Yes indeed, more hard to understand and even harder to play but nonetheless unique and rewarding dark fantasy roleplaying action from From Software, the guys who crushed my heart with Demons Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 (I actually managed to complete that, one of my proudest achievements).
Once again you are a nameless individual dropped ignorant into the midst of a gloomy world in terminal decay following a hinted-at catastrophe that has left civilisation in tatters, humanity a few last mutated lunatics surrounded by monsters. Stylings have shifted from classic medieval-ish with a twist to more Victorian gothic with a smear of eldritch, the classic fantasy dialled down and the horror considerably up, but you’re still pretty much one lone outcast struggling desperately to survive in a world there can be no saving.
Gameplay is, once again, horribly unforgiving and requires superhuman persistence, but where Dark Souls encouraged iron caution and care, Bloodborne rewards a more agile and aggressive approach which makes things perhaps a little less gruelling. I say a little, because this is still among the hardest game experiences out there. The sense of crushing gloom and the frustration of repeated death can be tough to get through, but it does give a real sense of achievement when you navigate a difficult section to open up a vital shortcut or finally overcome a troublesome boss. Several times I was tempted to cast my joypad aside, but each time I was dragged back in by the great design and the way the game unfolds itself. You couldn’t say it has a narrative in any traditional sense, but the way offhand hints build up a vague sense of the background is intriguing. An object lesson in less is more world building – it’s about the notes you don’t play, as Miles Davis had it. We begin in relatively familiar survival horror Resident Evil style territory, in a city besieged by zombified infected, but as we pass through beautifully imagined ruined temples, haunted forests and abandoned universities of the dark sciences, things get stranger and stranger until we’re in full-on Lovecraftian nihilistic cosmos territory.
More casual gamers are going to find this a baffling and frustrating experience, but the patient will be rewarded by a dark and fascinating vision of a world gone mad…