Despite being over 6 years old as of 2021, Bloodborne still defines the genre of creepy action RPGs. It is arguably one of Hidetaka Miyazaki's finest games and is different from all FromSoftware's other titles. So, what exactly sets it aside from the other Souls games? Why are fans still clamoring for a PC release of this title, and how does it still stand as a top-tier example of the genre, when so many games have been released since?
Several components are at play when thinking about how Bloodborne is so different from other Souls titles, and why that made it so successful. These involve changing up the basic formula of the main FromSoftware titles, including basic mechanics, thematic concerns, narrative stylings, and the platform it released on along with a lot of other minute details.
The most obvious, immediate way in which Bloodborne differs from its Souls game predecessors is through pacing. Bloodborne's approach here rears its head right at the start, when the first enemy a player faces is a relatively small, but incredibly deadly werewolf. In Dark Souls, the first aggressive enemy that appears is the Asylum Demon. While terrifying, the game expects a player to be able to move past it fairly quickly into the next area, and this feat is relatively easy once the shock of the creature's size subsides. The Asylum Demon is similar to a lot of Dark Souls bosses; it hits incredibly hard but does so very slowly. In immediate contrast, the werewolf at the start of Bloodborne is incredibly fast and ferocious.
Both of these enemies are great exercises in foreshadowing the main combat of each game. Dark Souls encourages a much slower, more considered playstyle, whereas Bloodborne punishes hesitancy and over-cautious behavior in its combat. This also fits very thematically with each game. Dark Souls is a tale of a kingdom long past and the journey of one lost Hollow to put its old gods to rest. Bloodborne is a tale of the frenetic and terrifying beast blood plague, delving into the mind, its madness, and the body. Bloodborne's world is so well loved that fans even create retro versions of Yharnam, showing how inspiring the city's design is.
One of the main ways in which Bloodborne changes up its pace relative to the Souls games is how it uses healing. The Souls series is known for its difficulty, and player health management plays a huge part in that. The Dark Souls games use an "Estus Flask" to restore player health. These flasks took a long time to drink, slowed the player down, and restored a huge chunk of health. Bloodborne changes this system massively. In the game, "blood vials" restore a small amount of health. Further to that, when a player attacks within a certain window of taking damage they restore some of their lost health. The pacing itself changes thanks to this mechanic and an aggressive playstyle becomes the most efficient way to play. This health regain style is so efficient that someone figured out how to beat Bloodborne without healing themselves, which is much more difficult in other Souls titles.
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