The game has attached itself to your reflexes on a molecular level.
April 10, 2015 2:48 PM   Subscribe

The brainchild of Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at From Software, the Souls games have gained a rabid cult following over the past few years. The newest spiritual successor Bloodborne (trailer 1, 2) has been out for a couple weeks now, and it's received stellar reviews across the board. It might very well be the best in the series, reconfiguring the dense gameplay in surprising ways and offering up an intricately-realized Victorian gothic world. Tim Rogers has written a lengthy, articulate, spoiler-free (in a narrative sense) analysis of Bloodborne's design - You Are the Experience Points.

YouTube user EpicNameBro is generally considered to be an authority on all things Souls, and watching his Bloodborne Let's Play videos gives a good sense of what this stuff is all about. My personal favorite is VaatiVidya, who specializes in discussing the arcane, deep lore. Note that if you do plan to pick the game up, it's probably best to experience with as little knowledge of what you're going into as possible. Even for those who have finished the game, though, there might still be secrets no one has figured out yet (spoilers). Previously, previously.
posted by naju (66 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oops - meant to include a link to Metacritic.
posted by naju at 2:54 PM on April 10, 2015


awww yisss!

i've been watching bloodborne vids all week and it's the first time that i wish i had a console

i love how bloodborne has a deep lore that's mostly obfuscated, just like real life
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:01 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a deep lore that's mostly obsfucated.
posted by notyou at 3:03 PM on April 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wake me up when the port is released. Or, rather, when the overhauled port is released.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:03 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This game makes me want a PS4, which is something nothing else has yet done.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:06 PM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wake me up when the port is released.

Demon's Souls was never ported, and I'd be shocked if Bloodborne is - Sony paid for it to be an exclusive.
posted by dragoon at 3:09 PM on April 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


i bought a ps4 80% for bloodborne and i do not regret it at all
Wake me up when the port is released. Or, rather, when the overhauled port is released.
it won't be
posted by p3on at 3:12 PM on April 10, 2015


Sony paid for it to be an exclusive.
And not in a 'paid-for-it-to-be-a-timed-exclusive' kind of way like Rise of the Tomb Raider. Sony co-developed it with their SCEJA studio, ICE team, and music production departments in addition to publishing the game. It's their game.
posted by whittaker at 3:13 PM on April 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are also some funny bugs in there.
posted by slater at 3:19 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've finally gotten around to playing Dark Souls for the first time (I'm Level 30 but have only rung one of the bells), and everything in that Tim Rogers article seems spot-on correct.
posted by straight at 3:23 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


This game makes me want a PS4, which is something nothing else has yet done.

I'm glad I'm not the only one. Sorely tempted to drop $500 just so I can play this. Well-played, Sony. (You bastards.)
posted by neckro23 at 3:32 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Currently on the second boss. I'm not good at the games, but there is, as the article says, something about an RPG where leveling up the player versus the player character is the best way to proceed. There is something deeply satisfying about making progress in this game, making that perfect dodge, parrying a attack and the follow up strike.

In Bloodborne, as in any Souls game, Your Brain is the Experience Points. Each enemy has an attack warm-up timing, post-attack cool-down timing, attack range, and attack speed. These games require, expect, want, and beg the players to learn to identify the first attack of a combo by the visual presentation of its wind-up. These wind-ups always fall far short of the theatricality of a Super Mario 64 boss or a Zelda boss: These enemies do not run in place for three seconds, kicking up dust clouds, before charging at you. No, it's always something understated: if the chubby troll in front of you just squatted down halfway for a half a second, it's going to charge at you. You should dash out of the way. If it shudders for a second, it's about to raise up that brick in its hand. If it raises up that brick in its hand, it's going to bash you with it. Fire your pistol and the troll will fall to its knees. This is a simple example of an enemy whose telegraphs are easy to read, and so we encounter another spider web of these games' design: if an enemy's invisible "Telegraph Trickiness" number is low, its raw physical power is probably massive.

