If you told me at the start of the year that my favourite game of 2015 would be From Software’s Bloodborne, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. However, here we are nearly 12 months later, and that’s exactly what has happened. So, I guess the obvious question is: how?
To answer that question, I need to take you back to summer 2010, and the European release of PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls. Despite enjoying what little I played of it, the game’s crushing difficulty meant that I lacked the patience to make any real progress, and I soon moved onto other (less challenging) titles. Subsequently, the releases of both Dark Souls games passed by without me even batting an eyelid, as I assumed they wouldn’t really appeal to me. Even leading up to Bloodborne’s release in March, I still wasn’t necessarily planning to buy it.
As soon as reviews began appearing, however, I realised that I should probably start to take notice. The game eventually settled on an impressive Metacritic score of 92, making it the first – and, to date, only – 90+ PS4 exclusive on the site (excluding remasters). That, combined with the game’s noticeably faster and more offensive combat when compared with the Souls series, was enough to convince me to give Bloodborne a go. And, to cut a long story short: I’m very glad I did!
From my first few steps in Yharnam, I knew I was playing something special. Obviously I died soon after, but I didn’t let that stop me. Now, I’m not going to lie; the opening five hours or so of the game were a real struggle, but persevering through the pain proved to be a hugely rewarding experience. It is genuinely true that you learn something knew about the game every time you die, which allows you to revise your strategy accordingly. It’s an undeniably addictive process; my overall play time must have reached 50 hours, and I never got bored once.
That said, I remember a few sections which were so ridiculously tough that I seriously considered throwing my controller at the television. There was the Martyr Logarius boss fight in Forsaken Castle Cainhurst, or trying to sneak past the Brain of Mensis in the Nightmare of Mensis area; however, for me, by far the most challenging level of the game was the Nightmare Frontier. This optional section is covered in poisonous swamps, and populated by giants who hurl boulders at you from hundreds of feet away. To be honest, I’m surprised I didn’t damage the disc from rage quitting so often.
But do you know what the strange thing is? Even during the few moments when I hated playing Bloodborne, I still enjoyed it. It’s certainly a curious paradox, but it’s a feeling that I’m sure is shared by many other fans of the game, as well as fans of previous From Software titles. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realise that Bloodborne is really a game about duality; whether it’s light and darkness, beauty and decay, life and death, or joy and despair.
At least part of the reason why Bloodborne’s narrative works so well is that there isn’t very much of it, so a lot of the finer points of the story are left open to interpretation. It’s obvious that something very bad happened to Yharnam and its people, but it’s never made clear what. There are some amazing fan theories scattered across the internet, but no one seems to agree about exactly what the hell is going on. Who is the playable character? Are you good or evil? Is it all just a dream? It’s this ambiguity, just as much as the tense gameplay, which keeps me coming back to the world of Bloodborne, so I expect I’ll still be playing it well into next year.