Bloodborne is one of my most anticipated games of 2015. Having delved into Yharnam's bloodsoaked streets in hands-on preview sessions, gore-caked transforming saw in hand, I emerged knowing that this brutal and harrowing thing will likely be the game to sell me a PS4. There's much to look forward to, macabre as it is.
Legions of Dark Souls fans are champing at the bit for more From Software punishment, as if they're expecting a next-gen sequel, but I have a confession to make. I don't like Dark Souls.
Which, believe it or not, makes me doubly excited about what Bloodborne has to offer.
I have an odd relationship with Dark Souls, insofar as it's a game I deeply respect. I love the cohesive art design and the way its intricate levels feel like an enormous authentic world. I love the fact that it trusts players to piece together a mournful story through subtle hints and clues, not overbearing cutscenes. And who couldn't love any game brave enough to give players a stern challenge?
Love, love, love. All the ingredients are right up my street, and yet I just can't bring myself to like the result, no matter how many times I've tried. God knows I've tried.
It comes down to personal taste. I love the thrill and satisfaction of besting a tough challenge, but for me Dark Souls flirts with the dark side of gaming difficulty a little too often. The syrupy mechanics frequently feel like they're holding me back as opposed to giving me the responsive inputs I need to win fair and square - thus making defeat feel like a sucker punch rather than my own fault. Bayonetta, Super Meat Boy, Ikaruga or Devil May Cry give me my jollies at higher settings, not slowly hiding behind a shield, finding exploits or playing Kite Hero for hours on end.
Which is where Bloodborne comes in.
It shares a lot with Dark Souls. The gorgeous, gothic yet gory art direction makes Yharnam such a compelling place even though we've only seen it in screenshots and preview. Its rich colour palatte and melancholy European stylings jar with the twisted horrors and murderous lynch mobs that roam the streets, and I already want to know more about it. The mystery storytelling seems to already be in full force, as is the intricate level design full of shortcuts and complex spaces to encourage exploration. Not to mention the brutal take-no-prisoners difficulty that forces us to think through our actions and excel.
All of these elements are present and correct in Demon's Souls and Dark Souls.
However, from what I've played, Bloodborne is philosophically different to Dark Souls. The focus is on desperate aggression, on attack, on knowing when to cunningly evade and when to fearlessly engage for maximum effect. It's a game about pushing the advantage, swapping shields and stand-off spells for dodges, staggers and backsteps, throwing everything you have at an enemy and then desperately fleeing as a horde of his scythe-wielding mates round the corner. Combat feels tighter, more deadly and more dynamic, a game of fight or flight that seems to suit me down to the ground.
In effect, it's everything I respect about Dark Souls... except the one aspect I can't bring myself to enjoy. The best of both worlds.
At least, so long as the finished product lives up to its potential! We'll find out in March. Let us know if you're excited for Bloodborne, and do check out Brendan's latest Bloodborne preview and videos!