A thousand times this. I've been trying to kill the second boss, and it's basically been learning these visual queues. Watch for the boss to strike sparks against the floor as he makes an upward strike, look for him reeling back if his weapon's in its second form, etc, etc.
posted by zabuni at 3:36 PM on April 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


No thanks. I tried Dark Souls and it was way too frustrating. I say this as someone who grew up playing Sierra adventure games.
posted by dortmunder at 3:55 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suck way to much at video games to even try to play Bloodborne.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:57 PM on April 10, 2015


I've been trying to kill the second boss, and it's basically been learning these visual queues.

For me, the second boss was really noteworthy, because it's the point at which you pretty much have to figure out the core mechanics of the game if you want to proceed. Before encountering that boss, I was able to slide through the game's encounters without understanding "visceral attacks" (the game's method of staggering and parrying to deeply wound an enemy), the regain system, or other aspects of the combat. I also had not yet embraced the general philosophy that the game wants you to adhere to: unlike previous Souls games, it's not about patiently waiting things out, shield raised, until the right moment to make your move. That behavior will get you killed in seconds. It's about split-second strategic decisions, spotting "tells" and reacting to them, understanding when to let loose and when to cut back, and really quick dodging and side-stepping. Once I fully got into the game's head and defeated the second boss, things actually have flowed really easily for me. I feel superhuman, almost, and I'm killing several bosses on my first try. Not because they're easy, but because I'm mastering the speed-chess nature of battle, predicting enemy behaviors correctly, and picking up on what the developers hope that I'll pick up on. Super interesting. I'm at about the halfway mark, I think, so no doubt the game will laugh at this confidence and beat me into submission in due time.
posted by naju at 4:02 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I just realized Tim Rogers didn't even mention the Chalice Dungeons - a series of sometimes-randomly-generated huge labyrinths filled with rare loot and tricky enemies. It may be the most addicting part of the game, and I haven't even scratched the surface with it. (The series has always been inspired by roguelikes, but this is a wet sloppy kiss to the genre.)
posted by naju at 4:06 PM on April 10, 2015


it's not about patiently waiting things out, shield raised, until the right moment to make your move.

It's telling that the only shield in the game is fairly worthless and has the description "Shields are nice, but not if they engender passivity".
posted by zabuni at 4:08 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's worth noting that you don't have to do the bosses in any particular order; if you want to trade strategy then it's probably best to talk about "the Cleric Beast" or what have you.

I've been having a ton of fun with this game. I howled in triumph when I defeated the Cleric Beast. Right now I'm swapping between repeated tries at Vicar Amelia and exploring the Hemwick Charnel Lane. Eventually I'll find a boss there, too, I'm sure. And I will hate it too. Or perhaps not - I've been feeling very little frustration at throwing myself repeatedly against first Father G, and now Vicar Amelia, learning their patterns and a strategy. Especially since I gave up on switching between money runs, to go buy a pile of extra weapons, and boss attempts - just learn its tells well enough to kill it with basic attacks before I'm out of blood vials, and I'm done.

I played Dark Souls on my 360, without online capabilities because when the hell do I want to schedule playing with other people, or face random twelve-year-olds? I've got online on the PS4, and it's making a world of difference; Bloodborne feels a lot more welcoming and friendly, what with all the notes from other players, the way I get a health-up when someone rates one of my notes as 'fine', and the occasional ghost wandering through. I'm not in this alone any more. Except I am; I'm sure not about to summon help for any bosses yet...
posted by egypturnash at 4:09 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hah, yeah, the flimsy wooden shield you find is basically a joke item.
posted by naju at 4:09 PM on April 10, 2015


Another article about Bloodborne from the new BoingBoing Offworld:
In Bloodborne's brutal world, I found myself
posted by zabuni at 4:11 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was going to buy a PS4 anyway, but without this game it would have been a cheap second-hand one, in a few years' time. Bloodborne is awesome. The faster pace works so well, the enemies are terrifying and some of the later areas are just beautiful in a surreally nightmarish way. Maybe Miyazaki will come back to give us Dark Souls 3, if we have faith.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:52 PM on April 10, 2015


If I go and buy a used PS4 is there anything I should look out for? Are certain models no good? And what are a couple of games I should get? I have been hearing rave reviews of this and I want to buy it since I'm a fan of the other games.
posted by gucci mane at 4:58 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Damnit, and I had myself convinced that I would skip Bloodborne and just hand wave it away after a bit too much Dark Souls I/II.

