With more information having been released from Gamescom about From Software’s Bloodborne, it’s hard for any Souls fan not to get excited. While it will likely be even less of a continuance of the series in the strictest sense, veering even further away from Demon’s Souls than Dark Souls did, it’s also fair to say that this does look to be living up to its spiritual successor descriptor. Bloodborne does have a lot to live up to already, due to its lineage from the Souls games, as well as the esteem of its developer and confirmation that it will have the same game director that both Demon’s and Dark did.
The Souls games occupy such a strange little corner of the gaming world that’s almost hard to describe. Anyone who dares try them will likely have a strong opinion, whether it be hatred, anger, adoration, adoration-through-anger, or even just the finality of giving up on something that proved so demanding. It wouldn’t be entirely accurate to peg them as some of the biggest hits on the market — though Dark Souls II did sell very well — but they’re beloved by the large majority of those who play them. Fans swear up and down to the their respective quality, perhaps both because of and in spite of their famed difficulty.
If there’s any game to pick up that mantel, it would be Bloodborne — and not just for the obvious reasons. It has the benefit of being produced by the same people, but also the freedom to stretch out into some new territory and branch into newer creative ideas. As a successor to the legacy, it could very well succeed both because it is sharing so much from that inheritor and because it’s becoming something new. Even with the quality of Dark Souls II, the very existence of Bloodborne calls into question that perpetual Souls games don’t do enough to vary from their own formula.
It’s still too early to say one way or another exactly how we’ll feel about Bloodborne, except that we hope it’ll live up to its promise. While there may be some continued disappointment that this isn’t Demon’s Souls II — will we ever get such a game? — this easily could be something worthy in comparison to the Souls games. One does hope that it will take a few cues from Dark, which was smart in both its similarities and changes in relation to Demon’s. From the footage and the screenshots we’ve seen of Bloodborne, it appears to stray much further from the original than Dark ever did. While risks are good, too much change might ultimately lean to the negative.
What could Bloodborne afford to learn from both Demon’s and Dark Souls? Assuming this game is being made with the intent of appealing to those who love the Souls series — and that certainly seems to be the intent — there are plenty of reminders to be found.
For one thing, it shouldn’t abandon its RPG roots. Part of what makes the nature of difficulty in a Souls game so appealing is the fundamental way it utilizes the hardcore mechanics of role-playing to enhance the challenge. More than almost any other RPG game on the market, the series offers a kind of meticulousness and freedom for true individuality when tackling combat situations. Leveling is done one stat at a time, with the increased cost for the privilege demanding the player choose wisely and carefully when creating a character build. Similarly, there is just about no end of options as to how to play utterly free from class: a dual-weaponed melee combatant who easily switches between spells or a powerful two-hander who also specializes in archery. Your character can be literally anything you want them to be.
In a similar vein, From Software made some comparatively minor, but overall vital and brilliant, decisions in many of the gameplay mechanics, foremost among them being the stamina bar. Utilized for everything from running and diving to attacking and blocking, it is the determinant for your movement and defense. Even as combat appears to be moving at a faster pace, hopefully the developer will maintain those key kinds of decision that also demand such precision from the player.
What both of those also speak to is the level of difficulty. It’s hard to imagine any such game in this vein without it. What makes the Souls game so infamous is not only for how hard it is in and of itself, but also for how precise and fair the whole system is. It’s hard, but in very logical ways — the kind that test and reward enormous amounts of patience. If Bloodborne is going to follow in such footsteps, it should maintain that fundamental mindset, even if the mechanics and interface are overhauled to any degree.
Additionally, given the electric nature of the gaming environments, it would be a disappointment if Bloodborne failed to deliver in this regard. Both Dark and Demon’s offered up unique worlds largely inspired by medieval Europe that were positively dynamic in their atmosphere. While much of this was additionally informed by the respective levels of difficultly, it also spoke to the sheer creativity and seeming effortlessness behind the level design that went on.
Much of this is being spoken of in a very hypothetical sense, because we don’t yet know near enough to say definitively one way or the other just how much this will carry over from the Souls games. It’s hard not to get excited, though, while remaining a little bit wary. Any new Souls game offers enormous amounts of promise in its challenge, aggravation, and reward, so it’s hard not to hope that Bloodborne can also cash in on that success and that it doesn’t forget or abandon its roots. Since Dark Souls as a successor managed on all of those fronts, we just hope that Bloodborne itself will similarly find all the right ways to do the same.