For those players who have delved into Lordran, mastered Drangleic and scoured the harsh climes of the world of Demon’s Souls, seeing the name From Software pop up on an E3 trailer was perhaps the most exciting moment of the entire conference.
Here it was at last; we were about to see what the much-rumoured Project Beast was.
Heavily believed to be a sequel to Demon’s Souls in the build-up to the event, the trailer revealed that this wasn’t the case: instead we’re getting a brand new IP called Bloodborne, a game that looks every bit as dark as the Souls games but with its own beautifully disturbing flavour.
Filled with blood, darkness and hideous monsters that look like the hybrid offspring of a demon and some things that grow under rocks, Bloodborne is distinctly From Software in appearance and – to the dedicated Souler - looks very much like some of the finest gaming experiences we’ve all invested so much time into last-gen.
From early leaked footage, we can tell already that Bloodborne looks and feels like Dark and Demons Souls with added next-gen goodness. It’s heavily inspired by both games in its gameplay style, feel and aesthetics, but there’s 10 very important things it needs to learn from its predecessors in order to create a successful new experience.
10. Maintain The Feeling
When playing Dark or Demon’s Souls, you literally never know what’s coming. Whereas most games in modern society force you down an ever-expanding linear corridor with shiny effects, Dark/Demon’s dump you straight in the middle of a massive world and just leaves you to it.
Every new experience in these titles is tense, filled with danger and a sense of discovery that you don’t feel in many other games;
What will you find around the next corner? Perhaps you’ll find a treasure chest with your new favourite weapon, or you could find yourself falling through the floor into a boss fight with the next ridiculously-difficult monster who wants to gnash your limbs off. It’s impossible to know when going into these experiences for the first time and that’s exactly why they’re so well loved (even though you’ll probably end up dying as soon as you’ve found out).
In Bloodborne, the game simply must maintain a similar ideology. Although technically a new IP, fans of From’s previous games are looking for a similar experience that’s a throwback to the previous titles but also does things in a fresh new way. Judging from early footage it looks like this is very much the case; the player’s character looks to be the only remotely sane one in a world filled with monsters and – judging by the city’s sprawling architecture – there’s going to be a whole lot more to discover in Bloodborne’s world.
Hopefully this world will also be as sprawling and massive as Dark Souls’ was and filled to bursting point with little secrets.
9. Difficulty Is A Beautiful Thing
We felt two things when we finished the Souls games; the first was an overwhelming sense of relief, and the second was a sense that you’ve just actually accomplished something significant that you just don’t get from other games.
This is because these titles are – deservedly so – known for being incredibly difficult to complete. It’s a point that puts many gamers off actually delving into the titles as they’re used to games that hold their hands at all times, but the difficulty isn’t just there in these titles for the hell of it.
Although you will die many, many times, each death is a learning experience. Each time you die you assess when and where you went wrong, taking extra precautions, employing new strategies and trying your very hardest not to get your head eaten the next time you delve into an area. It’s immensely rewarding and absolutely every person who has beaten a ridiculously hard boss on a Souls game has went crazy with glee because of it. Controllers have been flung of course, but many a whoop has been heard and many a gamer has grown because of the difficulty levels of these titles.
As such, Bloodborne should naturally maintain the same core experience. It should be difficult in all the right places with hostility at every turn and should – naturally – have boss characters that can shave off around half of your life with one well-placed attack.
Thankfully, series director Hidetaka Miyazaki has said: “…what’s at the base, for instance, is still an attempt to create a game that you as well as people who like games will enjoy, and an attempt to let you play a game that will provide a sense of accomplishment and a challenge. That’s what we have done so far, and it has not changed at all.”
We could do without the framerate from Blighttown though. That was difficult for all the wrong reasons.
8. Fix The Controls
As much as we really, really try to insist that some of the times you have died in the Souls games were due to our own ineptitude (which, indeed, many of them are), sometimes you have to sit back and just admit the controls aren’t brilliant in these titles.
