From the hands-off demo I saw at E3 2014, it's already clear that there's a reason that Bloodborne, the new game from From Software mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki, does not have "Souls" in its name.
There's a very simple explanation for why it's not titled "Dark Souls 3," of course. That franchise is most likely owned by publisher Namco Bandai. But Dark Souls was a spin-off of Demon's Souls, which was itself (like Bloodborne) a collaboration between From Software and Sony. So why not call it Demon's Souls 2? Or "Something Else" Souls?
There's good reason actually: This is Miyazaki and From Software's chance to make some big changes and take bold risks with the proven formula they've mastered. I love all three Souls games for many reasons, but three is a perfect number to stop on — or at least take a break.
With that in mind, I've put together a few thoughts on how I would like to see From Software set Bloodborne apart from what has come before.
No more callbacks
Even in the switch from Demon's Souls to Dark Souls, the subsequent games have relied heavily on callbacks in the fiction, world and monster design to previous entries. How many times can I meet a near-identical crestfallen warrior and still care about his plight?
I'm a vocal defender of Dark Souls 2's hilariously overblown rooftop gargoyle fight, but any more gargoyle boss battles would be a mistake at this point.
Bloodborne is a great opportunity to cut away the fan service and start fresh. It's been cute and clever up to now, but it's just on the verge of becoming overly self-indulgent.
Bloodborne takes place in a new world with a very different atmosphere — full-on 18th-century gothic horror as opposed to fantasy. The tropes we've come to know and love across a trilogy of Souls games seem like they wouldn't fit so well here. Hopefully the game's backstory will differ enough from the Souls norm to drive that point home.
Listen, we all love praising the sun, but maybe it's time to see if From Software can create a new internet meme sensation.
Clean up the stats
I know that esoteric and unexplained mechanics are part of the Souls charm, but I'd love if Bloodborne's leveling up system pared down the number of stats offered and made their function much clearer.
Pop quiz: Can you tell me the difference between vigor, endurance and vitality without looking it up? If the answer is yes, does having that arcane knowledge memorized make the game any better, or just make you feel like you're a part of a semi-exclusive club of hardcore fans?
From Software doesn't necessarily need to simplify these stat choices as much as they need to make it very obvious how each point of improvement helps you. If putting a point into adaptability increases my dodge speed, let me feel that immediately. If there's a stat that exists solely to pump up my hit points, find ways to share the information with the player in a way that instantly makes sense.
I would even settle for less level ups and a lower overall level by the end of the game, if each point increase felt more meaningful.
Offer more choices
I think this will be a controversial opinion, but let me be clear: I don't think From Software needs to create some BioWare-style player-driven narrative full of tons of dialogue and morality choices. But I do think Bloodborne would draw me in even more if there were choices I had to make that I knew would have consequences further down the line.
As it happens, a perfect example of this was shown during the E3 2014 presentation of the game. In the demo, the player (Miyazaki himself, in this case) came upon a situation where a non-player character was being attacked by a group of monsters. He was able to decide whether to help him or leave him to fend for himself.
In the demo, Miyazaki abandoned the poor NPC, but if he had helped him, that character would have showed up later to help Miyazaki take down a boss. That's a perfect example of the kind of great moments of choice that could really hit hard in Bloodborne. It doesn't take you out of the game or slow it down at all, but it has a very clear effect on later events.
Plus how great would it be to check out the online chatter about the game and not just discover items and shortcuts you missed but whole semi-story-driven events based off of choices made or missed as you wandered through a level?
Things need to change
I don't dislike Dark Souls. I hope that's obvious. But that's exactly why I'd love to see some switch-ups to the formula in Bloodborne, especially if it's going to be out next year, so soon after the release of Dark Souls 2.