⭐ Games that receive this star have a score of 95% or above. This is purely from a game design perspective and is not in any way related to our morality evaluation.
FromSoftware studios, known for creating the legendary Dark Souls series, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and most recently Elden Ring, worked alongside Sony to make 2015’s Bloodborne. The game was nominated for Game of the Year at the Game Awards that year, and to this day is considered by many to not only be FromSoftware’s best game, but one of the best games ever made. Since at the time of writing it is Spooky Season, MicMan, with the help of Theycallmeqtip, as the two FromSoftware addicts of Catholic Game Reviews will give you our thoughts on this bloody masterpiece of a game.
In Bloodborne, a dark world of Victorian horror awaits. In all honesty, the best term to describe the game is “Lovecraftian Dark Souls.” You play as a Hunter, who comes to the city of Yharnam to be treated with “blood healing,” a practice native to Yharnam where ancient blood found in catacombs beneath the city is used to heal people. The so-called “Old Blood” was found long ago by a group of scholars from the college of Byrgenwerth, one of which went on to found the Healing Church, heavily modeled after the Anglican Church, which administers the presumably holy practice of blood healing in Yharnam.
Being treated with the blood is the game’s explanation for your ability to die and respawn ad infinitum. Upon leaving the healing clinic, you find Yharnam a city of crazed madmen and savage beasts, the Old Blood having begun to turn people into beasts. You are tasked with discovering the source of this curse and putting an end to it, but as you search deeper into the secrets of Yharnam, you find increasingly horrible eldritch truths about the city and the nature of the cosmos…
If the “eldritch truths of the cosmos” thing wasn’t enough of a clue, the game is heavily inspired by the early 20th century works of H. P. Lovecraft, the renowned father of cosmic horror, even if he has a reputation as one of the worst racists in history. As a fan of Lovecraft’s work, MicMan could spot many references and specific inspirations throughout the game. There seems to be material taken from the short story The Dunwich Horror, the various short stories about dream-worlds, and in the Old Hunters DLC there is a lot of inspiration from the novella Shadow over Innsmouth. Other than these, much of the story and lore is a combination of common characteristics across all of Lovecraft’s stories.
All this being said, one can easily see how dark the game is in both lore and gameplay. MicMan says it’s easily the most messed up game he’s ever played. However, if you’re into horror or thriller, especially cosmic horror, then the game’s main story is very engaging and fun, and the fact that you’re trying to solve the increasingly mysterious riddle of why people are turning into beasts makes it much more intriguing than, for example, the Dark Souls games since in them you are just told the entire plot at the beginning.
Gameplay and World
In the manner of most other FromSoftware games, the player traverses a linear set of areas with optional areas available to find along the way. This exploration makes up the bulk of the gameplay. As you make your way through the areas, enemies of varying difficulty will assault you. Each area has a mostly brand-new set of enemies you’ll have to adjust to, so keep your senses up. At the end of each area there will be a boss to fight and, being a Souls game, you are probably going to see that sweet, sweet “You Died” screen a lot.
Overall, the bosses in Bloodborne are mostly well-designed, with a few exceptions. The best bosses are a thrill to fight against, and they are as difficult to learn as they are satisfying to beat. This holds true for the Old Hunters DLC as well, with several DLC bosses having reputations for being the hardest in any FromSoft game.
There is also a series of unlockable dungeons called Chalice Dungeons, featuring unique challenges and bosses. They are optional, so if you want to access them, you’ll have to go through the game’s optional areas to get the materials needed to unlock increasingly difficult dungeons. These areas mostly serve as a way to level up and get stronger outside of going back to lower-level main areas. There are certain dungeons that can be played for secret bosses, but some dungeons can be player-created if you play online, or randomly generated for added challenge. Your enjoyment of the Chalice Dungeons will largely depend on your enjoyment of the rest of the game.
Similar to souls in Dark Souls and runes in Elden Ring, your currency acquired by killing enemies is called blood echoes. You use them to upgrade your stats and weapons, and to purchase items.
The combat is a much faster pace than other Souls games, but allows for a really fun and adrenaline-pumping experience. One of the mechanics that encourages you to be aggressive and keep the pace up is your Rally Potential. If you attack the enemy immediately after they hit you, you can regain some health that was lost when the enemy hit you. Another mechanic is parrying. Parrying in Bloodborne does not involve shields, rather you use a gun. Shooting an enemy with this gun in the middle of their attack staggers them and opens them up for a visceral attack, which is a very fancy way of saying riposte. Staying true to the name of the game, there is a cartoonishly large amount of blood that comes out of enemies, which then splatters not only on the ground but also on your character indefinitely until you respawn.
