Reviews PlayStation

A Bloodborne journey comes to an end

KADv2bx.jpg

This is part 3 of an on-going review of Bloodborne. Read Part 1 and Part 2. This is a long reflection on what’s it’s like playing and discussing the game, rather than a strict focus on the game itself.

“Bloodborne”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen that title on my television, scrawled in white, as if in chalk, on a pitch black background. In the top corner, a small icon flickers, while the game pushes itself out its waking state and into activity. Even starting the game, there’s little fanfare when you arrive at the title screen, itself reminiscent of early 2000’s survival horrors games like Resident Evil. The background you’ve seen a thousand times glows blue, as the ever-stunning soundtrack plays.

Hitting continue and you’re brought to that screen: “Bloodborne” in white text, while the background hugs the darkness.

It loads and loads and loads, the icon flickering. It loads. And loads.

Finally the world opens itself and you emerge as if woken from sleep. You fight and kill and spill and collect blood - because that is all you do - but then you do the other thing: You die.

And you see “Bloodborne” again.

And it loads and it loads and it loads.

And you come back, shaking your head, your fists, and you charge back in - with fewer items with which to protect yourself. And you die again, because the boss suddenly changed tactics, because a creature you forgot cornered you, because the game lost connection to the server and restarted the game.

And you see “Bloodborne” again.

And it loads and loads and loads.

The most punishing aspect to Bloodborne isn’t the difficult bosses - who I’ve started treating as ugly, ghoulish, horrible puzzles more than enemies - but the loading times and other unintended unfriendly aspects.

fXopHii.jpg

The game is punishing and sometimes can be punishing in a way that begets great reward when you overcome these obstacles; but it’s unnecessarily punishing in its load times. This is not intentional, carefully-designed punishment: it’s the punishment unjustly given.

In the context of Bloodborne, though, there’s a weird instinct to overlook this as separate punishment. The game is punishing, yet striving to overcome it brings great reward. That feeling of defeating your first Souls boss really is unlike anything I’ve experienced in gaming. But intentional and designed punishment does not mean all punishment is merited.

I’ve seen too many folks lump actual issues - the lack of guidance, the terrible setup for multiplayer, the inexplicable dungeon crawling, the complete lack of a tutorial - as “part of the game’s charm”. Sure, many of us figured out these aspects - but only after talking to friends, consulting online wikis, and through pure accident (I didn’t even know I could sprint).

Too many respond to such criticisms as a failure to understand the game, putting us as incapable rather than the game as inaccessible. As if our not finding a hidden scroll lying on the ground that explained a movement mechanic was our fault, rather than the game’s obfuscatory nature. Obfuscation can be a wonderful thing, helping maintain an element of intrigue even in terms of not telling you where to go.

Indeed, I didn’t feel the world itself was badly designed. Yes, I got frustrated, but it’s obscurity in telling me where to go I found to be inherent to me enjoying playing. I needed to explore, I needed to work out landmarks for myself.

And yet: I completely understand wanting a minimap. I completely understand wanting clearer markers of what to do and where to go. Too many responded to this image as some kind of blasphemy: as if the idea that Bloodborne would include directions and info texts negates your ability to enjoy it.

Accessibility matters and I can’t imagine how difficult balancing that with wanting to maintain From’s vision must be.

The obscurity just is part of the design of Bloodborne; overcoming that obscurity is just part of that play. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely and utterly impossible to imagine a way in which you could have options - options! - to allow more accessibility. These could be turned off for the (current) hardcore experience that many of us enjoy and crave. You’d want those options to be such that they don’t interfere with the design of the game, but allow ease-of-access to at least understand foundations.

And yet, I wonder if I’d be feeling as much reward from this obscurity. It’ll never be perfect - no game is. But I wonder if this sense of fulfillment, arising from overcoming obscurity and vagueness, would exist: there’s a community engagement which sees Bloodborne players help each other in forums; indeed, the permanent notes that players leave each other shows there’s an understanding of connected frustration and solidarity.

We’re in this nightmare together and the only help is what we give each other. There’s something unique about that which really does make the game special.

Bloodborne PS4.jpg

I don’t know whether that shows accessibility shouldn’t allow for optional toggles; ones that can be turned on and off, allowing for the current play we already have as well as allowance for more to participate.

I realised something was nagging at me, when I couldn’t think of a single friend who I could strongly recommend should buy Bloodborne; many readers have indicated to me that they regret their purchase, despite themselves being long time players of a variety of difficult games.

My conclusion for Bloodborne is that I do love it, I want everyone to experience it, but I know most probably cannot, will not and, due to having finite time and money, should not.

My ideal is that everyone knows someone who owns a copy that lets them spend hours with the game. So I am strongly recommending experiencing the game, ideally so that you do own a copy. But I do advise strong caution, too; as beautiful as it looks, as simple as it is in terms of what to do (hack and kill), it is a difficult, unfriendly game.

Moosa.jpg

What concerns me, too, is the kind of discussions we’re having; the ones that don’t allow people to say “I can’t play Bloodborne” without fans getting upset. We need to accept and welcome different people’s different responses;; while I am saddened many/most players can’t or won’t enjoy Bloodborne, they’re no lesser people for it. I worry about a culture that anchors what it thinks of others by whether they can complete a difficult video game. Please don’t do that.

Further, there’s an interesting discussion about recommending difficult games - especially games that corner a smaller market than we think. Bloodborne is not an accessible game; yet, in this dry run of AAA titles, it’s gotten heavy push from Sony (because it’s an exclusive) and marketing has been non-stop. It shifted a million units. Everyone is talking about Bloodborne, so it gives a kind of illusion that everyone can play it and is enjoying it. This just isn’t true and I worry about playing into that, as a critic. I worry about saying things, as I wrongly have, like “it treats you like an adult”. Nonsense alignments of maturity and depth of difficulty must stop.

Bloodborne is a hard game, a punishing game, an inaccessible, frustrating, obscure game. It is also a beautiful game, mesmerising, mysterious, fascinating and unbelievably rewarding. It has horrific load times (which we’re hoping they’ll fix this month), terrible tutorials, unnecessary vagueness about essential tools (like multiplayer, as even Kotaku highlights). It offers hours of diverse content, constant changing tactics and strategies, a parade of endlessly diverse enemies.

But you’ll see that loading screen a lot. You’ll wait for it. And then the game will load. And the nightmare begins: I want everyone to enjoy the nightmare, but we need to accept not everyone will. And that’s fine.

What’s not fine? That cursed loading screen.

Tauriq: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

Other News from Around the 'Net:

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

Other news from around the NET:

Recent Comments

Community on Disqus

Latest Reviews

Forza Horizon 4 Review

Forza Horizon 4 Review

 

With a gorgeous open world, epic car roster and a new seasonal system, this year's Forza is the best...

V-Rally 4 Review

V-Rally 4 Review

 

V-Rally 4 delivers some great off-road racing that all rally fans will enjoy.

comments powered by Disqus