot shoot enemies from a distance farther than your targetting range (actually, the distance you can shoot them from is actually slightly LESS than your maximum targetting range). The bullet/arrow/projectile will simply disappear mid-flight after this distance. It looks stupid, but this is actually great because it cuts back on cheesing (at least in this area. Cheesing in other tried and true ways is still alive and well). But even more importantly, Bloodborne does something absolutely AMAZING, which is to remove shields from the game. Everybody knows that shields are for bitches and using them makes the games significantly easier. Removing them is a decision that I wholeheartedly approve of. No more hiding behind the safety of that crutch. You live and die by your dodges and your parries. In this game instead of a shield you have a gun (which, as I mentioned before, is WAY cooler than a shield, so that's a plus), which fulfills half of the function of a shield, which is to parry (aka the function that actually requires skill to execute) by shooting the enemy during specific moments of their attack animations, but you cannot block. That beind said, parrying is easier and less risky in this game compared to other Souls because the projectile nature of guns means that you don't always need to make physical contact with the enemy in order to parry. With a shield if you missed a parry you got hit. But in this game sometimes you can stand outside of an enemy's range and still attempt parries without being in danger of getting hit. The other reason is because the bullet counts as a hit regardless of whether it was done with parry timing or not, so sometimes the enemy will get staggered even if you miss the timing. In general attempting parries with guns leaves you less vulnerable and is more spammable than doing it with shields. Of course, the amount of times you can do it is limited by your bullets, but this is not an issue because they are just as plentiful as vials and you can even use vials to create more bullets. So anyway, that's the trade-off. It's easier and less risky, but it doesn't give you the option of ignoring parries and taking the pussy's way out by simply blocking. Overall it's a better system.
As I've always said, the level design and exploration is these games' strongest point, and Bloodborne continues this. However, the amount of content in this game is significantly less than we've been given in the Dark Souls games. This game is just a lot shorter and closer to Demon's Souls. As I said earlier, the base game almost feels incomplete, but the addition of the DLC content helps alleviate this somewhat. However, this isn't taking into account the content offered by the chalice dungeons, and I'm not taking those into account for a reason.
The reason is because they are fucking shitty and lazy. Basically, chalice dungeons are optional procedurally generated dungeons that you can create with special items. They can either be randomly generated or they can be fixed dungeons, but in either case they have a very rigid and set structure. The difference between the design of chalice dungeons and the design of levels in the regular game is stark. These dungeons add a huge amount of playtime to the game because there are so. Fucking. Many of these bitches but it's such weakly designed content that I don't even count it. Randomly generated dungeons are fucking gay and lazy, that should be obvious to anyone by now, but even the chalice dungeons that are fixed exhibit significantly weaker level design than what we're accustomed to from this series, with tons and tons of reused architecture and assets. You'll see the same rooms and areas copy pasted again and again and again throughout these dungeons, and it gets really fucking stale. I imagine that the chalice dungeons are kind of what the Diablo games would've felt like if they had been 3D and had better combat. Except even Diablo I remember made new areas at least LOOK different visually. This game can't even deign to do that, as all of the chalice dungeons look visually identical, with slight color palette changes being the most you can expect. Nothing like expecting to finally see something different in the Isz chalice only to be greeted by the exact same shit except that now it's blue. Fucking shit. The only saving grace of the chalice dungeons is that they have some unique enemies and bosses that don't appear in the normal game, and that they tend to be stronger. But the main draw of Souls games is the exploration, and the bottom line is that exploring chalice dungeons gets really boring.
In terms of difficulty, Bloodborne largely falls into the same pitfalls that make the rest of the Souls series far too easy. Healing is too plentiful and easy, cheesing is too easy and effective, and the game gives you access to NPC helpers that you can use to trivialize boss fights. In this regard, the DLC actually worsens things, as it adds in a ton of new NPC summons that weren't there before. Bosses are extremely weak and rarely pose a challenge, commonly dying before you even get a chance to see what they do. The damage they deal is too low, they die too quickly, and your heals are too good. You can easily just go full ham and steamroll them most of the time. The only exception to this are some bosses outside of the main game. Once again, the DLC comes to the rescue. A couple of the bosses in the DLC are probably the toughest and most fun bosses not only in Bloodborne but I would argue even in the entire series. Still, you have to take this with a grain of salt, because 1) even on these bosses you still get the option of being a pussy and using NPC summons to trivialize them, and 2) you aren't forced to do the DLC as soon as it becomes available, which means that you could theoretically wait until the end of the game to do it, and by then you'll be strong enough that the DLC will be very easy, or so I would assume. The other exception are some chalice dungeon bosses, especially in cursed defiled dungeons where your max HP gets cut and you can get one shotted by anything. Coupled with the fact that chalice bosses get significantly higher damage and HP this can make for a few really fun fights where you have to be on point and can't just faceroll to victory. Or, y'know, you could just be a pussy and summon some NPCs to win for you. Guess there's always that option.
