When I first got a PS4 I faced a dilemma. I needed a game that was supposed to be “good” but also wanted a game that was long. At the time I was barely above minimum wage with tons of short term debt I needed to pay off (Don’t sermonize me about buying a PS4! I wrote a whole article on how I got it for basically free) so it needed to be cheap as well.
Well the weekend after I purchased the PS4 there was a sale on two different games - Best buy had Bloodborne for 30 bucks and Amazon had Witcher 3 for 40. I was really really torn. On the one hand, I had played a little of the first Witcher game and just...hated it (I replayed it recently to finish it, and my opinion hasn’t changed much - Witcher 1 is a bad game (TM)) On the other hand, I also didn’t like Demons Souls. I didn’t find it particularly difficult, more irritating than anything else. So in the end I took a leap of faith and ....picked the cheapest one. (OK, OK, OK I confess. The trailer for Bloodborne was also really freaking cool)
A lot of my love for Bloodborne boils down to one of the most absolutely incredible aesthetics seen in video games. I mean the idea to mix Victorian era weapons, clothing, architecture with eldritch horrors in a Souls game, was a genius one and one that works exceedingly well. It was the first of two games that to date I have platinumed (Although Evil Within was one glitched trophy and one impossible akumu mode trophy away).
Everywhere you go in Yharnam there is something to see, some new nook to discover or shortcut to unlock. Some new piece of equipment to read the description of and thus unlock more of the story. Although I have shelved Bloodborne it’s never far from my thoughts. I contemplate a playthrough every once in awhile and if I ever make some significant headway on my backlog I will (or probably when they announce Bloodborne 2 I will replay).
What’s odd is I don’t like Souls games all that much.
I’ve played and finished Demons Souls on PS3, I just finished Dark Souls on PC (modded with DSFix to give 60fps and higher res textures). I ....didn’t much care for either of them. A lot of it is a setting that is just.....meh. A lot of the enemy design turns out to be “here’s a spooky skeletal!” or “Dragon dun give you a fire”. There were knights, gargoyles, bigger knights, dragons, giant wolf, some tree spirits, and more and all of them felt relatively ..boring. In Bloodborne, I wanted to see what new terror would be around the corner, in Dark Souls ....I was shot with an arrow off a platform by a skeleton.
Gameplaywise Dark Souls and Bloodborne are pretty similar - you have health potions, you have upgradable weapons, short cut back tracks, etc. Level design itself is very well done in both Dark Souls and Bloodborne, there’s just something missing from Dark Souls for me. Lordran is missing that motivating factor of wanting to know more about the world. I didn’t care at all about the Hollowed. I didn’t even realize I’d killed the guy who was sitting up by the fire in Firelink Shrine until he wasn’t there anymore. Whether I took Gwyn’s place or walked out the door didn’t matter much. Because I just didn’t care about Lordran the way I did about Yharnam.
I’ll keep spending time there because the games are fun enough and hopefully in time I feel that the universe they’ve built is worth inhabiting (although from what I hear about DS2 I shouldn’t hold my breath).
The problem as I see it is that by picking a Medeival setting, creature design and even story are limited by the setting. You need to have certain creatures (despite their relative mundanity, most of the creatures in Dark Souls fit) like dragons and knights. You need castles. These things are safe and even within the narrative there’s some fun areas like the Demon Ruins (with the enemies straight out of Uzumaki).
Yharnam on the other hand has no such constraints. There are aliens, there are horrific beasts, there are wolves, and transformed humans. There are spiders, and Winter Lanterns, there are ghosts. The creature design team was allowed to just think up whatever they wanted, and the things they thought up didn’t need to fit any particular setting. It’s for this reason that of the two worlds, I’ll always choose to explore just who the Pthumerian Bride is and how she fits in the story rather than go looking for the reason why the Onion Knight just disappeared from my game after opening a gate.