Bloodborne was a huge announcement for Dark Souls fans at Sony’s Press Conference this year, and even got me a little excited, as a guy who owns the Souls games but has never been able to get very far into them (it’ll happen soon! I’ll beat one of them!). To learn more, we were invited to a special developer preview session at E3 this year, with the main man himself, Hidetaka Miyazaki from FromSoftware there in person, to give a behind-closed-doors demonstration of the PS4 exclusive’s gameplay.
There are three main gameplay aspects that Miyazaki wanted to focus on in Bloodborne – exploration of a detailed and rich world, dangerous and tense action gameplay, and a new unique online component (which was not featured or detailed in the demo we saw). The game itself looks gorgeous, set in a Victorian-inspired city with dark fantasy elements incorporated, called Yharnam. The architecture is detailed and impressive, as are the lighting effects. The game feels, atmospherically, similar to the Souls games, with a constant looming feeling of dread. The protagonist himself has a very cool design, with an impressively flowing cloak and quick animation that makes him swift and deadly. It should be noted that this early demo did have some slowdown and framerate issues, which is honestly to be expected from a game in such an early state. Miyazaki stated that these issues are being worked on, and should not be present in the final game. He also explained that this demo should not suffer from ‘Watch_Dogs syndrome‘ where the final game is noticeably visually downgraded from its original E3 showing. The demo we saw was running on an actual PS4, and showcased what the developers were aiming for in their final product.
The streets of Yharnam are filled with people who have become infected by a mysterious illness which transforms them into hideous monsters. In the demo, they are parading through the streets hunting they prey, all the while being unaware that the protagonist is hunting them himself. The combat in the game is bloody and brutal, with the main weapon capable of transforming and a secondary shotgun weapon. Miyazaki doesn’t want guns in the game to allow for long distance targeting and combat, as they serve solely as an aid in close-range fighting. While the action was faster than the timed blocking and careful attacks of the Souls series, as the hero has a new dodge ability that is certainly more agile and useful, the difficulty level of the game still seems pretty high. There were a lot of points throughout the demo where the developer playing through the game should have been deader than dead, if it weren’t for the fact it was an un-loseable E3 demo. Miyazaki said he doesn’t go out of his way to make his games frustratingly difficult (as he apologised to one attendee for the controllers he had broken playing Dark Souls), he just wants to make games that are incredibly rewarding to the player – and overcoming a significant challenge is the best way to achieve that.
Monsters in the demo were varied, from simple zombie-like human opponents that formed the bulk of the enemies encountered, to pathetic giant crows. These beasts have lost the power of flight, reduced to belly flopping their way towards the player (Miyazaki described them as ‘cute’). Giant, hugely intimidating bosses also make a return from the Souls series. Yharnam itself is massive, and more importantly interconnected in lots of hidden ways. Miyazaki hopes that players will be able to find all the shortcuts and secret passageways throughout the city and make use of them to cleverly reach objectives faster. He also said to expect the return of a Dark Souls-like ‘safe zone’ and checkpoint feature.
Fans of Dark Souls definitely have a reason to head towards PS4 in Bloodborne, as the game displays some of the bloodiest and most brutal combat I saw in a game at E3, along with some of the prettiest graphics developers have been able to coax from the system so far. The game won’t be out for at least another year, so keep checking back for new details on RC.