No, it's not a Souls game, technically. But those that have given over significant parts of their gaming lives (and sanity) to Miyazaki's tests of dexterity, intelligence and creative swearing will find themselves right at home here. Bloodborne may be set in a 19th century-style environment, and the main character may have a gun. But from the souls you acquire from fallen enemies to the sound it makes when you do so, from the weight on each swing of a blade to the fog gates, this is the game you know and love.
Boasting a Gothic aesthetic, Bloodborne is set in and around a large town filled with gloomy streets and imposing architecture. The environment on show boasted an impressive level of geometry - buildings loomed far into the distance, enticing players to explore - hinting at it having the same level of intricacy as Miyazaki's previous games. This was demonstrated by a rep (the demo was hands-off, sadly) showing alternate routes through the cobbled streets and the dingy, primitive street lights that illuminate them. Speaking of which, dynamic lighting is present. Exploring certain buildings means that players have to grab a torch, lighting the way.
The town in which the game is set in is called Yhaarnam, and is afflicted with an infection, one that is making the citizens paranoid and turning them rather belligerent. As before, there are different classes of enemies, each with an attack pattern to be identified and neutralised. That Souls combat is present and correct: it's all about controlling your momentum, while using your opponent's against them. Players may have a gun to use, a blunderbuss of sorts, but ammo is scarce and it's not as effective as it first appears.
It's a point that was hammered home in a boss battle against a large, bipedal demon which favoured leaping attacks and looked like a werewolf having a bad hair day. The gun did nothing, and it fell to the Soul Cleaver to take on the grunt work. A weapon that can transform from its original form into a longer, more sword-like instrument, it enables the player to make a choice between fast and weak strikes and slow and powerful ones.
In a lot of ways, Bloodborn reminded me of Resident Evil 4 crossed with Miyazaki's famed hits. Yhaarnam's inhabitants - and their behaviour - have a similar vibe to Resi 4's Ganados: their attire is formal, they have a penchant for wielding torches, and their ranks are closed. Rage is all-encompassing, and they love jumping out and ambushing players.The general look of the game has hints of Mikami's masterpiece, and that is no bad thing. There's even an ogre to fight.
Not everyone you meet is hostile, however. NPCs can be helped, which may come back to help you in the long run.
So far, so good. Bloodborne has the heart of classics past and an interesting new setting, as well as the different yet familiar aesthetic it brings. It's early days, but this is one to keep an eye on.