Damnit Metafilter.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:19 PM on April 10, 2015


I'm no gamer but I do enjoy dabbling and am friends to a great many hardcore video game people. But frankly I am OBSESSED with the complex undiscovered lore and Easter eggs in games like this and GTAV. I know they're mostly intended as rewards for people who complete the game and still want to play, but they're easily the most interesting part to me.
posted by sleeping bear at 6:08 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I go and buy a used PS4 is there anything I should look out for? Are certain models no good?

Nah, there's only one model so far. And it isn't problematic at all. I mean, some have died, but not any more than any other console since they started having fans.

Don't pay more than $250. Deals like this happen all the time. It's even been under $200 before if you could stack a coupon on a sale/haven't used cowboom before or could create a new account to use a special one-per-account code/etc.

Make sure you get a controller, it's all obscenely overpriced to buy separately even used.
posted by emptythought at 7:29 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


And all that said, i'm excited to play this. Demon's souls was such a memorable part of the crappy house i lived in with a bunch of roommates right after college. For at least a month my friends were basically playing it in shifts on my PS3. It started out in my room, and ended up drug out in to the living room with my little bedroom tv while i was at work so it could just be played non stop without using the main TV.

What followed was the most ridiculous marathon gaming session. It was basically all we did, and holy shit that game is like super ghouls and ghosts or defender-era arcade game unforgivingly hard. Nintendo hard. No matter where you were in the house you'd just hear random swearing, even at like 4am.

It actually became kind of a joke how hard it was. Other games we'd all collectively play, like the halo reach campaign co-op on legendary, seemed like movies that you pushed a button occasionally to continue in comparison.

It's a really fun game to play with a peanut gallery to yell at the screen twitch style and go "DON'T FUCK IT UP!" and criticize when you do, too... and cheer when you kick ass.
posted by emptythought at 7:46 PM on April 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I don't understand people. The emperor, he has no clothes! No clothes, people!
posted by Justinian at 7:48 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course he doesn't, a nude mod's like the first thing released whenever a new game comes out.
posted by cortex at 8:03 PM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The clothes are charred hunter's garb, a black church dress, surgical long gloves, and a top hat, actually. Quite natty.
posted by naju at 8:08 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


So telegraphing of moves... How does this game (and the Souls games) compare in that regards to Witcher2. IIRC, a lot of the beasties battled in Witcher had that sort of thing, though perhaps they were more overt in the signalling. ItHas anybody played both - is there any similarity in that aspect?
posted by symbioid at 8:10 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


My roommate when I showed her some videos: "Ok - the atmosphere is cool, but skinny jeans?"
posted by symbioid at 8:11 PM on April 10, 2015


Of course he doesn't, a nude mod's like the first thing released whenever a new game comes out.

Speaking of, the nudity in this game is haunting stuff.
posted by naju at 8:17 PM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hidetaka Miyazaki’s transcendent quest for beauty in Bloodborne

Looking at the sketch of a disgusting beast, swarming with maggots, Miyazaki chastised Waragai for relying on gross-out imagery: “Can’t you instead try to convey the deep sorrow of a magnificent beast doomed to a slow and possibly endless descent into ruin?”

I haven't played Bloodborne, but I believe him. Dark Souls reminds me of the Sublime, of old paintings, of Lord Dunsany.

A few weeks ago I went out to the pub with my girlfriend. Her friend was going away, and we were waiting for her friend's boyfriend. She mentioned that he'd just bought a PS4 because of some new game, and was obsessed with something with 'Souls' in the title.

I knew what was going to happen. I basically spent the entire night chatting with her friend's boyfriend about Dark Souls.

