Bloodborne’s Combat Makes Me Excited for Dark Souls 2 on PS4
Ben Sheene / Mar 27th, 2015 4 Comments
From Software taught me to be afraid. To fear my surroundings and put my nerves on edge at the slightest hint of danger. Skeletons with scimitars, plague-infested dogs, blight-riddled towns, and monolithic bosses towering over my tiny character. The Japanese developer and its evil mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki have put the fear of Umbasa, the Sun, Oedon, or whatever god into players for years.
Nearly every creeping, crawling, walking thing in Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls 1 2, and Bloodborne hits. Hard. Over the course of its first three games, From Software took its unique spin on the action-RPG formula and tossed players into fantasy worlds rife with swords and shields. Don’t like getting slashed in the face with a zweihander? Retreat behind the safety of a shield to absorb blows and protect that precious red bar of health. With the Dark Souls series, I always felt slightly more at ease with my trusty shield. I was afraid of everything, but at least I could hunker down, take a breather, and maybe, just maybe, be slightly more in control of my waning life. Then Bloodborne had to go and ruin all that.
Bathed in Blood
PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne is a breathtaking game in its scope and challenge. Though it possesses many of From Software’s familiar trademarks, combat is thematically different. Players desperate for their sturdy shield will be eviscerated. The game features one shield, a paltry wooden one found after defeating the first two bosses. Against the mad flailing of enemy attacks, the shield is virtually worthless. Your defense will be broken, leaving a pool of blood at your feet.
Instead, the game inspires players to be ruthlessly offensive. Enemies won’t stop biting, stabbing or scratching. Neither should you. When an enemy lands a hit, you’re not meant to retreat and catch your breath. The “regain” system tasks players with continuing their own assault, damaging the enemy back to recover lost health. Yes, it’s risky, but the payoff is in both not having to waste a precious blood vial to heal, and knowing that jerk ogre didn’t get the better of you. And let’s not forget the visceral attacks meant to exact critical damage on your exposed target.
The design philosophy behind Bloodborne tips the game’s pace closer to that of Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. Dark Souls could also be considered an action-RPG, but it is more deliberate. Sword slashes have a certain weight to them. Whether it’s armor or weapons, equipment can burden players and slow them down. Endurance is pivotal, but also scarce. Bloodborne eschews the traditions set by From Software for a faster game that borders on hack and slash, but all the while, it still feels distinctly “Souls.”
Screw the Shield
So why would I want to go back? Back to the slower game where I acted like a turtle hiding in its shell? The fact is, Dark Souls features various character builds that allow for vastly different play styles. Players can focus on the sword and shield combo, bury themselves in armor and two-hand a broadsword, or go naked and toss spells around. Over three Souls games, I rarely changed up my build for anything less than a big shield and a quick one-handed weapon. I was too scared of the game’s tricky enemies to venture any further into experimentation.
Bloodborne patted me on the back, said it wasn’t going to be OK, and then threw me to the werewolves. At the end of my 50-hour journey through the hellish depths of Yharnam, I had beat some of the hardest bosses I’ve ever fought. They ripped me to shreds, but I conquered them while nearly having a heart attack in the process.
When it was all said and done, Bloodborne made me feel like a monster-hunting badass. I loved it. I loved the satisfaction of timing critical shots and taking out late-game bosses in four or five hits. Dark Souls always made me feel like a scrawny, hollowed soldier. Sure I would get better eventually, but not without enduring some grueling trial and error. Even when I was strong, I stunk of fear because I would cower around bosses and enemies, letting them hurt my shield instead of me.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin isn’t going to alter the bones of the Souls experience. Though I played the game on PlayStation 3, I’m excited to try it out on PlayStation 4. The upgraded graphics and frame rate are enticing. However, it’s the addition of the DLC content that I never played, the added lore, and the new enemy configurations that really push the game into must-buy territory.
What I didn’t expect was that Bloodborne would cause me to want to play a game I had already toiled through once before. I’m sure there are going to be many players transfixed by Bloodborne. It has that new game smell to it. The remastered Dark Sousl 2 probably looks old hat to most, just another remake. Hopefully Bloodborne will get players interested in From Software’s previous work so they will give Dark Souls 2 a try.
With the new bells and whistles, I want to dive back into Dark Souls 2 and try to be a better player. I don’t want to retreat into my old shielded habits. I’ve played three games like that (which doesn’t even count those new game plus challenges). When I play it, I want to feel like a badass again. I want to dodge in an out of enemy attacks unburdened by thick armor and tall shields. I want to kill dragons and lonely giants wielding two weapons. Heck, I might even give magic a try. The games never imposed these limitations on players, but I’m sure many, like me, thought it was the best method to conquer your Souls fears. So I guess I need to say thanks. Thanks Bloodborne, for making me not afraid.
tags: bloodborne , dark souls , dark souls 2 , Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin , from software , opinion