With Dark Souls 3’s release occurring less than a year after Bloodborne’s, it’s worth standing back and viewing these colossal video game giants from a neutral distance. Bloodborne, inserted somewhat awkwardly between Dark Souls 2 and Dark Souls 3, feels now a bit like FromSoftware’s redheaded stepchild. Where does Bloodborne fit in to all of the lore and masochistic gameplay that catapulted Dark Souls into cult fandom? Does it readily compare to Dark Souls 3, the crowning piece to the Dark Souls trilogy? Is Dark Souls 3 made redundant by Bloodborne’s very existence? FromSoftware enthusiasts already know the answers to these questions, but for the rest of us, let’s take a closer look.
If you’ve ever given advice to anyone regarding Dark Souls gameplay, you’ve probably told them that they need to learn how to roll. And roll, roll indeed they did a million times or more during their Dark Souls experience. The gameplay we’ve come to love and expect from the Dark Souls trilogy is epitomized and capitalized perfectly in Dark Souls 3. The final installment of Dark Souls has you focusing ferociously on your stamina and learning how to roll at the perfect time to just miss that vicious swing from the hand of a rotting tree.
In Bloodborne, however, the action is much more quick-paced. Instead of wallowing in miserable exercises in patience as with Dark Souls, bosses and enemies are easier to overcome with fast, swooping attacks. Stamina, while important in Bloodborne as well, is less crippling than it is in Dark Souls 3. Moving from Bloodborne to Dark Souls 3 will certainly give you an advantage in the overall gameplay, but if Bloodborne was your first introduction to these punishing games, then you’ll probably have a bit of a learning curve when you come face-to-face with the slow-burning and impossibly infuriating battles you’ll find in Dark Souls 3.
Bloodborne offers you a rather limited range of weapons when compared to Dark Souls 3. You get three options when you start Bloodborne: a threaded cane, a saw cleaver, and a hunter axe. Each is a “trick” weapon, meaning that it functions as a different type of weapon when you switch it over. Therefore each weapon is technically two, and you also get the option of using two different kinds of gun. There are other weapons available to be uncovered later in the game, but you’re essentially limited to choosing between three different play styles from the very beginning. Granted, the pairings offer you a much faster pace in combat than in Dark Souls 3, but it does force you to focus on what feels more like a preset than a customization.
Dark Souls 3, on the other hand, features a vast array of weaponry right off the bat. Each weapon offers a different style of swing and each forces you to invest literal time and effort into getting used to it. There is also the option of using magical attacks, which further enhances your ability to customize your character and chosen gameplay style. For instance, you can play as a cleric with the ability to cast lightning spears, heal yourself, and still get to decide if you want to play with a shield and a weapon or a heavier two-handed weapon and no shield. And so on.
Both games, however, feature stunning graphics and timeless backdrops. The lore of Bloodborne centers around werewolves and monsters, and you play as an ambiguous “hunter” that seems, at times, to be both predator and prey. The bosses may vary in size and atrociousness but, for the most part, the enemies on Bloodborne seem to follow a general pattern and theme. The scenery, atmosphere, and music are all beautifully done by a team with an immaculate eye for detail. Bloodborne literally makes other games released around the same time that it came out look laughable when compared to the crispness of its graphics and the realism of its panoramas.
Dark Souls 3 likewise does not disappoint, and rather sets the standard for games releasing in 2016. Scenery varies a bit more than Bloodborne’s does, ranging from lily pad-strewn swamps to dragon-inhabited ramparts. Enemies look as good, as grotesque, and as terrifying as they do in Bloodborne. It’s worth playing through both games yourself and then watching a second play-through by a friend or a YouTube channel merely to be able to appreciate all of the painstaking thought and time put into the design.
Buy both. And then go buy the first and second Dark Souls games while you’re at it. While Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3 may each be similar pieces from FromSoftware, they are distinctly different games and each a masterpiece in their own right. Bloodborne conquers the world of werewolves and witches while Dark Souls 3 engages a larger universe of equally haunting characters. Both games defy your patience and test your ability to truly appreciate a difficult challenge. There’s nothing easy about either Bloodborne or Dark Souls 3. However, this uncompromising take on the action roleplaying genre is perfectly complemented by flawless design on every side. FromSoftware, don’t stop what you’re doing anytime soon. And we’re sorry we called Bloodborne a redheaded step-child.