I haven't played Bloodborne, but I'm considering doing everything I can to get a PS4. I don't want to say that Dark Souls changed my life, but it changed the way I thought about videogames (and life). It rewarded persistence and patience and observation. It taught me how to play it, and I rose to it's challenge.

It took me around 80 hours to get past the first half of the game. On my 2nd playthrough it took me 2 hours.
There has been so much written about Dark Souls by people smarter and more articulate than me. It seems like whenever I meet a fellow Dark Souls veteran, all we want to do is talk about the game. So I'll offer this anecdote. I should mention that due to geography, I've never had good enough Internet to play multiplayer:

I was at a friend's house. He was playing Dark Souls, and he was in Quelag's Swamp. His sword had broken, and he was on the verge of giving up. I asked him if I could help him, and he let me. I took his character and guided him back through the swamp, through the shortcut, back to the main village, and got him to the blacksmith to repair his weapon. This left him with almost no souls, so I died and he respawned right back at the blacksmith near Quelag, with a repaired weapon and some repair powder.

I'd never experienced that sense of cooperation before.

Dark Souls 2 was a let down, if only because I'd learned Dark Souls lessons too well and it felt too easy. Bloodborne sounds like it adds a dash of Devil May Cry (my other favorite series, if you include Bayonetta as a DMC game).
It also sounds like Castlevania, but I've long thought that Dark Souls was the perfect Castlevania experience - a Metroidvania with the difficulty of the old pre-SOTN games.

I'd love to play King's Field, Dark Souls' predecessor.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:50 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suck way to much at video games to even try to play Bloodborne.

I'm terrible at videogames too. I had to use save states to complete Yoshi's Island. Crackdown's final island is killing me, even at the easiest difficulty.

But Dark Souls (and I assume Bloodborne, though I may be wrong) isn't just about reflex. It's about timing, and patience. You need to know your enemy and your gear and your own character's capabilities. For DS it's when to block and when to dodge; for Bloodborne I imagine the block is replaced by the gun but the principles is the same. You need to know the range of your weapons and the range of your enemies weapons. You need to know the stages.

But once you do that, you can defeat the game. You won't be beaten by a cheap jump, or struggle against floaty controls. Dark Souls respects the player, and you need to respect it.

I'm trying to think of a good Tim Rogers/You Am I pun, but all I can think of is those lines from Heavy Heart:

I miss you like sleep
There's nothing romantic about the hours I keep


That'll be me when I get Bloodborne.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:55 PM on April 10, 2015


All I know is my roommate is playing this game and I hear "NO NO NOOOOOOOO FUCK!" coming from the living room.
posted by jcreigh at 11:57 PM on April 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


This game and The Last of Us remastered made my PS4 worth every penny.
posted by lovecrafty at 12:33 AM on April 11, 2015




My roommate when I showed her some videos: "Ok - the atmosphere is cool, but skinny jeans?"


If you get past that, Tim Rogers' is the best writer on games we have. He takes them apart in a way other people don't, or can't. This article is inspiring me to tackle Rondo of Blood again.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:50 AM on April 11, 2015


I was watching a friend play and all we did was scream the whole time.

I have dark souls for steam, but if its not going to be ported I am seriously thinking about getting a ps4 just for bloodbourne alone.
posted by littlesq at 1:18 AM on April 11, 2015


But Dark Souls (and I assume Bloodborne, though I may be wrong) isn't just about reflex. It's about timing, and patience.

This is sort of still true for Bloodborne in some ways, but, well... you just need to play it and see. Souls veterans spend their opening hours of Bloodborne floundering, because you're punished for trying to coast on what you think you understood about these games. Exercising patience and caution is no longer a viable approach.
posted by naju at 2:51 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well now I'm even more hyped, though it's gonna be a while before I can pick up a PS4. ActionButton also made me love Kane & Lynch 2!
posted by Drexen at 6:43 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd love to play King's Field, Dark Souls' predecessor.

