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    BloodBorne: The Chalice Dungeon spawns fresh horrors for Souls fans

    Some fans have called FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki’s latest a spiritual successor to  Demon’s Souls , the progenitor of the  Souls  bloodline. Granted, Bloodborne  boasts a visual repertoire more akin to the Gothic climes of Boletaria than Drangleic or Lordran, but the truth is that Yharnam is further removed from any of these lands than is first apparent.

    Take the procedurally generated Chalice Dungeon, which augments the very nature of Souls. Deep beneath the ten areas of the main game’s location lies a sprawling, three-tiered lair of tricks and traps. But each hunter that completes a ritual and enters it will come across an entirely different dungeon, one individually created for them, from the layout of rooms to enemy placement. You will be able to attempt a single generated dungeon again and again until it is mastered, but with dungeons shareable between friends, there’s a potentially vast number of unknown scenarios to contend with.

    Souls up until now has been all about observation dispelling obfuscation. There’s no keener edge to take into a fight with a giant spider than the accrued knowledge of several failures. But where the collective mass of explorers once nibbled away at the series’ secrets, the Chalice Dungeon returns the emphasis to empirical discovery. There will be no step-by-step walkthroughs online to ease your path here, but rather an ongoing conversation between groups about how to best their own personal challenges.

    Still, combat is the most momentous difference inherent in Bloodborne’s lifeblood. Playing through the alpha build of the game, we come across a crowd of milling enemy townspeople, standing around a crucified personage upon a street-filling pyre. Our Souls instinct tells us to back off, pull a few of them over, and then steadily thin them  out while backpedalling. We fail. Of course we do. Multiple times. Our eventual success comes from diving in blade first.

    Combat here is much more about reacting in the moment, and the gun you carry around in your left hand is a prime reminder of this. There are no shields in Bloodborne, but wait until an enemy is in the middle of an attack before you blast them with buckshot and a well-timed blow will trigger a familiar sound effect, creating a moment of opportunity. It’s a shield that only lets you parry, and only as often as you have bullets in the chamber.

    The Regain system only amplifies the need to get stuck in. It’s expected that you’ll take damage while exploring Yharnam, but as a game Bloodborne is more concerned with how you react when the situation goes south than the inevitability of it doing so. Take a hit and the Souls veteran must battle the instinct to withdraw, since you can win some of your health bar back by getting a strike in on the offending enemy within a certain amount of time. It’s immensely satisfying to do so, and imbues every confrontation with a do or die mainly die sensibility.

    All that said, a spot of preemptive loadout tinkering appears to still be an important part of  Bloodborne, especially in multiplayer. And Chalice Dungeons can be played through together, too. At times during our live demo of the latter, it even appears as though designs of some enemies and areas are geared explicitly towards co-op. One particular enemy, a lurking giant, meanders through a swamp and is most potently affected by  larger stunning weapons. Head into the dungeon with a Dexterity build and he’ll smash you into charred bits with his fiery sword (especially brutal since the sludge you’re standing in is flammable). The solution we see is a white-clad Hunter with a stupendously sized hammer breaking the giant’s swings while a slighter partner gets a few critical hits in around the back.

    So while undoubtedly tapping into the gene pool of its previous titles, FromSoftware is clearly looking to create a new strain in Bloodborne , refreshing a formula that has supported countless hours of play. The Chalice Dungeons, and how easy it is to discern the procedurally drawn blueprints at work to construct them, may well be key. Well, that and your ability to stay alive long enough to savour them. Regardless, the promise inherent in all this that there will forever be a corner of this world you haven’t yet picked clean is tantalising.

    Sword points
    Melee weapons in Bloodborne are able to transform, meaning that they can be altered in the middle of combat to fulfil different purposes. The blade seen in much of the promotional artwork, for example, can be used as a single-handed sword-type weapon or a wider-reaching scythe. We had the opportunity to try out the Hunter’s Axe, which switches from a very fast striking weapon with puny reach into a perilously slow two-handed battleaxe, capable of delivering stunning attacks and even single-hit kills.There are more transformations in store than just heavy/light combos. The transforming cane can shift from a straight-up fencing sword into a midrange bladed whip, a bit like the Puzzling Stone Sword from  Dark Souls II ’s Sunken King DLC.

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