Why Bloodborne is Better Than Dark Souls - VRGyani News and Media

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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Why Bloodborne is Better Than Dark Souls

Demon’s Souls may have been the first official title in the collection of games most often referred to as ‘Soulsborne,’ yet it is often Dark Souls that is credited with catapulting the series into the gaming mainstream. With an interconnected Metroidvania-style of world traversal, combined with a satisfying combat system that masterfully straddles the line between frustration and triumph, Dark Souls is nothing short of an icon in gaming. Nostalgia factor aside, the first half of Dark Souls is still one of the most tightly paced, well-constructed examples of game design that holds up even a full decade after its release. And yet, there’s another game that takes the essence of what makes the Soulsborne games great and distills it to its purest form. A game that contains such brilliance it managed to flip the formula of From Software’s games on its head while still maintaining the pure ‘feel’ of a Souls game. That game is Bloodborne, and even among its highly decorated brethren, it manages to rise above them all.

One of the foremost things Bloodborne does to differentiate itself from the rest of the Souls games is so brilliant that it borders on insanity, considering the roots from which it was borne (pun very much intended). In Bloodborne, From Software removed an element that many would consider integral to the Souls games up to that point: the shield. Yes, in Bloodborne there is no shielding option, with the offhand option being replaced by a gun used for parrying. Well, there is a single wooden shield that can be found in-game. But considering how relatively late it is discovered and its lackluster combat application, it serves to be more of a tongue-in-cheek joke than a genuinely useful item. And removing the shielding option may seem minor, but its significance requires a look back at where the series began.

In the early Souls games, death and failure were hammered into the player as an inevitability. Demon’s Souls required the player to be literally stomped by a demon before being sent to the hub world of the nexus. In Dark Souls, most players will experience their first death at the hands of the Asylum Demon, having only a broken sword to defend themselves the first time they meet the business end of its club. There’s a reason why “Prepare to Die” was the tagline for the majority of Dark Souls’ marketing. The game built its reputation on the idea that dying over and over was something players were just going to have to get used to. And this works for Dark Souls, as the game’s story revolves around Undead slowly losing their minds after dying over and over again. Combine that with a litany of traps, mimics, and hidden enemies, and you have a game that seems deliberately opposed to the player’s very existence. However, when the player is reminded persistently that they should be wary of each individual step they take, it does have an effect on how players are encouraged to approach the game. When death is so close at hand at all times, it tends to push players towards a playstyle that is more cautious than anything else: slowly inching forward, shield always at the ready to react to surprise threats that may jump out at them. And given how easy it is to stagger enemies by baiting them into attacking your shield, waiting for enemies to make the first move and capitalizing on it becomes one of the most effective strategies for proceeding. But there’s a keyword in that strategy: waiting. Based on how the game conditions players to constantly fear death and the dangers that lurk around every corner, players are heavily encouraged to play in a way that values risk-aversion above all else; to be ‘reactive’ rather than ‘proactive’. And that’s a fine way to play, as there is a certain satisfaction to donning a heavy suit of armor and simply being an immovable wall of iron. However, it does passively discourage players from taking risks and playing the game in a more proactive manner.

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Bloodborne also makes a subtle change to dodging that further encourages this sense of player empowerment. In Dark Souls, pressing the ‘dodge’ button would cause players to do a roll, allowing them to avoid attacks. However, if your equipment was too heavy, the roll would be much slower and travel a shorter distance. You would have to make a choice between forgoing a greater amount of defense for mobility. In Bloodborne, if you are locked onto an enemy, pressing dodge will cause your hunter to execute a nimble dash instead, swerving around the blow and creating an opening to attack. Equipment load is also non-existent, meaning that no matter what weapons or armor you equip you’ll always have the fastest dodge possible. Even from the start of the game, players are shown that they are infinitely more agile than the majority of enemies. And the recovery frames are short enough that dodging opens up an instant opportunity to counter-attack. Now, one could make the argument that waiting for an enemy to attack so you can dodge is the same thing as waiting for them to stagger themselves against your shield. But the difference is that blocking is an inherently passive action. Dodging is a mechanic that forces the player to respond to the enemy attack, rather than simply waiting for it to happen. This is infinitely more engaging than sitting behind a wall of defense. And by removing the shielding option altogether, the game forces players to get used to the idea of bobbing and weaving their way through each enemy encounter. Immobile hunters do not last long on the streets of Yharnam.

There’s also another mechanic Bloodborne uses to help condition players to embrace this new playstyle, and that’s the Rally system. When their hunter takes damage, players will have a brief opportunity to recover their missing health by attacking an enemy, allowing them an opportunity to literally take their health back. This creates an additional level of decision-making every time you take damage, weighing one’s options of continuing to press the attack versus falling back to heal. Interestingly, this mechanic also works on corpses, meaning that if you kill an enemy before regaining the health you just lost, you can keep swinging away at their ragdoll body to take back your health. Not only does this provide yet another incentive for players to prioritize offense or defense, but it ties in thematically with the idea of your hunter losing themselves to the bloodlust of the hunt. Even the title ‘hunter’ serves to instill a sense of confidence in the player. No longer are players a lost soul inching their way forward through a dilapidated, crumbling world. In Bloodborne, they are nothing short of warriors uniquely endowed with abilities and weapons to strike back against creatures that defy understanding. As players continue to engage the beasts in combat, their outfit becomes gradually splattered with more and more blood, until they are essentially bathing in the blood of their enemies. In Dark Souls, defeating a boss would be followed with the message ‘Victory Achieved’. Bloodborne’s post-battle affirmation is decidedly more aggressive: Prey Slaughtered. Every aspect of Bloodborne is designed to give players a greater feeling of autonomy and control over their experience.

To be as unambiguous as possible, Dark Souls is still a masterpiece. Its success gave birth to an entire genre of games, each chasing the success of the first one to really nail the concept. Bloodborne does not exist without Dark Souls, and respect should be put on the name. However, Bloodborne refines and reimagines the concepts of what made Dark Souls great to the point that in a number of ways, it manages to surpass even the flagship game that put From Software on the map. From its very first moments, Bloodborne demands a level of engagement to an even greater degree than Dark Souls. And rather than scare players away, most are quick to acquiesce to the game’s request. Those who take the plunge are rewarded with an experience that pulls you into its bloodsoaked nightmare and drowns you in its atmosphere. Dark Souls is a masterpiece, but Bloodborne is perfection.

KEEP READING: Why the 'Soulsborne' Games Should Consider an Easy Mode



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