It is said that Alexander cried because there were no more worlds to conquer. So, I’ve cleared Elden Ring of all meaningful challenges, cleared the lands of all noteworthy bosses, invaded countless strangers, and saw the end of most NPC missions (grizzly or otherwise). I’ve finished 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 a new build, I’ve left The Lands Between to get my FromSoftware fix elsewhere. However, instead of finishing Dark Souls 1 or trying my hand at Sekiro, I went to Yharnam – which is a problem because (save a fan-made demake) Bloodborne never came to PC ,Right?
Since I don’t have a PlayStation (or TV), and since I started using (PC Gamer contributor) Sam Greer’s console six years ago, a trip to England is a bit out of the question, I’ve been playing Bloodborne’s much-mocked PSNow stream via Sony Serve.It’s not what I’d call the best way to play Bloodborne – a game played entirely at night and on fire, two things that are famously streamed like deal with.
However, it’s never been a bad thing to be unplayable. Input lag has always been good, and it didn’t stop me from single-handedly picking up Vicar Amelia and Darkbeast Paarl. Screen tearing and visual artifacts are an occasional pain, and the low resolution isn’t great, but it’s still readable. Heck, you could even say that playing Bloodborne on a digital VHS tape had some thematic flavor, a gory horror film plucked from charity store shelves.
I started out of curiosity. It’s an experiment to see what game streaming is like these days, but not something I really put up with with a full game runtime. Every time I restart Elden Ring locally, it reminds me what it’s like to run FromSoftware games at crisp 1440p and (mostly) smooth 60fps. A few minutes later, however, I found myself back at Yharnam, slicing Werewolf with a visual quality that could generously be described as “usable.”
Of course, part of that is because I put 150+ hours into one of the games, while the other is still new. But that’s partly because Bloodborne’s lean, average single-serve serving is a welcome respite after a hearty buffet at Elden Ring.
Let me be clear though: this is not the “new thing is not as good as the old thing I like” feature I often want to write about. The open world of Elden Ring is a fantastic and complex beast. FromSoftware has defined more than a decade of knotted, layered world design in an absolute upgrade to the scale of Skyrim.
What’s more, the world of the Ring of the Ancients may have been rotten and depraved, but from the golden sky, the fields of golden autumn, to the lazily grazing sheep, it is not a world of eternal redemption. Even as the ancient demigods devoured corpses and planned to do it on the shell of the ancient kingdom, Elden Ring felt heroic, a pulp adventure the soul never had.
But the Elden Ring may have been so much more that it could be completely overwhelming. It contains all of Dark Souls and then some – a thousand different weapons to master and spells to learn. There’s a dizzying list of bosses, all of which can be approached too soon or too late, and with so many tools at your disposal, you could probably completely destroy half of them with an infinite mana beam laser.
Heck, you can even equip the Bloodhound’s Steps and Marinia’s Great Rune and play Elden Ring like a clone of Bloodborne – running around recklessly to regain lost health.
But Bloodborne knows exactly how it wants you to play. Hunters have a range of weapons to choose from (saw blades, axes, electrified sticks, and little swords hidden in greatswords), but they’ll still end up being playful, combative hooligans – Bloodborne simply doesn’t have the equivalent of a large shield tank or an all-powerful spellcaster.
It’s not quite as canonical as Sekiro – there’s room for experimentation if you will, and some of Bloodborne’s weapons do get weird. But in Soul and the Ring of Eldon, you can choose from murderous choices what kind of warrior you want to be. Bloodborne makes this decision for you.
Because of this, games can be more specific about the skills their bosses want to test. It knows that most players have access to a pistol, so parrying and gutting become a key part of the fight. Its villains are more aggressive than anything in Soul, but it encourages you to restore lost health by lashing out with a ‘build-up’ system.
This unique character also extends to the world itself. From autumn cities to underground caves lit under its own sky, Elden Ring has some of my favorite locations in FromSoftware’s catalog. The areas are also often connected in surprising ways, echoing the feeling of finding a nifty shortcut back to the Citadel from Firelink. But because all but the newest regions are readily accessible, they often feel a little isolated from the sprawling world. With Bloodborne, however, I can take a deep look at a city on my way to hell.
Yharnam is an Edinburgh-shaped puzzle box of places, a city with history and presence, and the kind of interlocking urban design that only emerges when your city planner is Hidetaka Miyazaki. The city has lost its mind when you show up, and as night falls, the strangers you meet through your foggy windows go from being somewhat dismissive to greedy, giggling beasts.
Yharnam itself changes throughout the night, with new changes to the sun setting and regions as you unravel the game’s creepier secrets. The closest Elden Ring comes is Leyndell’s dramatic twist towards the end of the game, a seismic rework that’s too late to fully explore.
Elden Ring provides you with a wide range of brushstrokes of mythical continents through the ages. Bloodborne is a bad night in the scariest town ever.
I realized I was late to the party in Bloodborne, an eight-year-old game. As mentioned, I’m not trying to drive a wedge between the two games – after all, I’ve put more than 150 hours into Elden Ring, mostly because the open world means you can simply exist as a Souls game In its world never allowed.
But Bloodborne is a reminder of what FromSoftware trades in an open world. From its faster, more aggressive combat to a world full of gothic and eerie vibes, it’s a reminder of how hard the studio goes when it decides to put all its energy into a certain vibe.
After experiencing the overwhelming breadth that Elden Ring has to offer, Bloodborne feels like a palette cleanser. This is the extra dose of FromSoft I need, and if you’re willing to put up with a whole lot of PSNow crap, you can play it on your PC right now.