While I’ve yet to finish Bloodborne, I can tell you that it’s well worth your time. It somehow both refines what you’ve come to appreciate (I won’t say love because fuck Souls games) and usurps your expectations from Dark Souls. And From Software does it with just two simple changes.
In getting through Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, I’m sure many of you did what I did, which was aim to simply survive. It wasn’t a matter of winning, per se, but rather outliving the things that were trying to kill you. It’s more like capitalizing on the opportunities given to you instead of creating them for yourself.
Builds, from what I’ve seen, can vary from totally middle of the road knights to barebones speedsters, but the majority sidle towards tank builds. By taking as much punishment as possible while still remaining evasive, you give yourself more time for more opportunities to rear their giant ugly heads.
That, however, is not viable in Bloodborne. There are, in fact, no shields in the game. (Well, there’s one, but it’s more of a plywood plank and totally an in-joke.) This is the first change.
There is instead a new category of weaponry: firearms. Rather than set the idea of defense as one of soaking up damage, the goal is to subvert damage. The guns, you see, aren’t particularly good at injuring foes, nor is their ammo (relatively) plentiful like arrows of yore. What they do is open up the ability to counter.
These counters, known as visceral attacks, are made to empower you against moments where evasion isn’t a choice. Timed properly, they allow you to move confidently into situations where you would move cautiously in past Souls games.
It’s different from parries, though. Parrying leaves enemies staggered and possibly open to followup. Visceral attacks are damaging in and of themselves. It feels a lot more like the very active combat framework of games like Bayonetta.
That’s the other change. Bloodborne encourages a much more active take on the previously slow and meditative fighting of Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. From Software has implemented a regain system where after you receive damage, you can attack enemies to gain your health back.
This is your new shield and armor. Instead of dissemination and ablation, you take the damage and then just get it back. It’s not so you can be reckless and button mash your way to victory. This is still, after all, very much a Souls game, but you are encouraged to be proactive instead of reactive.
In this way, the major expectation of how you used to play is flipped on its head. With the ability to massively counter enemy attacks and recover health from mitigated or failed incursions, you create opportunities now. You dive in and you force the hand of your opponents rather than the other way around.
That is the subtlety of precise and expert game design. Bloodborne maintains exactly what you expect from Souls games but also smashes those expectations into something new. A review will be forthcoming, but between playing new Dark Souls II DLC and eating tacos, I do suggest you make time for this and see what you think of these changes.