I am absolutely loving Bloodborne! But now that I've already thrown heaps of praise at it in my review, I thought I'd take a bit of time to provide some constructive criticism. As much as I love the game, it does still have flaws and annoyances. With the load screen complaints being addressed via a patch that made them shorter and gave players something to read, there aren't many major flaws left in the game. Most of what remains are fairly nitpicky and trivial, and none of them are game-breaking by any stretch.
This post may contain explicit complaints and suggestions about mid and late-game levels, story, bosses, and items that could be considered spoilers if you haven't played that far into the game. Consider yourself warned...
Provide insight for reading lore documents
It would make sense for reading
lore documents to provide insight.
Before I get into suggestions for fixing things that I see as gameplay flaws, my first suggestion is going to be more of a thematic suggestion.
I think that reading the various lore notes scattered throughout the game should provide insight to the character. This provides incentive to read the documents (even on repeat playthroughs), and rewards players who actively explore the game's lore.
It also makes sense within the internal context of the game world, since reading the document does provide the character with insight into the world and its history. The character (in addition to the player) is learning something about the world, and so that should be mechanically enforced with the receipt of insight. In fact, I would even propose that reading the notes could even provide two insight.
If this suggestion were to be implemented, then I can definitely see a need to relocate the first lore documents to somewhere only accessible after waking up the doll. That way, players don't receive insight prior to encountering a boss. I think only two notes would need to be moved: the one in Iosefka's Clinic at the start of the game, and maybe the one in the dark house in Central Yharnam. Or they could just be exceptions to the rule and don't provide insight.
Why award multiple trophies for effectively the same accomplishment?
This second suggestion is also a pretty trivial, superficial one, since it's about PSN trophies (so who cares?). It's also extremely unlikely to change, since I doubt FromSoft will remove trophies from the game (especially ones that players have already achieved).
But there are a few instances in the game in which the player receives one PSN trophy for defeating a boss, and then immediately receives a second PSN trophy for acquiring the item that the same boss automatically drops after it is killed. It's effectively two trophies for the same accomplishment: beating the respective boss. This happens with the chalices that are awarded after defeating the Blood-Starved Beast, Amygdala, and Ebrietas bosses.
2-for-1 Bloodborne trophies! There are a few instances in which you get a trophy for beating a boss,
and then immediately get another trophy for acquiring the item that the boss automatically drops.
For a game that prides itself in being difficult and for forcing the player to really have to earn your accomplishments, giving away redundant trophies seems a bit weird. Perhaps these chalices were originally intended to be hidden somewhere else in the game, and so finding them would be more of an independent achievement. FromSoft may have then decided to attach them to certain bosses in order to ensure that players found them (or to enforce some element of game lore), but never removed the trophies that they triggered.
It's not a big deal, and I'm not going to lose any sleep if it doesn't change. I just thought that it was a weird design decision (especially from this particular developer), and I wanted to point it out.
Now let's move onto complaints and suggestions with a little more merit...
Balance out Blood Vial and Bullet drops
With the load screens problems resolved, I only really have one major remaining gripe with the game: having to go back and grind for Blood Vials and Quicksilver Bullets. Both of these items can be depleted pretty quickly if you suffer several repeat deaths to a boss or particularly hard level. This isn't much of a problem early in the game because the enemies of Yharnam drop vials and bullets pretty regularly. If you keep dying this early in the game, then you're going to be grinding through these areas anyway. But by about the time you get to Old Yharnam and Cathedral Ward, the vial and / or bullet drops will start to dry up. Repeat deaths to bosses in those areas could result in you needing to go all the way back to Yharnam.
Good luck getting through the respawning mobs of Yahar'gul [LEFT] or the poison and frenzy
of Nightmare of Mensis [RIGHT] without having to go back and grind for supplies.
