There's a looseness, a fluidity of movement, that marks Bloodborne apart from Hidetaka Miyazaki's previous work with Demon's Souls and the Dark Souls games.
This ought not be taken as a sign of approval or disapproval. It's merely a note on Bloodborne's remit, to move a marker along a rail, away from those previous games' celebrated individuality and difficulty, and towards the outskirts of more recognizable third-person action RPGs, without quite becoming those things.
Playing Bloodborne's Gamescom build at a special event held at Sony's San Mateo, CA, offices yesterday, I understood that this is still the sort of game where progress is earned and victories are won hard, even though the difficulty level had been softened for demo purposes. Miyazaki said at E3 that he would not abandon his interpretation of video games as challenges, and it would be a shame if the relatively straightforward nature of this demo tempted some to doubt his word.
But yes, this is a game designed to be different from those that have come before.
It is a two-handed combat game and, given that the axe is new to me, and that I very much enjoy axes, that was the main weapon I picked. Wielded with the character's right hand, it can lay great damage with a fairly slow arc, or even greater damage with an even slower arc.
Both feel satisfying, but at every single appropriate opportunity, I pressed the L1 button in order to extend the axe from being merely a few feet long, to being as long as a tall man is high. In two-handed mode, that thing has a monstrous arc and, once again, the option to go slow and hard or fast and softer.
I also wielded a pistol in left hand, a ridiculously puny weapon that is best used sparingly in order to push enemies back. In effect, it is a shield.
At one stage, in a desperate fight, I tried to use it as a primary weapon, and rendered pathetic levels of damage to my foe. Other guns may offer more mettle, but it seems likely that this is going to be a game where melee is the master, as is only proper.
There were other range options, such as stones and Molotov cocktails, picked up along the way. Enemies can be targeted by pressing L3, which is a must when facing multiple bad guys at range, and is also useful in melee situations.
These extras, including blood vials to regenerate health, are all part of the game's RPGness, the details of which are not yet available to explore.
Movement is key, whether that be a short and quick step back from an attack, or a series of rolls and jumps, designed to keep multiple strikes at bay. If you find the Dark Souls games to be too murderously challenging, this comparative lightning speed of movement, out of the path of trouble, may feel like a blessing.
Bloodborne, as anyone who has viewed the trailers will know, is a darkly beautiful game. The monsters and zombies that inhabit the cobbled streets of its late-Victorian city are really special, drawn with finesse and grace. Likewise, fog-bound lanes, dripping buildings, elegant bridges and keenly designed skylines are a joy to explore. This feels like a world where the story will be told not so much through dialogue, but through architecture.
From Software's Bloodborne is seeking to widen the appeal of its tough-as-nails combat games, while keeping hard-won fans on-side. So far, progress looks good.