You’ll have access to various Hunter Tools as you progress through the game. These are your weapons, and while there aren’t quite as many as you’d expect, they are all completely unique and have intricate movesets. Right-hand weapons are your melee weapons. Examples would be the Saw Cleaver, Kirkhammer, and a giant wheel for whatever reason. Each of these weapons can switch between two modes, such as the Kirkhammer being a longsword that sheaths into the handle of a giant stone hammer, or the Saw Cleaver unfolding into a longer weapon with more reach. Your left-hand weapons are your guns, and there’s even less variety here because in practicality, they function very similarly. The most choice you’ll have is between basic pistols, a blunderbuss, or a flamethrower. All of these weapons, melee or ranged, can be upgraded with blood stones for basic stat upgrades or blood gems for passive bonuses such as poison damage or intelligence scaling.
As with all FromSoftware games, among the strengths of the game are the immensely ornate and exaggerated buildings and overall visual designs of the world. The player comes across massive Victorian cathedrals, beautiful Gothic cities, and snowy castles just to name a few. These stunning environments are bound to entrance people and enhance the overall experience of the game.
Be warned that enemy designs can get pretty messed up, ranging anywhere from a deformed werewolf to a mass of human bodies and organs combined into a single grotesque monster. This extends to the bosses, and some of them are such a mess that it’s not immediately clear what exactly it is that you’re fighting. Details in the world can get pretty messed up too, like half-rotten horses on the ground and beasts crucified and set on fire, and later there’s things like walls of seared dead bodies infused into the mortar that died trying to flee horrible experiments. Certain NPC questlines can be just as horrifying, and while this is a horror game, players should be advised that this is the kind of horror that just makes you really uncomfortable if you pay close enough attention.
As Godless as Bloodborne can be at many times, there’s something good to take away about the problems with unrestricted science. To be completely clear, the Catholic Church’s teachings do not contradict tested science, and the Church encourages us to seek to better understand God’s universe. As Fr. Mike Schmitz has said, “good science will never contradict faith.” Pope Benedict XVI has even stated that the Church accepts the scientific integrity of the Theory of Evolution. However, Bloodborne reveals the dark side of ambitious science. The people who hold the most sway in Yharnam have no limits to their cruelty when it comes to their methods of trying to elevate humanity beyond “our natural state as barbaric animals,” mimicking the thinking of certain Victorian scientists, and seeking to understand the dark things of the cosmos to do so. As much as these aspects of the game is simply FromSoftware being edgy, it is concerning how much this vein of thinking exists in our modern secular world. There must come a point where we accept that we are not gods and that no amount of scientific advancement will make us into them, as well as accepting that we are so much more than simply less-stupid apes that must be improved.
As Micman and Theycallmeqtip will tell you, Bloodborne is an absolutely fantastic game and excels at nearly every area. From the gameplay to the lore, it’s bound to satisfy all the wants of gamers and horror fans alike. Combat is fluid and satisfying, the gothic aesthetic makes for some beautiful scenery, and the story is incredibly extensive and fun to discover. So, if you want a spooky game to play this Spooky Season, this is a good one.
Violence: Oh boy, where do we start? As mentioned, there is a LOT of blood that comes out of enemies, especially the gory Visceral attacks, which then splatters on the floor and on the character until they respawn. Your character model will sometimes just have a shiny red texture over their whole body. As well, enemy and boss designs can get pretty messed up and gory, as well as details in the world, such as piles of burned beast corpses, walls of horrified seared bodies, and other unpleasant things.
Religion: Being a dark fantasy game, the religious aspects are dark as well. The Healing Church is a corrupt, twisted organization in several ways, and you fight many agents of the Church and even several clerics as bosses. Also, the Doll talks about the unlikeliness of the Church’s gods to actually love their creations, playing into the larger nihilism and existentialism that permeates the lore coming from Lovecraft’s cosmic horror influence. Bloodborne leans very heavily into the idea that humans are, by nature, no different than wild beasts, and many characters seem to throw away their dignity with their actions.
Language: There is light language at some points in the game, as well as taking the name of the gods in vain (it doesn’t apply to Christianity, but still features taking the name of the divine in vain).
Sex/Nudity: The player whether male or female can strip down to their underwear and an NPC heavily implies to you that you could “do it” with the Doll character.