We know, we know! It’s almost blasphemy to say this in any Souls circle, but we’re putting it out there. Response can be sluggish, everything’s mapped confusingly (surely everyone has died multiple times trying to jump and rolled off the cliff instead) and the system is particularly jarring for newcomers. Veteran soulers are so used to the experience they simply accept it as a given, but it really hits home how much people struggle with it when you see a newbie going through their first white light gate and proceed to be promptly ripped to shreds by the most pathetic enemy in the game.
It could all just be done a little better. Bloodborne, fueled by the power of next-gen, should be able to rectify these problems; the frame-rate should, hopefully, be smoother (and response should therefore also be improved), the controls should be tighter, our character should be better animated and everything should flow in a much more natural way.
There should however, still be completely out of left-field enemy animations where suddenly and violently you’re reduced to a bloody mass of tears and broken armour within seconds.
7. Create Some Unique Boss/Enemy Designs
From the lowliest hollow to the highly infuriating Ornstein and Smough, every single monster in Dark and Demon’s Souls feels unique, deadly and is filled with tricks to really test your patience and abilities.
They’re also designed brilliantly; every monster has their own unique animations and skillset, with the boss fights in particular being a highlight due to their unpredicatable nature. Even when trying some multiple times in a Souls game you’re still likely to be surprised as they do something new that forces you to adapt once again, helping to make every fight unique. It’s much better than standard video game bosses with massive glowing weak points or quick-time events wrapping everything up nicely.
Where Dark Souls originally excelled in this, DS2 seemed a bit of a let down in comparison. There were a few unique bosses that stood out (The Rotten, fighting an army of rats etc), but some of the enemies just felt like carbon copies from the first game that had been carried over. It felt lazier than Dark Souls and for veterans just didn’t seem all that challenging because we knew what to do already to deal with these creatures.
Bloodborne should – being in a new world and all – have a brand new collection of enemies for us to slay and die at the hands of – we’re hoping it’s much more like Demon’s and Dark Souls rather than part two.
6. There’s Nothing Wrong With Minimalist Storytelling
In the world of modern gaming, storyline is thrown at you constantly. Big-budget blockbusters such as Call of Duty and Uncharted smash action in your face and fill it with dialogue comprising hurrahs and witty wisecracks. In comparison, the Souls series has a very understated storyline experience; it’s there, but you really have to do some digging and make your own interpretations to fully understand what’s going on.
There are countless articles, wikis and vids out there still dedicated to solving the mysteries of these titles. Whether you want to know the history of Quelaag and her hideous deformed sister or wonder exactly what the hell the ending is about, there’s stuff out there to let you know – albeit formed out of speculation, but with clear hints and facts found by the Souls community.
Unfortunately Dark Souls 2 let many down in its approach with storytelling that was slightly more open than others. It was good, sure, but it was a bit easier to understand and the world as such didn’t feel quite as alien as it did in the first couple of games.
In Bloodborne, we’d much prefer it goes back to the minimalistic approach and allows gamers to fill in the blanks for themselves. We know it’s in a city being ravaged by monsters and there’s something fishy going on, but we’re good knowing that as we jump into the experience. Let us find the storyline once more and band together with fellow Borners (working title for those playing this one!) to fill in the blanks for ourselves.
5. The Return Of The Unique Multiplayer
Whether you’re a fan of invading unsuspecting noobs and impaling them on the end of your halberd or incinerating them with pyromancies, or are of the ilk who likes to help out others in taking down a boss, the Souls games’ multiplayer component brought together the gaming community in a way that few other experiences didn’t.
Outside of being able to hinder or help other gamers physically, perhaps the most successful portion of the franchises’ multiplayer has been the ability to put messages down on the floor for other players.
In practice this process has helped thousands of gamers to pointlessly jump off cliffs (“Try jumping!”), has helped find secrets (“Illusory wall ahead!”) and, amazingly, has spawned forth an entire pseudo-language with phrases such as “Praise the sun!” and “Amazing chest ahead” having particular significance with the Souls community.
With Bloodborne, From has the ability to wow us once again with their multiplayer component. It should contain everything that was great about Souls, but we’re really hoping they push the boat out and make the experience with others even more interesting.
If there’s any company out there who can innovate with multiplayer, it’s From.
