Hard For Hard’s Sake: Why Bloodborne Isn’t Fun

bloodborne_dec_14Games have, generally speaking, gotten easier over the years, but there are some notable exceptions. Principal among these is From Software’s Dark Souls series, which is renowned for gleefully throwing complacent gamers in at the deep end and watching them squirm.

Recently released PS4-exclusive stablemate, Bloodborne, is indebted to Dark Souls in many ways, most obviously in that it has similar pretensions of offering a brutal, uncompromising single player experience. But there’s a fine line between difficult and making gamers wonder why they’re even bothering, and based on what I’ve played so far, Bloodborne seems to be on completely the wrong side of that divide.

Most frustrating of all is how the game seems to willfully withhold information. A slow trickle of easily missed single sentence instructions do little to prepare you for the hardships ahead, and the fact you need to die and explore the Hunter’s Dream to acquire your first weapons is hardly obvious; if you don’t happen across them, you’re doomed from the outset.

Furthermore, there’s little room for error in combat, as a single misstep almost always ends in disaster. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue were it not for the fact that the engagements themselves are rather clunky and checkpoints are few and far between.

And this is where the rot really sets in. Trying over and over to get though the same section by consistently achieving level of perfection the game demands quickly becomes a chore of monumental proportions. Every brief rush of relief at getting a few metres further than before is swiftly crushed by a new enemy or obstacle you’ve simply no way of killing or avoiding the first time you encounter it unless you have superhuman reflexes. It simply isn’t fun.

Right now, fresh off my second proper play session, I’m beginning to wonder if any payoff could possibly be worth the hassle. It almost feels like Bloodborne is the gaming equivalent of hipster music, in that a large part of its appeal is an unspoken free pass to sneer at those turned off by how obtuse and unapproachable it is. This is not an artistic vision uncompromised by concerns of accessibility, as its fans might claim, but a deliberate and concerted attempt to alienate.

My plan is to go back to Bloodborne in few days with a view to giving it one final try. There may well be a good game in there somewhere, but whether I have the time or patience to dig far enough to find it is another matter entirely.

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