Back in March of 2015 when FromSoftware launched Bloodborne, the PlayStation 4 had been on the market for less than 18 months. And in terms of exclusive hits, it was a little barren.
This beautiful, punishing game turns three in a few weeks, and the PS4’s library of games has swollen significantly in the interim.
For acolytes of the Souls-Borne series, there is little argument over whether Bloodborne is still the best game that can only be found on the PS4. But is their love for Hidetaka Miyazaki’s gothic masterpiece clouding their judgement? Is there now a new jewel in the PS4’s crown?
Sales Don’t Lie
On paper, Bloodborne should be a game with niche appeal. Its outlandish blend of horror and sci-fi, its graphic violence, its extreme difficulty and its hands-off approach to storytelling seem designed to put off a mainstream audience.
But a quick look at the sales figures shows that almost three million copies of the game have been snapped up since launch. If digital sales were available, this total would no doubt be higher still.
To put that into some context, that’s around the same number of copies as the original Gran Turismo shifted on the PS1. So as far as exclusives go, it’s right up there with the icons of the industry.
Of course sales are relatively meaningless in an age when each year a new Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed game comes out, gets mediocre reviews and still finds its way onto millions of consoles. But when talking about exclusives rather than cross-platform titles, it’s certainly relevant.
Without a doubt the biggest PS4 exclusive to touch down in the wake of Bloodborne is Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. And for plenty of people this will be their favourite game on the system. Even its recent follow-up, The Lost Legacy, was a hit with fans and critics, even if it didn’t manage to innovate much in terms of gameplay.
What the Uncharted series offers that Bloodborne cannot is a coherent, clearly structured narrative. Players are not left wandering around wretched, plague-riddled cities trying to work out where to go next. They are led by the hand through spectacular set pieces that are worthy of the silver screen, yet made all the more engaging for being interactive.
Yet in trying to emulate the cinema, Uncharted 4 could be seen as turning its back on all the unique things that can only be achieved in a video-game.
Letting the player choose the pace of play, allowing them to determine how involved they get in the story, not swamping them with long cutscenes. These are all things Bloodborne does. It embraces its medium, rather than feeling like it is trying to escape it.
Outside of Uncharted, the triple-A competition has been relatively thin on the ground. Until Dawn deserves a mention, as its compelling slasher-flick stylings and branching storyline helped to elevate it well above the average horror game.
The launch of PlayStation VR and the wealth of titles which take advantage of its immersive tech, from driving games to on-rails shooters, have also made an impact in the past year and a half. But the additional hardware investment required does mean that the majority of players are still not able to access these experiences.
The Future Threats
Even if you believe that Bloodborne has yet to be unseated from its gore-slathered throne, it pays to look forwards and consider what upcoming games might have the chops to take it out.
The return of Kratos in the highly anticipated, ambiguously-named God of War is the first sign of trouble on the horizon. The Greek deity-slayer may have calmed down in his old age, but his next adventure is likely to descend into some epic, organ-ripping action at some point. It’s very much encroaching on Bloodborne’s territory.
A bigger threat in the form of The Last Of Us Part II is lurking in the shadows to show gamers why the PS4 is still worth picking over its competitors. The 2013 original was the PS3’s swansong, and while it’s gameplay isn’t exactly aiming for the same audience as the Souls-Borne titles, it has obvious hardcore appeal combined with Naughty Dog’s penchant for a story worthy of Hollywood.
Fear the Old Blood
Bloodborne may be getting long in the tooth, at least by the standards of the fast-paced video-game market. But it is still perhaps the biggest single selling point of the PS4 for fans of Dark Souls, or for anyone with an interest in diving into its perpetually punishing yet undeniably rewarding world.
Many already rank it as a classic, not just compared to other PS4 exclusives but when set against era-defining games of the past. And it will take more than a few over-hyped sequels to dethrone it.