Anyone who's played a recent RPG by From Software and loved it should know why Bloodborne has so many people excited. Not so long ago the Souls series was just a blip - a trailer from Japan for a game that looked ambitious but like a technical mess - but it has now become one of the most beloved series in gaming. Who wouldn't be happy with a new IP from the creator of Demon's Souls himself, and another collaboration with SCEJ to boot?
The E3 demo started with our unnamed “hero” standing stoically atop a set of stone stairs. Our video game guide mentioned that the sawblade that he carried could be switched to a longer cleaver mode with the flick of a wrist and demonstrated this ability. What surprised me was just how slow and somewhat ungainly the lengthened sword appeared to be when swung. This is definitely not something you want to do unless you're sure that such an approach will kill the target.
Moving along down the streets our hero was attacked without warning by some locals with giant blades of their own. Normally this wouldn't be too frightening, as I've learned from its spiritual predecessors that I should always journey into new areas while hiding behind my shield, but Bloodborne is designed to be played much more aggressively. While customization is still a thing, and we were assured that there are many more weapons than the two on show for the particular demo we witnessed, Bloodborne is designed to force you to act quickly to kill your opponents rather than passively wait for them to make a mistake. This is a tall order in a game where crowds of villagers with giant cleavers are a common sight.
Taking the shield's usual place in the main character's left hand was a rather ungainly looking blunderbuss. This weapon seemed more useful for stunning enemies than killing them outright, but a stun with the blunderbuss set up for a sickeningly effective critical hit that killed villagers in a single blow. In practice this seemed very similar to the parries from Souls games. Thankfully it looked a lot easier to master than parries.
Once all the villagers on the street were dispatched, the hunter continued onto a bridge only to see a precession of villagers all walking towards a bonfire. They were burning monsters and the main attraction was a giant werewolf-like creature who was already pretty crispy. Sounds of a bell in the distance made the crowd disperse rather quickly, but not before the hunter sent a few to their graves first. We were told that the villagers would go back to their own predefined paths once the bell was sounded, which might come into play for trying to avoid unnecessary battles in the full game.
Ominous pounding at a wooden door served as an introduction to the first enemy bigger than a villager or a wolf. A giant man carrying a stone brick charged towards the hunter without a word of warning but was dispatched rather quickly. We were told that the person playing at the moment had been playing this demo all week and was amazingly efficient at these fights by this point, but that particular enemy would likely not be so easy to take down on our own playthroughs (and without God mode on). At this point the villagers were replaced by wolf-man type creatures and the hunter passed by a compatriot in a spot of trouble. We were told that if you saved the fellow adventurer he would likely help you in a later boss fight, which sounds similar to the summoning system in the Souls series, but this was not elaborated upon.
In fact there were quite a few things that reminded me of the Souls series while watching the demo. Dead enemies did the usual corpse jiggle that made gamers laugh in the original Demon's Souls and which has been kept almost as a hallmark of the series. Fallen enemies also had a familiar wisp from their dying bodies that was absorbed by the hunter and items were depicted by yellow little lights floating over bodies that the demoer completely ignored (noob move if you ask me). I even caught sight of what looked like a fog barrier past the only boss shown in the demo, but I do not recall any fog gate acting as an entrance to the fight.
The aforementioned boss was a rather giant skeletal creature with a deer's skull for a head and one arm that seemed notably longer than the other. It was a pretty frightening sight to see the lone hunter stare down this behemoth on a narrow bridge. The moveset I saw included a leaping attack, several lunges, and a grab that probably would have killed the hunter in a standard play session. Seemed like a perfectly doable fight, though I'm not relishing the idea of taking on something like that without my tower shield or equivalent. After about 30 seconds of showing off the boss creature's general look and moves the demo sadly came to an end.
Although the reveal trailer was flashy and fun to watch, I was disappointed to see that it contained no gameplay, so finding the Bloodborne booth at Sony's E3 section was a relief. This highly anticipated title seems to be coming along extremely well and has an atmosphere that would give Resident Evil 6 nightmares. One particular pan around the character which showed the city scape was especially impressive and made me glad that From Software was moving to the new generation of hardware.
My only real concern with Bloodborne is that the supposed customization that has been promised might be more aesthetic than the customization that allowed so many playstyles in the Souls series, but I'm willing to give this team a shot even if they disallow my preferred way to play. Hopefully this game keeps its current release window of Spring 2015 for PS4 - I don't want to wait for it any longer than I absolutely have to. Bloodborne is easily my most anticipated game coming out of E3 2014 and any Souls fan should feel just as excited.