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Game Info:

Bloodborne
Developed By: FromSoftware
Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
Released: March 24th, 2015
Available On: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action Role-Playing
ESRB Rating: Mature 17+, Blood and Gore, Violence
Number of Players: Single player with multiplayer elements
Price: $19.99
(Amazon Affiliate Link)

Bloodborne is a 3rd person action RPG that follows the tradition of games like Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. It is difficult and unforgiving. Mistakes in combat are punished harshly and enemies respawn when you die. Healing items are limited and you can even lose unspent experience points. It's a brutal system and I've grown to love it. I would definitely say I'm a fan of the series although not a veteran. So after recently acquiring a PS4 I fired up this game with great anticipation.   

Blood healing is a central theme to the game. For a brief period after being hit you can heal yourself by attacking an enemy and spilling their blood. This discourages backing off every time you're hit, making the combat fast and fluid. You can also use blood vials to heal by injecting yourself with blood. Blood vials are consumables - you can hold up to twenty at a time, while additional ones go to storage. Your equipped vials are replenished from storage when you die but if you run out you have farm more from enemies. This can be extremely frustrating when working on a difficult boss.

Weapons in Bloodborne  can transform between two different forms. The Threaded Cane, for example, can change from a cane, for short-ranged quick attacks, into a whip, for slower sweeping strikes. Transforming is done by simply pressing L1 and if done during combat you'll employ a special attack that does damage and transitions the weapon. Each weapon has a large moveset and feels very unique. While each weapon is interesting you're very limited in ways to build your character. You end up assigning stat points to suit the weapon you want and the classes become meaningless. Interestingly there are powerful items that start to appear half-way through the game that require a stat you'd have no reason to level otherwise. This feels like an oversight, like you're being punished for maximizing your character to that point. Trick weapons go in your main hand, the offhand slot is for firearms. While most of the guns do poor damage their main use is to parry opponents. I found parrying to be highly unreliable and preferred to dodge around most of the time. This strategy worked for me but made my gun feel useless. Firearms don't transform but they do fit well with the Victorian London setting.

Horseless buggies and elaborate coffins are scattered throughout the city Yarhnam, the setting for much of the game. Men wear suits and top hats, women wear long dresses adorned with lace, the streets lit with candles and bonfires. Wherever you adventure you'll notice the game looks amazing. I'd love to just walk through the streets of Yarhnam admiring the sights, if it wasn't infested with terrible beasts. The overall gameworld is very large, but it's split into self-contained areas which are connected through shortcuts so exploration is encouraged but it's hard to get lost. I very much enjoy the aesthetic in Bloodborne; I think the modeling and texture-work are high quality but I wish there were some different locales. The entire game is very dark and there's a seemingly endless number of stone roads and brick buildings followed by large clearings where you fight horrible abominations. 

Bloodborne
Highlights:

Strong Points: Fast and aggressive combat; huge world with rewarding exploration; unique weapons
Weak Points: Frame-rate drops at times; little aesthetic variety between areas, having to farm for healing items
Moral Warnings: Lots of brutal violence, blood, and gore. Heavy reference to the occult

The enemies in Bloodborne are fairly diverse, except when it comes to bosses. The majority of the bosses are large monsters with grotesque appearances and large, sweeping attacks. This leads to very similar strategies to beat them. As for the normal enemies, there are: regular humans, werewolves, crows, snakes, and all manner of foul beasts. Some of the most interesting are the other hunter NPCs that are equipped similarly to and act just like the player character. They have a lot more health though, and usually offer quite the challenge. I think the enemy AI overall works really well to create engaging combat; however I do have some complaints. I hate tracking attacks. I have no problem getting hit by a large sweeping attack if I failed to get out of range in time, but what I can't stand is when an enemy charges up a powerful, vertical strike aimed in one direction, I move behind them, and then they spin 180 degrees during the animation and hit me with it. It's immersion breaking and it's just plain not fun. 