Other areas later in the game - like Yahar'gul - can seem almost completely devoid of vial and bullet drops. And if you're anything like me, then you'll suffer a ton of deaths at the hands of Yahar'gul's respawning mobs or the hunters in the chapel. And when your bullet or vial supply dries up, it's back to Yharnam or the Forbidden Woods - both of which might be painfully tedious to run through if you're over-leveled.
At the very least, you can try to make the time more constructive by ringing your Small Resonant Bell in order to help other beckoners and gain insight while you grind. Alternatively, you can always just re-generate Chalice Dungeons and farm them. These dungeons can get pretty hard after a while though, and you may end up with the same problem of being over-leveled. Even though the varying arrangement of the dungeons means you won't be rote repeating the same level, the early Chalice Dungeons will still be very easy and boring to go through.
Ideally, the player should be free to keep banging our heads against a boss indefinitely, and we shouldn't be forced to stop and grind unless we want to. I doubt that FromSoft will make blood vials automatically refill to max every time you load a level. And I'm not really sure if I would want that either. So with the game's current mechanics, I think the best resolution to this would be for FromSoft to rebalance enemy drops so that vials and bullets will be dropped a little more frequently in areas that currently lack them. I'm not saying that every enemy in every level should be dropping a vial or bullet, but running through any given level should provide at least a handful of vial or bullet drops.
You can only see your stock of Blood Vials
or bullets from within the Hunter's Dream.
And while we're on the topic of Blood Vials and Quicksilver Bullets, I would also like to suggest that FromSoft add a place in the in-game inventory that shows how many vials and bullets you have stashed away in the Hunter's Dream stockpile. Every other item shows this number next to the count of how many are held. But vials and bullets do not because they don't appear in the in-game inventory at all. The only places to see your current stock of vials and bullets is from the messenger shop or the stockpile wardrobe itself - both of which are only in the Hunter's Dream.
Add a piece of equipment or upgrade that provides Blood Vials from Visceral attacks
I'm not aware of such an item currently existing, but something that could be helpful would be for the devs to add a weapon, blood gem, rune, or other piece of equipment that allows the player to earn Blood Vials from visceral attacks. This would guarantee that players would have the ability to acquire a steady stream of Blood Vials, even in levels that don't provide a lot of them.
Having a specific weapon that has this functionality could make sense. The weapon could be a rigged medical examination tool that drains blood from enemies into vials. Another option would be for a "personal affect" item that provides this ability when equipped to your personal affects inventory (the inventory that is mapped to the controller's touchpad). Lastly, this ability could be part of a special "labcoat" clothing that is equipped on the body. Such a coat could be described as having pockets to store vials that are easily-accessible for quick filling. These options may not be the best choices, since these items might be able to be exploited since they can be equipped or un-equipped whilly nilly.
A rune or blood gem with this effect is probably the best option. You can only equip or un-equip it at the Workshop, and you would be required to sacrifice some other bonus to your character in order to equip this powerful ability. There are already runes and blood gems that boost visceral attack damage, regain, and that provide extra Blood Vial carrying capacity, so I don't think this extra functionality would be unprecedented.
Improve enemy A.I. against exploits
It probably doesn't take new players long to start finding exploits to defeat certain enemies by putting themselves in positions where they can attack an enemy with little or no risk. The very first level allows a nearly obvious trick against two of its most challenging enemies: the bridge warewolves. These enemies can become stuck in the doorway leading into the dark house. The player can then stand inside the house and throw consumables at the wolves, use long-range weapons, or hit-and-run until the wolves are dead with virtually no risk.
This problem perseveres throughout the game, with many large enemies that can get stuck in doorways, tunnels, or other environmental obstructions. Pathfinding has been a problem with the A.I. since Demon's Souls, and Bloodborne doesn't seem to have fixed any of the issues. A.I.s in other game can often be smart enough to realize that they are stuck and find an alternate route, so I know this isn't an intractable problem in gaming.
These warewolves can be easily trapped in this doorway, and they never recognize that they can't get to you.
