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Bloodborne takes brave steps with its “truly perilous combat”

Thursday, 21st August 2014 16:24 GMT By Patrick Garratt

It’s Souls. But not as you know it. Head in for the gamescom briefing’s every detail.

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“Demon’s Souls already had this extreme difficulty level set, so it wasn’t an easy task for him by any means. He couldn’t really put the bar higher. The difficulty was already at its limit back then.”

It was game of the show without any question, and starred in the only gamescom presentation I sat in last week in which people clapped. Bloodborne stood out for two main reasons: it’s the next game in the Souls series; it looks good enough for you to believe “next generation” is finally going to happen.

These points knock together to make Bloodborne one of the most anticipated games in development, and the visual element is important. “Graphics” has never really been one of Souls strongest points, with the focus instead on witheringly hardcore action-RPG play, but this time fidelity plays a major part.

Producer Masaaki Yamagiwa’s main thrust in the gamescom presentation was something he called “truly perilous combat”. It’s a concept in which any Souls fan is well versed, but the approach this time differs from previous games.

“We’re trying to achieve and deliver this truly perilous combat to the gamers by two methods,” said Yamagiwa, speaking through the translation of Jun Yoshino, Bloodborne’s European producer.

“One is through visual representation. We’ve got new hardware, and PS4 is capable of quite a lot of things we weren’t able to do before. The second one is through brand new game mechanics.”

The Bloodborne team wants you to be constantly on edge.

“We’re not really going for this kind of over-violent horror feel to the game,” Yamagiwa said.

“What we want to do is make the user feel terror at each turn, and once you’re in a combat situation, whatever it may be, that you have a huge sense of relief as well as still maintaining that level of achievement you get from playing something from the Souls series.”

The use of graphics was essential to taking the Souls formula gameplay forward, Yamagiwa said.

“When our game director [Hidetaka Miyazaki - ed] thought about how we can maintain that sense of achievement, and how to build up on that from Demon’s Souls… Demon’s Souls already had this extreme difficulty level set, so it wasn’t an easy task for him by any means. He couldn’t really put the bar higher. The difficulty was already at its limit back then. So with the visual representation, offering a different feel, a unique world and unique enemies, we hoped to build up on that sense of achievement after you play through the game.”

The second combat facet, obviously, is the gameplay itself. From Software showed Bloodborne’s HUD at gamescom for the first time, and there was a lengthy explanation of some of the combat mechanics. I’m just going to give you the entire transcription of this section. There’s a lot of detail, and, well, Souls fans like detail.

“We want to introduce to you our Regain system,” said Yamagiwa, “and this is something that we feel really adds to the sense of terror and perilous combat. You really feel that relief and sense of achievement at every single enemy you face.

“In the Regain system, when you receive damage from enemies you have a very limited time-frame to get that health back by landing your own attacks.

“We offer this other than your more traditional shield block, defense kind of thing. It leads the player into the exchange of deadly blows and really draws the user into the perilous combat that we want to deliver.

“With things like the shield it’s quite obvious that the attack’s going to come in and you time the block with the shield, but with this you’re looking for an opportunity to get your own hit back. If you go in blindly and take multiple hits then you will miss that opportunity to get the health back.

“Visually it’s going to look pretty crazy, but in the midst of the craziness of the battle you still have to keep your cool. You have to watch what your enemies are doing and how many of them there are, what kind of movement that’re doing and really measure your attacks, and really look for the opportunity to get your own hit back. You can’t leave it for too long.

“The HUD was not shown at E3, so today we’re pretty much showing it for the first time.

“As you might imagine, the red gauge along the top is your Health, and the one beneath it is your Stamina, [which dictates] how many movements you can make.

“The gauges should be familiar to everyone, but one thing that sticks out here is that we’ve separated out your Health item, which is this orange phial at the top. We’ve separated that out from your item allotment in the boxes. This is because in the previous titles, people were always occupying at least one slot with the Health item, so we’ve taken that as a given.

“Also, we really want everyone to explore what kind of different items are available and what they do, and how they can be used to everyone’s individual strategy. We want more emphasis on people playing around and seeing what each item does. This is one of the reasons why we separated the Health item and the other items.

“Now the heal item is assigned to your triangle button at all times, and square will be using the items you’ve equipped. One of the examples we can show you now is that you can equip an oil item, chuck the oil at the enemy and then follow with a Molotov cocktail. Instead of throwing the Molotov cocktail straight away, if you use the oil you’ll have added damage.

“Those are the small things that we’ve prepared, just one example, and we really want people to play around with the combination of items.

“Pay close attention to the Health gauge. When you receive an attack it’ll leave a trail of yellow, and that’s an indicator of what you can get back. You can take it back by landing your own hits. You have this white misty effect and that’s the indicator that you’re regaining. As I took multiple hits, the yellow gauge disappeared, so you really have to watch out. You can’t can’t just be running in blindly, or you’re going to end up dead.

“We hope that with this system in place, people aren’t going to be holding back. We want to draw the gamer into this brutal combat.

“We only have a one-on-one encounter there, but you could be faced with multiple enemies, so it’s really up the player to decide when to go for the Regain or just give up on it and heal another time. That’s one of the key strategies that people will be thinking about when they play this game.”

“We touched on the Regain system, and you saw mechanics-wise how it works. When we asked Miyazaki-san, he added his own philosophy which is quite interesting. He has is a very interesting guy, and he has a very interesting way of looking at things. With the Regain system and how the health bar works in this game, he looks at the health gauge not really like health: it’s your power of will to go on, and as that goes down you’re plunging more into despair. As you get hit you can still get your hope back by landing your own attacks, but if you leave it for too long then you’re plunging more and more into despair, so when your health reaches zero that’s complete despair. But until that happens you’re still alive and you can still go on, and you can still get your hope back. He just doesn’t see a health gauge. He sees that, and that’s how it’s implemented in Bloodborne.

“We’re really focusing on the gameplay at gamescom. With the Regain system, with Miyazaki-san’s thoughts behind it, with the new firearms and transforming weapons, we really think that we’re going to deliver a brand new experience to all the gamers out there.”

And that’s the Regain system. Have fun? Next: weapons. Get everything Yamagiwa said on page two.

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