When I first tried to play The Last of Us, my PS3 couldn’t handle it.
I had the 2nd generation fat model and it couldn’t play newer games without blasting the internal fan.
It happened every time I put in Gran Turismo 6 as well.
I was frustrated not only because I couldn’t play the games I had, but this was near the release of Dark Souls II.
I was concerned the fan noise was going to destroy the ambiance the Souls series is known for.
I got rid of it and upgraded to the PS3 Slim.
Dark Souls II released and TLoU: Remastered was announced shortly after for the PS4 at a lower price.
Dark Souls II was a passable game overall, but by far the worst Souls game to date.
My excitement died and I passed my time waiting for The Last of Us: Remastered playing Guilty Gear.
When TLoU:R released, the difference was significant.
While the resolution stayed the same, it now ran at 60 fps instead of 30 and had a striking fidelity.
It was crisp and responsive. It felt different.
After having spent a few months analyzing everything that went wrong with Dark Souls II, The Last of Us was something I needed.
There were things about it that made me uncomfortable: Every person of color in the game is the target of some massive trauma, sometimes at the hands of the main character.
But TLoU was a narrative success.
The story was tight and engaging. The environments were dense.
The greatest success of The Last of Us is that the world both feels abandoned and lived in.
The cities and towns are painted and tragic.
Everywhere you look, there is something to look at: dripping water, a cracked brick, crawling vines, abandoned barriers, collapsed skylines.
The world is full and broken.
The Last of Us is Midgar Revisited.
Everything fits together in a complete, fluid way.
The world transitions into itself: stairs lead to halls leading to rooms with open windows and fire escapes and ledges and streets with more stairs.
In thickness and density.
A few weeks ago I applied to join the Bloodborne alpha.
I had no expectation of being accepted, but I felt compelled to try in order to know if this was going to be another disaster.
I completed both Demon’s and Dark Souls, owned DSII (for which I was invited to the beta), and purchased every iteration of Armored Core on the PSP/PS3.
I thought my credentials were solid enough with From Software that I had a better chance than others.
And they accepted me.
And Bloodborne is stunning.
While the lens through which the alpha takes place is limited, there is enough to understand what the game is.
It is not a Souls game.
It borrows elements from the series, but it is its own game mechanically and thematically.
The combat is much more fluid and responsive than any of the Souls games.
Bloodborne emphasizes movement and situational awareness. The combat is thorough and dynamic.
Gone is the dreamy, slow, dissociative quality of Souls interaction.
Bloodborne is more grounded.
The basic enemies remain difficult and have the potential to kill.
And From has maintained the asymmetrical multiplayer they pioneered in Demon’s Souls.
Bloodborne also marks the return of Hidetaka Miyazaki as Director.
After directing both Demon’s and Dark Souls, From removed him from the series and made him President of the company.
This led to Dark Souls II being made without his direction, ensuring the mess that From ended up releasing.
Miyazaki’s hand is so obvious in the design of Bloodborne that it makes Dark Souls II seem even worse.
Like The Last of Us, Bloodborne is a dense game.
It takes place in an enormous, sprawling gothic city (Yharnam) cloaked in a final darkness.
The city is in the midst of a plague that turns citizens into beasts.
Bloodborne, so far, seems like the most nihilistic game Miyazaki has made.
The city is full of death, hatred, anger, lament, emptiness.
Everywhere you turn there are ornate coffins, abandoned carriages, black chasms, tortured monstrosities.
Enemies scream, blaming the player character for their situation. Their voices full of rage and sorrow.
But Bloodborne, so far, seems like the best game Miyazaki has made.
One of the flaws Dark Souls II suffered from was a lack of compelling momentum.
It never makes the player ask or wonder.
There was nothing curious about the game’s world or construction. Everything was obvious and direct.
In Bloodborne, that is never the case.
The city is dark, but everything glistens.
I can see the blood on my clothes. I look up at the sky.
Why is that moon so bright? How did this place fall so far?
I walk toward a large coffin propped up in an alley.
I wonder why it’s chained shut.
I walk past some crates.
A man in the throes of this illness lunges at me.
He screams that it’s all my fault. He sounds sad and angry and terrified.
I kill him with my scythe.
I pull out my torch and stare at his body to decipher his features.
I wonder what it is he blames me for.
Standing on the stairs, I see civilians carrying torches.
It seems they are on some sort of patrol.
I follow them. I cross an abandoned carriage.
A man hiding in the shadows, he rises, and shoots me in the back.
I cut him down and climb the stairs he was sitting on.
I turn left at the top.
There is a half-beast corpse: crucified and burning in the dark.
I walk down a side-path until I hit a locked gate.
A bell rings nearby.
I hear a loud groaning.
Something is trapped, slamming against a door.
I jump into the main road. I see the door shaking on my right.
I see another (larger) burning, crucified body on my left:
This one more beast than man.
I find a path into a graveyard.
All the trees are barren.
I wonder what season it is.
The moaning is louder now.
Something feels wrong here. I look at the ground.
The shadows are moving, flowing.
I look at the trees and there is stillness.
I trace the moonlight back. I look up at the sky.
There is an enormous spider-like abomination sitting on a tower, looming.
Tentacles from its mouth moving, flowing.
I stare at its hundred dead eyes in shock.
I wonder if this thing was once human as well.
I find the source of the groaning, the slamming.
A very large figure. He turns around to confront me.
I burn him down with Molotovs.
There is silence.
I wonder why he was trapped here.
I wonder why he was so large.
I walk to the back of the terrace.
I look down into the black abyss.
I look up at the nightmare in the moonlight.
And I know that this place is terrifying…
And that this place is beautiful.