Perhaps the developers leave these sorts of things in the game in order to throw players a bit of a bone. But I would prefer that such exploits would be removed. It shouldn't be hard for the A.I. to recognize that it cannot pass through a doorway or other obstacle. And once they make that recognition, it shouldn't be hard for them to either retreat back to their spawn point, or attempt to find another route. While this might open the A.I. up to "bait and retreat" tactics, it at least forces the player out of his or her relative safety, and is preferable to the current behavior.
Equally enforce grab escapes
Bloodborne has a little-known feature that allows the player to escape from certain grab attacks. It's not documented in the game anywhere, so most players probably aren't aware of it. Sources also disagree about which buttons work best (some say alternating R2 / L2 is best; others say you can mash X or O).
I am in the habit of mashing the circle button when I'm grabbed. It's kind of an instinctive reaction since that button is a dedicated evasive button. I've been doing it since Demon's Souls, but with no avail. I wasn't even aware that Dark Souls allowed the player to escape from grabs, and it always irritated me. So it's nice to finally know that it's possible (and how to do it).
But there is also disagreement about which enemies and which attacks this even works against. It definitely works against Brainsuckers, but it may not work on bosses, or on certain enemies like the knife-wielding witch women (Eye Collectors) or the Chalice dungeon slimes that drop onto you from the ceiling. From my experience, the grab-escape technique is completely ineffectual against slimes, and I've yet to see examples of it successfully work against grabby bosses or the eye collectors.
Slimes, Eye Collectors, Executioners, and some bosses have annoying grab attacks,
but you can only escape from some of them. Why?
Since the mechanic is in the game, it should be equally enforced for all grabs. It makes no sense for an enemy grab attack to have multiple "hits" if there is no way for the player to escape or reduce damage from the subsequent hits.
In addition, it might be nice if beckoned allies could actually interrupts enemy grabs. So if one player in a co-op session is grabbed (by an enemy or boss), then another player should be able to hit the boss with a charge attack or something in order to interrupt the grab. This could potentially cause the boss to drop the grabbed player and reduce the damage they would have caused.
Such an interrupt might make it too easy to avoid the dangerous grabs of many bosses, and so it might not be a good idea. But I still want to throw it out to the community and developers in case a good way can be found to balance it. Being able to neutralize bosses' most devastating attacks would certainly provide incentive to beckon allies!
Make the Chalice Dungeons more relevant to the main game
One of the biggest disappointments [to me] regarding the Chalice Dungeons is that they are completely optional. The player is never required to perform the ritual, enter, or clear any of the chalice dungeons. Their rewards are mostly self-serving, since the bulk of the loot that you'll receive is the ritual materials and chalices necessary to unlock other chalice dungeons. They also provide some consumables and variations of the standard weapons that can be found in the main game.
While I don't necessarily want the chalice dungeons to be required (because that could get very tedious), it would be nice if they had some greater relevance to the main game and if there were more incentive to explore them. It's not necessarily important for FromSoft to hide some critical item in the chalice dungeons, nor should they arbitrarily require that the player complete some number of chalice dungeons in order to beat the game. But there are other ways that the chalice dungeons could be made more important.
- Add NPC(s) that can appear in the chalice dungeons and have a questline that progresses through multiple dungeons.
- Add additional lore messages that explain history of the world, the Old Ones, The Hunt, and so on. This is especially worthwhile if reading these messages would provide insight, as I suggested above.
- Add unique weapons and armor sets that can only be obtained from chalice dungeons (instead of just the "uncanny" variants of existing weapons).
- Scatter a set of key items that, when all are collected, unlocks some secret in the main game world.
- Include an additional game ending that requires the completion of the chalice dungeons.
The Chalice Dungeons, having been sealed off ages ago, could have been a ripe opportunity for uncovering game lore.