4. Pack Liberally With Secrets
When one wanders off the path in the Souls games, you never know what you’ll find. Who else remembers the first time you realised you could actually hit some walls and they’d disappear (and then proceeded to hit every single wall you found in the game for the next few hours)?
For those willing to wander, these titles are the most rewarding. You can find hidden sidequests (did you free Knight Lautrec, only for him to slay the firekeeper and save her afterwards in Anor Londo?), NPCs randomly wandering through the landscape, hidden weaponry and even totally secret areas that you can only find by being daring and/or following advice of others on the ground.
The best part of most of these secrets is you have absolutely no idea they’re there. Nothing aside from other players’ messages points you in even remotely the right direction and, since turning to the internet is a sin when playing a Souls game, you’re pretty much on your own here. This makes the thrill of finding a secret all the more exciting.
Bloodborne would do well to follow the same approach. What we’re particularly interested in is perhaps finding totally unique weapons in the game (remember, Bloodborne’s weapons are formed from downed enemies and are capable of transforming!). Other than that, we’ll take secret areas, sidequests and other hidden stuff that further enhances both the experience and the story.
Also, did you know there’s a whole load of secrets you probably missed in Dark Souls?
3. Customisation Is King
We’ve all seen the shots of the main character in Bloodborne wandering around with his trenchcoat and his fancy transforming weaponry and shotgun, but what we’re really hoping for in this new IP is the return of customisation in the same style as the Souls series.
Whether you want to look completely badass, utterly ludicrous or want to simply run around in your skivvies wielding a ladle (a broken one, no less), these games have you covered. Hell, you can even get an evil egg attached to your head that absorbs souls for ages and evolves into a creature that has its own attack!
From what we’ve seen and heard so far, the character in Bloodborne doesn’t have a name or particular backstory. This should – hopefully – mean that the game allows players to craft their own character and have them look as crackers or as intimidating as they so choose.
What we do know at the moment is that there’s other weapon types; if you watch the gameplay footage revealed so far, you can clearly see halberds and the like as well as swords, daggers and the character’s trusty demon-shotgun.
It just wouldn’t be the same without being able to create a hideously disfigured dude with shockingly pink hair.
2. Hundreds Of Hours Of Fun
Those who are truly and utterly invested in the Souls games have spent so much time in Lordran and Drangleic you’d think they’d have found absolutely everything. Nine times out of ten, players who are on their seventh playthrough will probably more than likely still find something else worth experiencing, still going back on the hunt for secrets that will otherwise remain hidden for years.
There’s something about the Souls games that pulls you in and keeps hold for a long time; no two playthroughs are ever truly the same due to the game’s difficulty ramping up steadily, and there’s countless reasons to go back and find what you missed and/or play in a new way with different weapons, spells and tactics. If you’re really sick of adventuring through the world, you can then spend ages trolling players by invading them, help out some others or spend your days making it your mission to help as many people fling themselves off a cliff by posting confusing messages.
In Bloodborne, we want this experience again. We want a long adventure to start with, but we also want secrets and the desire to replay the game not just once, but multiple times. From Software is always great at giving gamers a reason to keep playing their games; we see no reason why they shouldn’t continue this trend with their latest snazzy IP.
1. A Seamless, Open World With Interconnected Sections
If you played Dark Souls 2, you may have felt something a little off. This probably only happened if you played DS1, as new players will not be used to the world of Lordran and the amazing way everything felt connected.
While DS2 was good, and very large, it just didn’t feel anywhere near as connected as the world of the first game. The sections felt disjointed and tacked together, whereas its predecessor often had you come out of an area at somewhere you’d already been, helping to make the world flow together and feel much more organic.
In contrast, DS2′s world was much more fragmented – there were multiple layers to areas, yes, but these were all in their own specific sections and rarely led back to others, instead warping players back when they reached a final bonfire. It worked, but many players still felt they preferred the original setup in Dark Souls.
In Bloodborne, we’d like to see the experience return to Dark Souls-style. We’re not particular fans of the hub world established in Demon’s/Dark Souls 2 (although we’re aware they have their fans) and we’d love to see the new title have the same sense of exploration that the original DS had.
Thankfully this one is being helmed by the original creator of DS (who didn’t work on the sequel), so things are certainly looking promising!