You aren't doomed to face these trials alone however. If you're stuck on a particularly hard boss, or you just want some company, you can ring the Beckoning Bell and be united with someone that has rung the Small Resonant Bell (both items given out very early). The two of you can then engage in jolly cooperation! Be wary though - once the Beckoning Bell is rung an NPC will spawn someone randomly that will ring the Sinister Bell, which can summon hostile players to invade your world. You also have a notebook which you can use to leave notes throughout the world and rate others notes. I was surprised to see how notes were scattered throughout the world and how many players were available for summoning. I played through the game fifteen months after it released and there was plenty of activity. I (shamefully) enlisted help on a couple difficult bosses and was able to help others as well.

The sound design really suits the creepy setting and the dark, disturbing tones of the game. During boss fights, when there's a phase transition, the music will change to get louder and more bombastic, turning a tense boss fight into an epic encounter. I just wish there was more going on musically when I'm running around. It's eerily quiet; perhaps that's a design choice. There's also a host of unearthly sounds made both by creatures and the environment. One off-putting example is a creature known as the Winter Lantern. This ghastly creature is very dangerous so while cautiously approaching it I noticed that it was singing a tune a chilling, inhuman voice. The actual voice acting in this game is very good as well, which is good because there's a decent amount of it. 

Bloodborne
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 94%
Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 43%
Violence - 0/10
Language - 6.5/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 0/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

There are many instances where NPCs will talk to you without being prompted, sometimes even while fighting them. These scenes help explain the lore for that NPC or for the area in general. You can get a decent sense for the overall story from just playing the game, but there is also a ton of lore contained in item descriptions and optional NPC dialogue. This is a mixed bag, I appreciate letting the player learn the story themselves but having to look up main plot points online doesn't feel good either. Each area has its own little story to tell as well. Central Yarhnam is still intact but rapidly descending towards chaos as the hunts grow longer and the beasts grown in number. Old Yarhnam was condemned, cut off from the city and set ablaze, leaving only the heartier of beasts. These stories can be gathered simply by observing the surroundings in those areas. Similarly the local church possesses the blood from their god and have made a habit of taking it for themselves and administering it to the congregation, and people from all around come to the church to receive the healing that's brought about by this blood. Did I mention this game has religious themes? 

The Christian influence in Bloodborne is visible throughout the game but I want to focus on two aspects, the Healing Church and communion. The Healing Church is at the center of all the events in Bloodborne. The church has the  blood of great ones, which has healing properties.   An item description reads, "Let the chalice reveal the tomb of the old gods; let blood be the hunter’s nourishment… And let ye partake in Communion." There's also a rune called Communion with the description, "This rune represents the Healing Church and its ministers. Blood ministration is, of course, the pursuit of communion."  Blood ministration meaning the process of the church giving blood to the people of city, which they do freely. I get the feeling FromSoftware really wanted to emulate Christian communion.  However the blood can eventually cause people to turn into horrible beasts. The church also employs hunters to go out and take down these beasts; this act is called The Hunt and it's where the game starts off. There's also some within the church who experiment on people using the blood, usually producing inhuman monstrosities. So while the real world communion is a beautiful reminder of Christ's sacrifice, it's been turned into something controversial and ugly. 

As for other mature content, Bloodborne earns its M rating through violence, blood, and gore. Honestly I think the blood levels alone put it over the top for an M rating. More than once you're trudging through streets with blood pooled up to the player character's ankles and dead bodies all around. There's talk of hunters using blood like a drug and becoming "blood drunk." The gore in the game is mostly realized through enemy models as opposed to guts spilling out from combat. That being said, as someone who enjoys darker media and horror movies I was legitimately grossed out and unnerved by some of the twisted horrors FromSoftware imagined. There is no sexual content in the game but you can take off all the player character's clothes and run around in their underwear. 

Bloodborne is a wonderfully deep game that pulled me in from the start and kept me interested through the end. I loved the game so much I bought the DLC, then realized I had to play through about 3 hours of the game in NG+ mode to access it. I did that happily!  The experience felt like FromSoftware really created their own world for this game. There is so much surrounding lore and interesting details to be discovered. The community is really active even a year after release. Bloodborne is definitely meant for adults. It tells a dark story through bloody and grotesque imagery and could be interpreted as being very critical of religion in general and Christianity specifically. 

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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