Several (or all) of the above items could even be rolled into a chalice quest line that would further flesh out the game's backstory and add additional information to the world history. It could be similar to the Artorias of the Abyss DLC that was added to Dark Souls. Since the labyrinths were supposedly sealed and lost ages ago, they could be littered with undisturbed and uncensored relics and information about the early days of the Healing Church and The Hunt. So there is plenty of potential for exploring them to tie into the main game's story.
Make the Shining Coins more useful
Shining Coins are next to useless, and I rarely use them in the main game except to occasionally drop down pits to find out if they have a bottom. They're not particularly effective for this purpose though because they easily glitch and float in midair. So, proper gravity, collision-detection, and a sound when Shining Coins they hit the ground would all go a long way in making the item actually useful for one of its obvious purposes.
Shining Coins float in mid-air, making them mostly useless for bottomless-pit-detection.
The primary purpose of the coins is supposed to be as bread crumbs to help navigate mazes. There's only a few places in the main game world where they are even remotely necessary, since it's easy enough to navigate by landmarks. In Chalice dungeons, however, so much of the scenery is repetitive. Even if a room doesn't repeat within a single dungeon (but sometimes, they do), you see the same rooms repeated enough between different dungeons that it can be easy to forget which version of the room you're in, and whether you've been through a certain door. So I use the coins to mark which doors or paths I've already taken.
But even for this purpose, the coins are minimally useful. They can easily get lost in the geometry of the environment, rendering them invisible from most angles.
More importantly, they disappear after you die or leave the area! I know this suggestion is starting to break some of the game's core design philosophies, I want to propose the idea of Shining Coins persisting if the player leaves the area, and maybe even if the player dies. This would make it easier to find your way back to where you died in order to retrieve your Blood Echoes.
Competent NPC cooperators
There's only two bosses in the game (that I'm aware of) that allow NPC characters to be beckoned as cooperators. They aren't really worth wasting your insight to beckon. The surviveability of these NPCs is so low, and they end up being liabilities rather than assets. At best, they serve as temporary distractions. At worst, they can actually interfere with your attempts to defeat the boss. If they're going to be this bad, then they might as well not even be in the game.
I'm not asking for the NPCs to be able to single-handedly take on the bosses (like some of the NPCs in Dark Souls could, but if I have to spend the same point of insight for an NPC that I have to spend to beckon a fellow player, then those NPCs need to be worth something!
The NPC cooperators generally have decent HP, but they don't seem to do any damage to the bosses, and generally just stand in front of the boss acting as a punching bag until they die. They have virtually no sense of self-preservation. And they can even be a liability by interfering with your ability to stun an enemy and make critical attacks.
In fact, this last bit is the most irritating thing about the NPC cooperators. They can only be summoned for the Cleric Beast and Blood-Starved Beast. Both of these bosses can be stunned with guns and then attacked with critical hits. That is, unless you brought an NPC with you. Even if you successfully stun the boss, your NPC cooperator will likely attack the boss and interrupt your opportunity for the critical hit. And even if the NPC stuns the boss with its own gun, it won't follow up with its own attempt at a critical hit.
The NPCs should be able to do small amounts of damage. They should also be smart enough to notice that the boss has been stunned, and then either attempt to make a critical hit, or back off and allow the player to make the critical hit. I'm fine with the latter in order to keep the boss challenging.
In addition to his attacks apparently having no effect on the boss [LEFT], Alfred also routinely interrupts the Blood-Starved Beast's stuns before I can make my own attack [RIGHT]. This NPC is more of a liability than a help.
It would also be nice if beckoning the NPC doesn't require you to be standing on their messenger note prior to ringing the bell. Often, beckoning these NPCs is a last resort after I've failed to beckon an actual player. If I ring my beckoning bell at the start of the level, and then fail to get a cooperator to join my game on the way to the boss, I shouldn't have to use the Silencing Blank to cancel the bell and then spend another insight to beckon the NPC at his summon location. Perhaps just standing at the NPC's beckoning location for a moment, or reading the message, should be sufficient if you've already rung your bell. Or the insight shouldn't be expended unless someone actually joins your game. The NPCs aren't worth a single insight to beckon, so I definitely feel like I'm being robbed when I spend two insight to beckon them!