One of my favorite streamers (who does a lot of Souls stuff) just started playing this a couple days ago. The first part of his playthrough is on YouTube with more to come.
posted by sparkletone at 7:28 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Exercising patience and caution is no longer a valuable approach

I contend that it is. The riposte-focused combat is faster than the block-fests of previous From games, but my decisions like "I have been exploring a new area and racked up enough blood omens for a couple levels, and just found the boss room - I think I'll just go back to the Hunter's Dream and cash them in first" have contributed a LOT to my being sanguine about the game.

So has being patient and disengaging from combat sometimes rather than relying on the health you get from landing attacks after a wound. You may not have to exercise AS MUCH patience in the course of every fight, but it's still a great attitude to bring to the game IMHO.
posted by egypturnash at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


As an animator, it's interesting to see the folks introduced to ideas like "the part where he pulls the weapon back before the attack." Animation has terms for this.

That part where the enemy telegraphs their attack - where they "wind up" - is usually referred to as "anticipation," or "antic" for short. The antic is the foreshadowing of the action.

The action, of course, is the part where the action happens. Nothing interesting to see here. Sometimes it's useful to think of the "arc" of the action - the line through the air carved by a moving object. Optimally, it is indeed arc-shaped.

The end of the action, where the character settles, is generally referred to as the "follow through." Think of the end of a golf swing, when the club continues through it's arc to settle against the golfer's shoulder. In games, there is often very little action (in the sense I mentioned), and the movement is "sold" almost entirely in the antic and follow-through. Enemies often have broad, readable antics so things feel fair. The player character often has no antic, because you want to deliver on an action immediately when the button is pressed (I think bloodborne *includes* PC antic animations, which I imagine is part of getting used to the timing of the game).

I'm sure fighting games have their own terminology for this stuff, too. In bloodborne, based on the videos I've seen, you want to put a bullet into a dude right at the end of his antic in order to parry him. Is that right?
posted by all-caps relapse at 8:43 AM on April 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


In bloodborne, based on the videos I've seen, you want to put a bullet into a dude right at the end of his antic in order to parry him. Is that right?
that's correct, there's a window that covers the very tail of the wind-up/antic and the very beginning of the action. i think the idea is that you're throwing them off balance just as they swing, and mechanically it becomes a game of chicken between yourself and the opponent where you try to pull off a shot just as you recognize the swing instead of mistaking or preempting it
posted by p3on at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The emperor, he has no clothes!
I can only speak for Demon Souls here. The idea that people are confusing the elation of triumph over bad gameplay for good gameplay is wrong but not unreasonable.

However if you sit down and watch someone play through the game so that you can see how the design fits together, I think you might agree that the art and level design are so beautiful they'd be worth banging your head against terrible gameplay to see.

The art design of Demon Souls feels adult, not in the sense of tits-n-gore, but the opposite, like a slow, quiet art film. And the way everything is constructed would be beautiful even if the artwork were terrible. Ico is the closest thing I can think of.

There's a huge monster in the outdoor/forest area that you can get a glimpse of from a distance and you think, "Is that what it looks like it is? How big is that thing?" Later you can get a better look at it from another angle. It was a pretty standard monster that I've fought a bunch of times in fantasy games, but the presentation here made it seem awesome and mythical, more like a dangerous waterfall than something you'd expect to be able to fight. (The best part? There are actually two separate and quite different creatures I might be referring to there, and at least a couple more in other parts of the world.)
posted by straight at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


This game makes me want a PS4, which is something nothing else has yet done.

Well, now I know where my next paychecks' disposable income is going.
posted by corb at 11:40 AM on April 11, 2015


I'm sure fighting games have their own terminology for this stuff, too.

I think you would find this article on how fighting games work and the MeFi discussion on it interesting.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2015


I am tremendously torn by this, but for reasons unrelated to the gameplay.

1. I find the presentation amazingly distasteful. A town of blood drinkers? Turning into a beast? Slow creeping corruption? Yeah, I've seen that in hundreds of other games. I'm damn tired of these tropes, of black-and-gray worlds, of gore spilling out everywhere, and I am not going to apologize for that. I have a gag reflex, and I am prepared to do what it takes to keep it.

