So I played Bloodborne.
This is no big deal. Plenty of people have played Bloodborne. If you went to the EB Expo you might have played Bloodborne. If you were part of the game's recent Alpha test you would have also played Bloodborne.
My point being: many people have played Bloodborne.
I played Bloodborne next to a person who worked for Sony. Someone who had played almost all of Bloodborne. That's a slightly bigger deal. The most interesting part:
"Bloodborne is my first RPG. I never played Dark Souls or Dark Souls II."
I didn't know people like that still existed. This guy was a special case.
It was interesting playing Bloodborne next to a person who had, a) played a lot of Bloodborne and b) had never played Dark Souls before. Very interesting. In a weird way it felt like a case study, like a weird anthropological experiment. Like a lost tribe deep in the Amazon rainforest. They treat the technology we take for granted like a weird type of magic. An iPhone might as well be a magic wand. The From Software pace, combat world building, the lore — all of it. That magic we all know and sort of take for granted; to him it was fantastically new.
His enthusiasm — dear God this is going to sound patronising — was almost charming.
"Man, this game is really good. I don't know why but it's really addictive."
Yeah, no shit. As anyone who has played a From Software game before, these games are ridiculously compelling.
"It's so hard. You keep dying, but you keep wanting to give it another go. It's so weird."
As I played Bloodborne, slipping into those familiar shoes, the Sony employee would drop these little gems. As I re-familiarised myself with the pacing, with the difficulty, with the tweaks to the core we all know and love, I was being peppered by the words of someone who was completely unaware he was repeating the words we all giddily shared years ago. Expressing the feelings we all communally understood.
Yes, From Software games are hard. Yes, From Software games are rewarding. Yes, From Software games are compelling.
It's strange. In any other setting this sort of thing might have felt a little irritating, but in this context it was comforting.
It told me that Bloodborne may be different; its universe may be new and its combat may have re-invented itself, but some things never change. This guy, he'd never played Dark Souls or Demons Souls. This was his first RPG ever, and here he was parroting the same old jibberish we've been jabbering since we first discovered these crushingly rewarding video games. It was reassuring. Perhaps even more reassuring than my own, completely biased opinion of what I had just played. Of course I was going to love Bloodborne. I'd love Bloodborne if it was nothing more than a Victorian reskin of Dark Souls. I'd have been happy with that. I'd have been ecstatic with that. I'd probably love Bloodborne even if it was a bit rubbish.
So I played Bloodborne.
But what is my opinion worth really?
I enjoyed it. Of course I did. That's about as predictable as rain in Melbourne. The changes to the combat? They were interesting. The lack of a shield changes things. It forces you to play a little more aggressively, but more importantly it subverts the rhythm of the combat in an interesting way. It's good. The universe? It appears as well-developed and well thought out as any game Miyazaki's ever touched, but how can anyone be sure at this stage…
Maybe the only person who really knows what Bloodborne is really worth is this naive person sitting next to me, with his running commentary.
"So you reckon I should play Dark Souls then?"
Yes. I reckon you should.