Introduction When comparing Bloodborne and Dark Souls I (orthe other Dark Souls games as well for the matter), one can’t help but see thesimilarities between these two games.
Game play, difficulty and mechanics areso very similar or even the same to some degree after all. And yet, Bloodbornedoesn’t seem like just “Dark Souls but with edgy Victorian aesthetics”. Of course, visuals and plot help with that onthe first glance, but slight tweaks to game mechanics result in a differentgame experience over all. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the role ofthe player character and the specific power fantasy this game offers the playerin comparison to Dark Souls. 1. Plot The story of Bloodborne can be hazy at points, encouragingthe player to fill in the blanks themselves, as stated by Hidetaka Miyazaki,the game’s creator, in an interview with Future Press. However, the generalplot points, even if hidden in items descriptions, are still discernable. The player is a foreigner who has come to Yharnamin search of the so called “Paleblood” to cure an unnamed illness which hasailed the player.
Yharnam, having made a name for itself and flourished inrecent years, is home of an institution called the Healing Church bydistributing a special medical remedy that can cure any illness, referred to asBlood Ministrations. However, as the research into blood healing progressed andthe usage became more widespread within the city, citizens began transforminginto beasts. These creatures, having lost all reason, ravage through the cityand are the cause for the deteriorating state of Yharnam at the beginning of thegame. It is here that the protagonist signs a contractwith a wheelchair bound man, now sworn to serve as a hunter in the city ofYharnam. The newly indoctrinated Hunter is then sent out into the city ofYharnam, set to slay the various beasts that roam the city. But instead ofbeing just one of many hunters throughout the city (much like the player isjust one of many undead trying (or not) to fulfill the prophecy in Dark Souls),the player begins their journey as the one trapped in the Hunter’s Dream,unable to die until the player fulfills the task given to the them by the firsthunter Gehrman.On the other side, Dark Souls spins a tale set ina medieval fantasy world, known as the land of Lordran, as described in the book”You Died: The Dark Souls Companion” by Keza MacDonald.
After four powerfulbeings defeated the immortal dragons, the Age of Fire was ushered in, lettinghumanity prosper. Decades or even millennia later, the landscape of the onceopulent Lordran has changed considerably with demons roaming the surface andhumans dying or turning hollow. As one of the cursed undead, the player beginsthe game locked away in a prison cell until one day a key is dropped in frontof them. The player’s savior Oscar is, like the player themselves, Undead andon the brink of going hollow, losing his humanity in return. But before that,he tells the player of the legend of the Chosen Undead, hoping for the playerto inherit this quest.
With the words: …Thou who art Undead, artchosen… …In thine exodus from the Undead Asylum, maketh pilgrimage to the landof Ancient Lords… …When thou ringeth the Bell of Awakening, the fate of theUndead thou shalt know… (Oscar, Knight of Astora, Dark Souls 1, 2011, figure1) Figure 1 ((n.d.). Retrieved fromhttps://vignette.
wikia.nocookie.net/darksouls/images/7/77/Oscar.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20120424033024) it is now up to the player to take up this questas their lot in life or decide to do whatever else they want to do. There areplenty NPCs along the way who offer other choices and ways to play the game. Inthe end the player decides how they want to bring change upon Lordran. 2.
Narrative Role The YouTuber Digibro comments on the differencein depth in his video, describing the difference of the struggles in thesegames as a defining difference.As a cursed Undead, the options the player hasare plenty. Whether the player chooses to follow Oscar’s request and usher in anew Age of Fire, spend their life searching for scales to give to an ancientdragon until they eventually become one the themselves or, having learned ofthe dangers of linking the fire and become the ruler of a land of darknessinstead, it is up to the protagonist to decide. Whatever the player may choose, the game stays unchangingin the aspect that the player has to keep playing to make this happen. Becauseplaying is the only way for the protagonist to escape going hollow, thedetermination initself to continue on in their journey to keep their humanity is one of thebiggest themes laced throughout the game. And no, not just because of thedifficulty these games are known for. It is the struggle to keep going andbring about change in Lordran which is already way past its prime and on thebrink of extinction.
If the player stops playing, the world of Lordran willsimply stay the same as it is during the beginning of the game, while theplayer’s character presumably goes hollow like the many character the playermeets along the way. In the world of Dark Souls the player characteris continuously remarked on being “one of the many” and overall nothing reallyseparates them from other Undeads roaming the land. Yet, the protagonist issomeone who, while dying and loses countless times, gets up again and again,facing enemies way bigger than them with the odds stacked against them. Theplayer gains satisfaction, while being just one of countless Undead, fromdefeating monsters of divine powered through sheer force of conviction andcourage. Assuming the role of an underdog or, as described by the YouTuberDigibro in his video, “David in front of the hulking Goliath” (see figure 1),Dark Souls in and of itself is a game about persistence against all thechallenges the game (and its world) may throw at the player. Figure 2 ((n.d.).