But for individual games I can get over it. Bloodborne looks like it may have more going on than the usual cliches, at least. Unfortunately, my other problem is much harder to overcome:

2. I cannot afford a PS4.

So, looks like no @Play on Bloodborne will be coming from me. Sigh.
posted by JHarris at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The older games, too, were kind of trope-y. The monsters/setting/style was a mixture of generic grimdark stuff and dude-swinging-a-sword shit that could be pulled out of everything from shadow of the colossus to something like fable or the elder scrolls series. Even the monsters themselves were just kind of, generic JRPG type monsters for the most part.

The magic here is the gameplay. It's like a good fighter, or shmup, or racing game. Making a surprisingly good game like this is like making a good steak, or good macaroni and cheese or something. It's visually and conceptually nothing inspired per se, but you can squeak in both a bit of a new angle on the same old stuff and just a great experience if you nail the execution into the 99th percentile.

It's one thing to say "i'm tired of reubens", and i get that. But for all the "i've seen enough shit like this" qualities the games present, it's still one of the best reubens you can get.
posted by emptythought at 3:26 PM on April 11, 2015


For me the tropes are being used in surprising ways, and presenting carefully realized, mysterious worlds that I don't see anywhere else in gaming. I absolutely would defend that aspect of them. There's nothing like loading up a Souls game and being presented with a moody, majestic, beautifully ruined world that either doesn't give a shit about you or is actively hostile to you. The atmosphere and world-building are top notch. I'm pretty sensitive to cliches especially in something like gothic horror, but Bloodborne has never presented those problems for me.
posted by naju at 4:02 PM on April 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


The whole Souls phenomenon has me fascinated with a side of flummoxed. I tried Demon Souls and after a couple hours, went and traded it in. I recognize that something interesting is going on, but couldn't be less interested. I play a lot of Destiny and was talking to a fellow middle aged gamer this last weekend who was rapturous about Bloodborne. When I mentioned Destiny he said "I played a little then realized how much grinding there was going to be, and got rid of it". That's where I was flummoxed. I can't imagine a more boring grind than the boss fights in the souls games.

I guess everybody likes their grind different. Souls games seem like 'fight platformers' to me. Where constant training of your reflexes to solve the same puzzle is rewarded. I always hated platformers. I wonder if there's a correlation between people who played all the mario and souls fans.

I actually love reading about them, but I just can't wrap my head around the appeal. Oh well, different strokes.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:07 PM on April 11, 2015




The older games, too, were kind of trope-y. The monsters/setting/style was a mixture of generic grimdark stuff and dude-swinging-a-sword shit that could be pulled out of everything from shadow of the colossus to something like fable or the elder scrolls series. Even the monsters themselves were just kind of, generic JRPG type monsters for the most part.


Nope, it's fantasy in the old sense - The Sublime. Lord Dunsany. A drowned city. Descending through the trunk of a tree to reach a beach guarded by a dragon.

And Dark Souls exposes other games nakedness. I tried playing Skyrim after DS and there was no heft, no weight to the combat. Taking down a dragon in Skyrim felt less meaningful than fighting one zombie in Dark Souls.
Precise platforming relies on timing, like Dark Souls combat. The best comparison is pre-SOTN Castlevania. But I'm terrible at Mario and Ghouls & Ghosts, but I can deal with Dark Souls. It's very forgiving - you can make suicide runs to grab a weapon and then die. It teaches you how to play. It's the friendliest game of its generation
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:53 PM on April 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


The souls series is easily one of my favorite series. Despite the seemingly overdone fantasy tropes, these games stand up to a much closer reading.

The story in each is told almost entirely via the environment and implication. You have to be paying attention to some very obscure clues to get anything out of it, and you could totally go through the game just chopping things with a sword and getting no context.

However, if you do pay attention, read the text in the game, and give some thought to how things fit together, these games have a story like none other. Very little of what you see is accidental - everything in them fits in its place. The lore videos linked above do a great job of explaining this.

For me, that leaves these games with what feels like a living/breathing (or crumbling) world - there's a sense of place like few other games I've ever played, and that's what keeps me interested.

