It is said that Alexander wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer. It’s how I’ve flushed Elden Ring of all meaningful challenges, cleared its lands of all notable bosses, invaded countless strangers, and completed most NPC quests (grizzly or otherwise). I’m done with Elden Ring, which is a problem because I still really want to play Elden Ring.
Instead of starting a new Elden Ring character and trying out new builds, I left The Lands Between to get my FromSoftware fix somewhere else. But instead of finally finishing Dark Souls 1 or trying my hand at Sekiro, I took a trip to Yharnam – which is a problem, because (save a fan made demake) Bloodborne never came to PC, did it?
As I don’t own a PlayStation (or TV), and it’s somewhat impossible to travel to England to pick up a save on which I started (PC Gamer contributor) Sam Greer’s console six years ago I played Bloodborne through Sony’s much-derided PSNow streaming service. This isn’t what I would call an optimal way to play Bloodborne – a game that takes place entirely at night and on fire, both things famous in video streaming love treat with.
And yet, it is never unplayable. Input latency was always good and didn’t stop me from doing a Vicar Amelia and Darkbeast Paarl one-shot. Screen tearing and visual artifacts are an occasional pain, and the low resolution isn’t fantastic, but it’s still readable. Hell, you could even argue that there’s some thematic flavor to playing Bloodborne on the digital equivalent of a knockout VHS tape, a gory horror movie picked from the shelves of a charity shop.
I started this as a nice curiosity. An experiment to see what game streaming looks like these days, but not something I would actually put up with for running a full game. Every time I’ve returned Elden Ring natively, I remember what it’s like to run a FromSoftware game at crisp 1440p resolution and (mostly) smooth 60fps. And yet, after a few minutes, I find myself in Yharnam, slicing werewolves to what could generously be described as “usable” visual quality.
Of course, part of that is that I spent over 150 hours in one of those games while the other is still new. But part of it is also that Bloodborne’s meager and average serving is a welcome respite from feasting on Elden Ring’s extensive buffet.
The hunter’s workshop
Let me clarify though: this is not, as I often want to write, a “new thing isn’t as good as the old thing I like” feature. The open world of Elden Ring is a wondrous and complex beast. An absolute escalation of the knotted and layered world design that has defined FromSoftware for over a decade, has reached the scale of Skyrim.
Moreover, the world of Elden Ring may be rotten and corrupt, but from its golden skies and autumnal fields to lazily grazing flocks of sheep, it’s not a world beyond recovery. Even as old demigods devour corpses and plan on the husks of ancient realms, Elden Ring feels heroic, pulpy adventure in a way Souls never was.
But Elden Ring can be so much all the time that it can be completely overwhelming. It contains within it all of the Dark Souls, and more – a thousand different weapons to master and spells to learn. There’s a dizzying list of bosses to face, all of which can be approached too soon or too late, and with so many tools at your disposal, you might just smash half of them with an infinite mana beam laser. .
Hell, you can even equip Bloodhound’s Step and Malenia’s Great Rune and play Elden Ring as a counterfeit Bloodborne – rushing recklessly and recovering lost health.
But Bloodborne knows exactly how it wants you to play. A hunter has a range of weapons to choose from (saw blades, axes, electrified staves, and small swords hidden inside large swords), but they’ll always end up being aggressive, nasty little rogues – Bloodborne has no simply no equivalent to a large shield tank or full caster.
It’s not as absolutely prescriptive as Sekiro – there’s still room to experiment if you want, and some of Bloodborne’s weapons get really weird. But in Souls and Elden Ring, you can choose the type of fighter you want to be from a banquet of lethal options. Bloodborne makes that decision for you.
Because of this, the game can be much more specific in the skills its bosses want to test. He knows that most players have access to a pistol, so parries and viscerals become crucial elements of combat. Its villains are more aggressive than anything in Souls, but it encourages you to be just as brutal with a ‘rally’ system to restore lost health by fighting back.
This singularity of character also extends to the world itself. From autumnal towns to subterranean caverns lit under their own sky, Elden Ring has some of my favorite places in FromSoftware’s catalog. These areas also often connect in surprising ways, echoing the feeling of finding a nifty Firelink shortcut to the Burg Undead. But since all but the newest regions can be reached at any time, they often feel a bit isolated from the wider world. With Bloodborne, however, I can experience a close examination of a town well on its way to hell.
Yharnam is an Edinburgh-like puzzle box of a place, a city with a history and a presence and the kind of interlocking civic design that only happens when your planner is Hidetaka Miyazaki. It’s a town already losing its mind by the time you show up, where the strangers you meet through steamy windows change from somewhat dismissive to voracious, cackling beasts as the night wears on.
Over the course of the night, Yharnam itself also changes, with the sunset and the neighborhoods providing new context as you unlock the game’s weirdest secrets. endgame, a seismic overhaul that comes too late to fully explore.
Elden Ring gives you the outline of a mythological continent through the ages. Bloodborne is the scariest bad night in town.
I realize I’m catastrophically late to the party on Bloodborne, a game that turns eight this year. And as mentioned, I’m not trying to drive a wedge between the two games – I’ve, after all, spent over 150 hours in Elden Ring largely because the open world means you can just exist in its world in a way Souls games have never allowed.
But Bloodborne is a callback to what FromSoftware has traded in the open world. And from its faster, more aggressive combat to a world that feels absolutely brimming with both gothic and eldritch vibes, it’s a reminder of just how far the studio can go when it decides to pour all of its energy into a specific vibe.
After experiencing the overwhelming breadth of what Elden Ring has to offer, Bloodborne feels like a palette cleanser. It’s that extra dose of FromSoft I needed, and if you’re willing to put up with a whole lot of PSNow crap, you can play it on your PC right now.