FROM Software aren’t well-known for easy games.
While they have developed their largest franchise Armored Core since 1997, and worked on other titles under their brand such as King’s Field (while also lending a hand to the Tenchu franchise), it was their exclusive 2009 title Demon’s Soul that finalised the coating on the ‘household’ name that is now FROM Software.
Exclusive to the Playstation 3, Demon’s Soul had a ruthless difficulty level, wicked learning curve and frustrating gameplay-style to it that was like the irritating scratch you could never reach.
But on the other-side of this was a rewarding game that produced a deeper experience to it, along with a combat system that was brilliant and easy to use, and an online component that took what felt like a lonely adventure to being something innovative and communal.
They continued this with their multi-platform series Dark Souls, but have now brought it back home with the Playstation 4 exclusive title Bloodbourne.
Directed by original Demon and Dark Souls director Hidetaka Miyazaki, the spiritual successor Bloodbourne places players in the shoes of a traveller exploring the town of Yharnam.
Rumoured to house a potent miracle remedy, you soon find that the town is ruined and its denizens have been plagued by an endemic illness that has transformed them into bestial creatures.
Myself and others were invited along to join Playstation NZ and NZGamer for a night to hunt your nightmares.
Welcomed on to the scene with Bloodborne Marys and ‘Straight Out Of Hell’ Pizza from Hell Pizza, we were greeted with a short message from producer Masaaki Yamagiwa who hoped we would enjoy the time we got to have with the game.
Entering a small showroom tinted in red, the ambiance matched what was coming for us in the game.
With the choice of four different load-outs, we had the chance to take our traveller through a level of Yharnam and face what FROM Software was known for.
Starting with what the game called it’s ‘Standard’ load-out, the character I selected wielded a cleaver and blunderbuss.
While the combat retains the style set by the Souls series, a new feature is that the melee weapon now has a secondary mode. The cleaver and blunderbuss together allow you to ‘zone’ attacking characters, so that once they’ve come into close-quarters, the shorter cleaver will allow for high damage in cramped spaces.
But as you see, I say “shorter cleaver”.
With a tap of L1, the cleaver will fold out and become a longer weapon, extending outwards for better crowd control, with its wider sweeping arc that can clear out multiple enemies.
Each class I played as, one’s with pistols or hammers, had their own variety of play. With a pistol that supported an Ax that with the tap of L1 became a Pollaxe, to a short dagger that is then dual-wielded allowing you to streak through foes with speed, the game offers players the opportunity to do it heavy and fast.
FROM Software wanted to make the combat more fast-paced, which would force a more offensive approach from players. In the Souls series, it was more rewarding to play on defence. To encourage this, health can be regained within a small window by striking back at the player’s attacker, and you find yourself attempting to do this at every chance you have.
Like its spiritual predecessors, health will be sparse and taken quickly if you’re not careful and with larger groups of enemies to deal with, you will die and often.
With the time I had with the game, I wanted more because it did everything I loved about Souls, but with a prettier face and guns. Evading these new enemies while zoning them with a long-range weapon, and then clearing them out with a transformed melee weapon was addictive and had that glow of ‘frustrating-fun’ that I have come to love from this game and it’s predecessors.