In games it's always better to show than to tell. Developers can stack their power point displays with as many buzz words and 'gaming pillars' as they like but ultimately until they show the game in action all they're doing is blowing hot air. A decade of shuck and jive has turned players into a wary stack of cynics.
Seriously, do you want to hear about the concept of "Exploration Of The Unknown"? Or about "Truly Perilous Combat"? How about a "Unique Online Concept" - and what the hell does that mean anyway? (Hilariously enough it was something From Software wasn't even prepared to talk about in their Gamecom reveal.)
Fortunately the developer did have a hands-off demo behind closed doors at Gamescom and after all the gaming pillars were bagged and tagged it became clear what Bloodborne is: it's basically Dark Souls for the new generation of consoles. It's clad in Gothic Steampunk trappings, the weapons are new and the protagonist wears a tri-corn hat, but Bloodborne is first and foremost a rock-hard dungeon crawler RPG filled with creatures that are capable of flattening the player the moment they let their guard down.
Like Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, Bloodborne draws players into a world filled with altercations that are capable of wiping them out. The rhythms are the same; players need to take note of the attack animations of the creatures they face, keep an eye on their stamina bar and learn the offensive and defensive controls if they hope to stay alive.
If you try to spam an attack, you will die. If you enter any fight and you give so much as an inch, you will die. Every enemy, no matter how weak or powerful, is capable of killing you. Survival in Bloodborne is a balancing act.
Bloodborne's environment, which looks like Victorian England by way of H.R. Geiger, compliments its action beautifully. This is a world dominated by dimly lit cobbled streets, towering Gothic structures and fog-bleached alleys. A dark, almost unholy atmosphere clings to every street corner and curls around every lit torch. When the monsters leap from the shadows they almost bring with them a sense of heaven-sent release.
They bring with them too, the promise of death and it's here where players need to be aware that there have been some modifications on the Dark Souls template. The first of these is linked with the all-precious health bar. If it's possible to carry a shield in Bloodborne, I saw no evidence of it in the demo. Rather, dual-wielded weapons seem to be the order of the day, so the player hangs onto their lifeblood by doing an awful lot of dodging and countering.
"In Bloodborne, offence is usually the best defence. Players used to cowering behind their shields in Dark Souls will get hurt"
When enemies strike, it's possible for the player to regain their health by countering and delivering a series of blows to their target. For a limited time only, their health bar will refill with each successive strike. If they don't immediately counter, however, they'll lose their health permanently - well, until they find a healing gem.
In other words, in Bloodborne, offence is usually the best defence. Players used to cowering behind their shields in Dark Souls will get hurt in here. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of defensive options, Bloodborne's combat is both more fluid and there's an ease of movement here that wasn't present in From Software's earlier games. It just doesn't feel as stiff.
Players also have the ability to mix things up from their inventory on the fly, which is easy to access and use, fortunately. In the demo at Gamescom, we watched as the blackclad protagonist selected a vial of oil and then a Molotov cocktail. After hurling the former at an oncoming foe, he took a quick step back and tossed the latter, resulting in the creature bursting into flames and turning to a cinder.
We were told, however, that this Molotov cocktail trick isn't a solution to every single encounter. Some items don't work on certain enemies so it's up to the player to try different combinations.
They're encouraged to mix things up in the combat, too. There's room to try out different combinations of dual-wielded weapons; you have the option of light, quick weapons - mixing say, a sword with a blunderbuss - or those that deal heavy attacks at the price of speed.
Players are also able to charge attacks with heavier weapons - much in the same spirit of the charged attacks in Ninja Gaiden II - but they're vulnerable while they're doing this so it's worth getting the timing of any enemies in the vicinity right before they attempt it.
In Bloodborne, if you die, it's usually because you've made a mistake - just like in Dark Souls.