And what's the deal with the Blood-Starved Beast, anyway?
While we're on the topic of Alfred and the Blood-Starved Beast fight, I have some gripes with that boss in general. The Blood-Starved Beast has very jittery movement and frequently seems to teleport from one end of the chapel to the other (even through the pillars). I'm not sure if this is a glitch or intended behavior.
At first, I thought it was some kind of symptom of network lag, but I've played offline and seen the same behavior. It seems that the enemy is designed to be very quick, agile, and erratic in its movements and behavior, but it still seems glitchy. It's frequent jittery "jumps" are so quick that they seem to be teleports, and when it does these actions, it can often move directly through pillars. I also see it often jump into the wall of the chapel, sometimes even getting temporarily stuck until it "jumps" again. Moving through walls and getting stuck seem to be symptoms of glitches in the boss's movement.
Providing clearer directions from NPCs
It's probably too late to re-record dialogue, but some of the NPC dialogue could be rewritten to make directions easier to understand and follow. Gehrman and Gilbert are good examples.
At the first checkpoint lamp, Gilbert (through the window) tells you:
"...But the great bridge is the only way to the Cathedral Ward. And during the hunt, the bridge is closed...
Hmm... You could try the aqueduct? There's a rather, how shall I put it, colorful area south of the great bridge. From there, an aqueduct leads to the Cathedral Ward."
There's two problems with these instructions from a player-perspective:
- It implies that the bridge is a dead-end, and so the player probably doesn't want to waste time exploring it, even though going there and encountering the Cleric Beast gives you the insight necessary to start leveling up at the Hunter's Dream.
- He tells you to go "south" of the great bridge to find the aqueduct. Well we don't have a compass or any idea which direction is which. So how do we know which way is south?
Another confusing instruction comes after clearing Old Yharnam and defeating the Blood-Starved Beast. Gehrman has some ambiguous and confusing instructions:
"The Healing Church, and the Blood Ministers who belong to it...were once guardians of the hunters, in the times of the hunter...Ludwig.
They worked, and forged weapons, in their unique workshop. Today, most ministers don't recall the hunters. And so, heed the message of your forebears. Ascend to Oedon Chapel."
Did I ascend the right Oedon Chapel?
The problem is that when you get to the top of the tower, you find a locked door. Dead end. And there's no indication of what needs to be done to unlock it. So you might be left wondering where you are supposed to go now.
This can be especially problematic if you have already defeated Vicar Amelia but have not yet found the Tonsil Stone. If that is the case, then all paths available might seem like dead ends, and there isn't any real pressure to talk to any of the "red lamp" NPCs. Your only lead is to "Ascend to Oedon Chapel.", which is a red herring.
On a related note, it would also be helpful if the player were somehow notified that certain doors are unlocked after you reach certain milestones. The best example of this is the door leading from the Cathedral Ward lantern to the Old Workshop after beating Blood-Starved Beast.
As far as I know, there is never any indication that defeating the Blood-Starved Beast would open that door. After beating the beast, you're not given any kind of key that says "unlocks a door in the Oedon Chapel". Nor is there any kind of cutsene that shows that the door has been opened. The only thing that you're given is the first chalice, which implies that going through a chalice dungeon is the next step in progressing the game (which is not true because the chalice dungeons are never required to beat the game).
This whole Old Yharnam / Old Workshop / Upper Cathedral Ward area is kind of a weird red herring in the game. It seems like it's a critical path in the game because you're told to go there, but it really isn't necessary. Without the player being pushed in any of the other directions, the player could start wondering what they are missing, and why they can't unlock this door. All this confusion could be alleviated if the game just provided slightly better direction to the player.