The combat systems in the Dark Souls games have always been a point of contention. While I enjoyed much of the combat in Dark Souls, it was incredibly easy to find certain tools and cheese bosses or enemies to death. Self-proclaimed masochists would play the game with a two-handed weapon and no shields or other challenge builds in order to push them further and reduce the relative ease that certain weapons and armor provided. Dark Souls 2 brought positives to the combat system, but was plagued by lackluster hitboxes, overzealous latency correction, and the ability to circle strafe enemies to death.
After the jump, how does Bloodborne compare?
As I mentioned in my first entry, the world of Bloodborne moves at a breakneck pace after the slow, player-driven worlds of the Souls games. Enemy groups are larger, mobs are faster and hit harder, and parries have become a practical necessity. Dark Souls featured Estus flasks for healing which could be upgraded to heal more and they were replenished after you rested at each bonfire. In Bloodborne, you heal via the use of blood vials, which are a consumable and have to be farmed from enemies, found in the world, or purchased via blood echoes (experience points in the world of Bloodborne). As if all of these changes weren’t working against the player already, the main source of defense (the shield), has been taken away.
Well, sort of:
Obviously, From Software is having a bit of a giggle at our expense over the popular play styles of the previous games. Gone are the days of the passive run and heal strategy. Here is the in-your-face, tooth-and-nail, addicting combat system. When you take damage in Bloodborne, instead of losing your health immediately, a small indicator begins moving down on your health bar to indicate the damage taken. You then have a few seconds to strike enemies back to regain your health. This system demands aggression from the player, and gives the player a fantastic rush of power. Arguably, this system adds to the difficulty of the game due to the way it can bait the player into being more aggressive than they should in order to get back that health when they should actually back off, resulting in more lost health or death.
The other major change is the addition of “visceral attacks.” Previous Souls games had parries and back stabs which were initiated via a shield or by looping behind an enemy and getting off an attack. Bloodborne has parries, but the window seems tighter, and they are initiated by shooting an enemy with your offhand weapon. This approach leaves you very open to taking damage from enemies as a mis-timed parry can result in you taking an axe to the face. Additionally, Bloodborne requires you to collect quicksilver bullets from enemies which much like the Blood Vials are a non-renewable resource. You can, however, sacrifice health to gain extra bullets. The health sacrificed can be regained by hitting enemies. Should you be so lucky as to land a parry, you can initiate a visceral attack which does massive damage, and is increadibly satisfying. The ideal combo is to then sacrifice health for bullets, parry, and regain all your sacrificed health immediately. The backstab is also completely different in Bloodborne. In order to initiate a backstab you must land a fully charged attack on the rear of an enemy in order to stagger it. This gives you a window to initiate a visceral attack. The changes that have been made lead to a game that is tighter, has a better risk and reward system, and feels far better to play. In fact, it’s downright addicting.
Andrew Kneller is a chemistry graduate student and avid gamer. When he isn’t busy kicking laser tables and trying to teach undergrads, he and his wife play videogames and watch movies together. You can find him on the Quarter to Three forums as TREOS. Check out his Rogue Legacy game diary here.