I'm actually terrible at videogames, and these have a reputation for being particularly hard. I'll reiterate Charlemagne In Sweatpants though - success comes from careful attention and timing - not reflexes and button mashing. It's totally doable to get into these, if you have a bit of patience.
posted by owls at 6:37 PM on April 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nope, it's fantasy in the old sense - The Sublime. Lord Dunsany. A drowned city. Descending through the trunk of a tree to reach a beach guarded by a dragon.

Yeah, this is why I love Dark Souls the most of all of them. It's not unfair to say that the worlds of Demon's Souls and, from what I've seen so far, Bloodborne aren't much more than grimdark adventure parks (although as grimdark adventure parks go, they're some of the best) and DS2 is just a mess, but Dark Souls is full of mystery and wonder along with the brutality and despair. I'd love to see the DS designers do a game built on the same fundamental ideas but with more focus on exploration and less on fighting, but I'm not sure the videogame market is ready for that.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:54 AM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's anything wrong with being a grimdark adventure park. It's a hell of a well-made park.

But then again, when I played Dark Souls, I chose a pair of binoculars as my starting item. I was there to be a tourist and I knew it.

(And now I kinda want to have a version of the Tourist class from Nethack in a game like this. You are armed with a camera, whose flash can stun enemies. Maybe some kind of weird social media thing where you can share photos online and get health-ups if you're playing when people Like them, the same way Bloodborne does when people mark your notes 'fair'...)
posted by egypturnash at 10:28 AM on April 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm going to keep banging this drum: the Souls series borrow a lot of things from Berserk. Now, you can say that Berserk is generic grimdark whatever, but there's a pretty clear lineage there.

Personally, I didn't mind Dark Souls 2. Parts of it felt poorly-conceived, that's for sure, but some parts were inspired: I love the Pate / Creighton sub-plot, the Shrine of Amana in particular did a great job at being a genuinely different area, and I'm a fan of the invasion mechanics in the Belfries and the Doors of Pharros. On the other hand, there are a lot of dumb or otherwise indifferent decisions. My particularly bugbear is that stupid Belfry Sol Approach bonfire which doesn't allow easy access to the rest of Iron Keep without exploiting the falling mechanics - what were they thinking? (Also, screw you, Navlaan.)
posted by smcg at 6:31 AM on April 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just a warning until it's patched: do NOT play this game using the PS4's suspend/resume features. This introduces a memory leak that makes the game's bosses easier. You should be closing the application fully every time. I didn't think this affected me, since I was exiting my game and then suspending, but I'm about 70% convinced my bosses were easier in some way. They weren't pushovers, but a few of them failed to do some sort of strong move that would've made their fights more difficult. I've fixed it now and I'm back to the full challenges, but I'm a little annoyed by the whole thing. The suspend/resume features of the PS4 are so convenient that I would imagine a large percent of Bloodborne players are playing it this way and screwing up their boss encounters.
posted by naju at 4:38 PM on April 14, 2015


I didn't think this affected me, since I was exiting my game and then suspending

For anyone who doesn't know, that involves holding down the PS button and choosing (and confirming) Close Application, before going back to that menu and entering rest mode. (Or you can just turn off the power setting that keeps games suspended in rest mode.)
posted by aubilenon at 7:32 PM on April 14, 2015


God this game just keeps getting weirder and weirder. I found myself in an area that looked like a giant library, with lecture halls full of ghosts made of snot. Who all wore mortarboards.

And then after that it got positively unsettling.
posted by egypturnash at 9:49 PM on April 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


So, I linked to LobosJR playing King's Field earlier. He's started doing Challenge Runs of Bloodborne (like with the other Souls games, he's less interested in straight speedrunning it). His first one was a "no blood vials" run (ie: no recovering health except via attacking). That was impressive, but not... silly the way truly great challenge runs are.

HOWEVER.

Today he started a torch-only Bloodborne playthrough (more parts to be uploaded soon of course). There's a torch you get part way through the game that's upgradeable and stuff, but you have to get there. And he has not. He will eventually! But for now this is exactly the kind of thing I love. His strategy against Father Gascgoine is fucking hilarious. So far it's on par with his Dark Souls 2 run using only the ladle.