Anyway, I've talked about a lot of the things that Bloodborne does better than any other Souls game, but as I said before, sadly there are also a lot of things that it does worse than any other, and I mean besides the things I already mentioned. First of all, Bloodborne has significantly less weapons than the other games. As I said before, what little is there is cooler, but the amount of choice that you have in terms of what weapons to use is just so tiny. Or at least that's how I felt in the original game. Once again, the DLC comes to the rescue. The Old Hunters comes and adds almost as many new weapons as the base game already had to begin with. This helps the problem a lot. It's not very common for an expansion to add almost as much as the base game already had. It's almost as if the developers were aware of how little the original had to offer and tried hard to address the problem.
Next, they've watered down the RPG elements of the series here. There are less stats (only 6 that you can invest in compared to 9 in Dark Souls 2 and 3) and the ones that we do have feel less impactful for a number of reasons: stat requirements to wield weapons are extremely low at 10-20, compared to past games where it could go as high as 60-70. The bloodtinge and arcane stats are extremely niche stats to invest in and a waste in most situations. For example, bloodtinge mostly affects the strength of guns, but because guns are more useful for parries than for actually dealing damage, the stat ends up not being very useful unless you were using the ONE weapon in the game that scaled off bloodtinge. This is actually another case where the DLC comes to the rescue, because it added in an extra two weapons that use bloodtinge, including probably the strongest weapon in the game, giving people who wanted to invest in the stat more options.
Sorcery/miracles/hexes/pyromancies are gone in this game, severely limiting build types and options. The shitty "substitute" we get in this game are hunter tools, which suck dick and are more like weak support skills than something you can base your build and playstyle on the way you could with magic in the other games. That makes arcane yet another stat that is generally a waste outside of niche situations. Again, interestingly the DLC adds 2 more weapons that scale off arcane, including a special one that uses arcane alone.
They've removed the mechanic of equip burden from the game, which means that not only is that yet another less stat to invest in, but it also removes an important dimension to consider when it comes to equipping armor. Not only does it mean that there are no requirements or limits or penalties on what you decide to equip, but it also means that no armor in the game is necessarily outright stronger than another. It used to be that you had to consider an armor's weight along with its defensive attributes, and you had to level up if you wanted to use the more powerful armor while still retaining functional mobility. That is no longer the case here. Once you get your hands on your first outfit you're set for life. Oh yeah, there's no armor now. It's clothes now. Hats, belts, trenchcoats, etc. I feel like this is another case of Bloodborne's style over substance. The outfits actually look super cool and stylish and fashionable, which is great, but underneath that when you look at the stats there's not much to take into consideration when choosing one outfit over another.
One of the fun parts of leveling in the other Souls games was that there were a lot of important things that you wanted to invest in. Things that are no longer present in Bloodborne. Strength and dexterity felt important because there were a ton of weapons with potentially very high requirements that you wanted to use. Not the case here. Vitality felt important because you wanted higher equip burden to be able to wear better armor and wield heavier weapons. That doesn't exist here. Intelligence and faith felt like strong and good stats to invest in because magic was strong and an extremely viable build path to concentrate on. None of that here. There's just not as much RPG elements in Bloodborne and I don't like that because they are an important part of the Souls series and the Bloodborne gameplay is still not good enough to stand on its own as an action game, despite what From's launch hype wanted you to believe.
Aside from that, this game definitely doesn't have all of the gameplay improvements that were introduced in Dark Souls 2. I mean, Dark Souls 3 didn't have them either, so you can bet your ass that this game definitely doesn't. It has much more niggardly checkpoint placement more akin to Demon's Souls, and it has no convenient rings of sacrifice, repairable or otherwise, to make you feel better when you're sitting on hundreds of thousands of blood echoes. It's also a huge bitch about upgrade materials, again similar to early in the series, only allowing you to upgrade a single weapon to its maximum level in the original game. The DLC makes this a little bit better, allowing you to raise 2 weapons to their maximum level (you can now finally have both your weapon AND your pistol upgraded!). They also added in the option to buy the materials for 2 arms and 3 legs by the end of the game, which is...something... I guess. Also, in my experience Bloodborne was more prone to glitches like enemies falling through the floor or getting stuck inside walls than Dark Souls 3 despite both games running on the same engine. Better pick up those drops immediately lest the ground swallow them up, nam sayin'. ANYWAY meng, I ain't getting into all the gameplay improvements they forgot about, I already talked about that shit in my Dark Souls 3 review and I don't wanna keep repeating myself or we'd be here all day. I got shit to do, son.
Overall, Bloodborne is a really good game, and The Old Hunters is a really great addition with excellent levels, weapons, bosses, etc that make it a more complete game. But aside from that it's also a very interesting game: it does things that I don't like compared to the other Souls games, but at the same time it also does a lot of great things that none of the other games do. So it's one of those games that even though I don't prefer it, it's easy to see how for some people it could be the best one of the series.
Final Verdict: B
Final Playtime: 132 hours