Retrieved from https://games.mail.ru/pic/pc/gallery/93/44/ac869d06.jpeg) In comparison, in Bloodborne the player startsout as a part of an “elite force” sent to quell the beast scourge and returnYharnam to the status quo from before the Hunt.
As the one trapped in theHunter’s Dream, the player is unable to die, always reviving after succumbingto an enemy until the character has fulfilled the task given to them by the onepulling the strings behind Gehrman; to kill a Great One. Bloodborne doesn’t give the player the samefreedom in choices as in Dark Souls. Because most characters the player canencounter are actively trying to hide the truth of the situation from theplayer, the player can’t do much else than slay beasts and progress throughoutthe city to find the truth themselves. Only in the end can the player evaluatethe situation of the city and decide the ending with finally all information inmind.
The protagonist is, however, the only one who canensure this change in the world of Bloodborne and being put into this positonof power changes the thematic challenges the player has to face compared toDark Souls. As the singular focus of the game right from the beginning, theplayer does not struggle with their journey and the world around them like theUndead, but much rather against themselves, the bloodlust and the desire to notescape the hunt. In conquering one’s own inner darkness lays the answer to thestruggle the protagonist faces and to be eventually able to transcend the hunt. 3. Mechanics and Animation The role the respective characters hold in theirgames can be seen even in non-narrative related settings such as animation,mechanics etc. but especially during fights against bosses.
Fighting in Dark Souls is all about learningabout attack patterns of various enemies to be able to time lifesaving dodgesand parries with their shields, only to carefully strike while the foe’s guardis down. The character takes time to perform an attack, putting their wholeweight into it, staggering back after each swing taken. Considering armorcarefully to match their play style, the combat in Dark Souls conveys how theplayer character is just an Undead, managing to hang on to life throughresilience rather than plot related skill. In Bloodborne however the game developers changedhow the combat is approached with just a few tweaks. Taking the shield away andreplacing it with a gun, timed just right, a blast from at close range can”parry” an enemy mid-attack and give the player an opening to go infor a Visceral Attack. From the beginning the player aims to get in the enemiesface, taking an offensive role with swift and vicious strikes.
The best defenseis good offense in Bloodborne. To compliment the faster-paced combat and keepthe action fast and furious, players can regain some of their lost health ifthey successfully counter-attack against enemies within a certain window oftime. A Hunter never struggles with attacking, swingingtheir weapon around gracefully and navigating the battlefield swiftly. Dodgingtakes up less stamina allowing for mobility in combat much like a master ofbattle. The equippable armor has next to no impact on the players fightingability, with mostly inconsequential stat increases, made more to look coolthan to enhance battle abilities. When fighting in Bloodborne the player feels morelike something the beasts should have feared all along, the true predator amongthem. After emerging victorious in Dark Souls, themessage “Victory Archived” (figure 3) appears on the screen, like winningagainst too many odds staked against the player, while in Bloodborne themessage “Prey slaughtered” (figure 4) flits across the screen.
Because thisvictory is expected of the character inBloodborne, just one kill among many still to come, like there was no other outcome from the beginning. Figure 3 ((n.d.). Retrieved from http://static.comicvine.
com/ uploads/original/11111/111115760/3169834-3072650720-dsv.j.jpg) Figure 4 ((n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.
psnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Bloodborne™_20150321072835.jpg) 4. Conclusion While the gameplay stays basically the samebetween these games, Fromsoftware managed to produce two games that still feelcompletely different.
And while this is aided by the different setting andvisuals, Hidetaka Miyazaki manages to differentiate Bloodborne from Dark Souls ona more personal level. Going from the fantasy story of a land alreadylong past its point of no return and its still somehow hopeful outlook on theplayer’s journey to a Victorian setting of being thrust into a situation notescapable by mortals, Dark Souls and Bloodborne offer two different experiencesin its narrative role of the player and its message. With this Bloodbornebecomes its own game instead of being viewed as just a spin-off to the DarkSouls series with just a different name.With changing not only how the player commencesbattle but also experiences the story, we as the player base get to experienceBloodborne which manages to feel both refreshing in its newness and familiar,inviting both old and new players.