GOOD TIMES.
posted by sparkletone at 12:18 AM on April 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Semi-related to that last post... For games that always obscure your character under gear, From games have always had the most amazing character creators in terms of what kind of misshapen horror you can create. Lobos created one of the all time greats when he invented Mindblank. Mindblank has since been featured in other Souls game playthroughs as well as a Mass Effect series play though he did last fall.

The one he made for the torch run isn't Mindblank-level classic but he is......... Something.
posted by sparkletone at 12:41 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Vaati did a competition asking people to kill as many hunters as they could in 15 minutes. He posted the results video just now and the top 3 that he chose are all pretty cool and rather varied given the constraints.
posted by sparkletone at 7:05 PM on April 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I find the presentation amazingly distasteful. A town of blood drinkers? Turning into a beast? Slow creeping corruption? Yeah, I've seen that in hundreds of other games. I'm damn tired of these tropes, of black-and-gray worlds, of gore spilling out everywhere, and I am not going to apologize for that. I have a gag reflex, and I am prepared to do what it takes to keep it.

Bloodborne looks just garish to me, too (haven't played it; don't have a PS4, either), but I have heard (via the Idle Thumbs podcast) that it and the other Souls games are reaching for something more than just gore and shock in their visual design. Miyazaki on art direction in Dark Souls:
Otsuka: Is there anything else in particular you tried to avoid?

Miyazaki: You may not believe me, but I always tried to maintain a certain level of refinement and elegance in all the designs. I often told the artists muddy or messy is definitely *not good*. I think this carries through the entire game, of course if you asked me to describe what this "elegance" is… well I think you just have to look at the designs and judge for yourself, but it really is one of the most important factors in everything I oversee.

Waragai: I remember you said that to me when I was working on the zombie dragon. Originally it was covered with maggots, but you told me that I needed instead, to try and capture the sadness of this great creature as it marches towards extinction.

Miyazaki: As I said before, everything has it's particular shade or tone, blight town for example is the rawest, most disgusting area in the game, but looking at the area as a whole, I wanted it to feel both bitterly cold and possess a deep sadness, and that's the atmosphere I tried to build on. You could say I have a habit of working in this way, and I think you can really see that in Dark Souls' art direction.
Anyway, throw me on the pile of people with previously no interest in the PS4 until hearing about Bloodborne and Axiom Verge.
posted by ignignokt at 1:31 PM on April 27, 2015


I'm going to keep banging this drum: the Souls series borrow a lot of things from Berserk. Now, you can say that Berserk is generic grimdark whatever, but there's a pretty clear lineage there.

Oh! That sounds like it might really be interesting, although not at all what I've gathered Dark Souls is about, I (follows link)...

...oh, that Berzerk. Just to let you know there is something called Berzerk that is in the video game field, it's not a case of unambiguous reference.
posted by JHarris at 9:44 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I finally beat the game for the first time last night, and feel pretty good about myself, but watching that hunter competition video is amazing. They make it look so easy. I tried a few PvP invasions for kicks, and got handily beaten down every time. I'm decent at PvE, and love doing Jolly Cooperation with folks, but I'll never be a good PvP hunter or speed runner like that. And I'm okay with that! I love that the game truly can be enjoyed by all types of players.

My gaming time is limited, so I finish very few games, and replay almost none... but I can't wait to start this one all over again. I'm not sure if I want to continue into NG+ with my current strength build (used the axe 90% of the game), or start fresh with a skill build. There's also the chalice dungeons I haven't fully explored... and I'm sure Vaati's been pumping out the lore videos, I need to start watching those... yeah. Miyazaki definitely got his hooks in me with this one.
posted by Roommate at 4:40 AM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


So ... I see no one has spoiled the real bait and switch of Bloodborne. I mean, people are still talking about the Victorian gothic horror part in this thread?

oh, i can't wait. hee hee hee.
posted by mysticreferee at 12:15 PM on May 9, 2015


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