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Aaron Waite Aaron Waite
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Bloodborne' review

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What a terrible night to have a curse!

It's all very familiar. My character is awakened in a dark, dingy place with nothing but my bare hands and a few scraps of clothing. There's a beast up ahead that I have little to no chance of defeating in my current situation, and the gigantic werewolf-ish thing is taking up my only route of escape. I'm probably about to die, but I will absolutely go down swinging and flailing wildly rather than let death take me gently by dismemberment.

It's definitely a 'Souls' game. Make no mistake about it, 'Bloodborne,' despite its new locale and the gothic, Van Helsing vibe that runs through it, hearkens back to its predecessors and finds all new ways to make you love the fact that you want to break your controller.

Much like the earlier games in the series (at this point, 'Souls-like' could practically be its own genre), the game hinges on a life-or-death struggle that weighs on you at every single moment you spend outside of the safety of the Hunter's Dream. Death carries the high penalty of losing all of your experience/currency (known as blood echoes in this installment), and a second death without retrieving them means that they're gone permanently. To add to the tension, some enemies will actually pick up your blood echoes, forcing you to defeat them if you don't want to lose whatever progress you've made. 'Bloodborne' is not an action game, it's more of a ridiculously accurate simulation of fighting against a world gone mad with nothing but a melee weapon and a gun at your side, and you can't just throw yourself into a fight without thinking about it. You have to pace yourself, or you will find yourself facing the infamous you died screen much more than you'll want to.

Weapons are fewer and farther between than in previous games, but in return, each one is much more unique. Each one has a transformed mode that will give you more flexibility in how you approach certain situations. For instance, the (totally classy) cane that I began the game with is fantastic for one-on-one battles, but when faced with multiple foes, I can transform it into a chain whip that would make Simon Belmont proud and give me a wider area of attack. Transforming your weapon in mid-strike can help lengthen your combos and buy you a few extra damage points and/or moments of enemy vulnerability. This flexibility gives each encounter a different ebb and flow depending on what enemies you face and whether or not more decide to join the battle.

Leveling up is very similar to past 'Souls' entries, where your experience points also act as money. In the hub world of the Hunter's Dream, you can better your character, better your weapons or purchase incredibly handy items, but you can't do it all at once. This gives each level a weight, and much thought will need to be poured into what you spend your precious blood echoes on.

The hidden lore of the first few 'Souls' games also translates well to 'Bloodborne.' While the world is explained slightly better than in 'Dark Souls' through bits of paper you find and NPC conversations, there's still a fantastic shroud of mystery that covers the entire thing. Fans are already pooling their acquired knowledge to unlock the secrets surrounding the grim city of Yharnam. Speaking of other players, the player-driven hint system is in full effect, allowing other hunters to leave messages of warning, encouragement or just flat-out lies for you to find. Generally more helpful than harmful, the sign system allows you to still feel connected to other people despite the vast loneliness in front of you.

It's not going to be for everyone. There will be players that give up after dying one too many times in the opening area. There will be players that won't want to dig around to find the story. There will be players tired of being stomped on by bosses.

But the ones that stay? They'll be the ones to find what will no doubt prove to be one of the PS4's finest exclusives. 'Bloodborne' stays true to its roots while injecting some 'Castlevania' gothic horror into its core world, and any gamer who wants the unique pride of overcoming the insanely difficult road ahead should not hesitate to pick it up.

Aaron Waite would like you to stop putting the 'Take one step ahead' sign in front of cliffs, because he WILL try it.

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