The Physics of Video Games column is now onto soundtrack reviews. Why? Sound is physics. Also, the lovely Jeremy (the Gaming Futurist) told me to. We’ll review the horrendous, the masterpieces, and everything in between. If you have any suggestions, let me know. Obscure, popular, appalling, it doesn’t matter.
If you aren’t playing Bloodborne, you should do so. If you have a PS4, but not this game, go get it. If you don’t have a PS4, rectify that mistake by buying one along with Bloodborne. This game is what is right about modern games. It is NES-hard, but without all of the dated mechanics, and has a shiny new coat of paint. While extremely punishing, it is not to a fault. If you play the game with care, death is not going to be waiting around the corner. If you play this like your God of War’s and such, be prepared to die, a lot. You die because you slipped up. This game is tough, but fair. None of this Battletoads Turbo Tunnel and Mega Man Yellow Devil nonsense. It’s difficulty done right.
This exceptionally balanced difficulty is complimented by so many things. A very tight and rewarding combat system that caters to your play-style. Want to charge in like a tank, pummelling and stunning your opponent to submission? By all means, go ahead. Want to keep your distance and use finesse to secure victory? Do your thing. Environments are richly detailed, have an intuitive design for exploration, and have secrets peppered throughout the levels. And unlike many retro games, these secrets are not integral for progression, they are supplemental and rewarding for the careful explorer. Enemies are diverse and interesting, and demand careful tactical decisions in order to secure victory. Bloodborne shows what modern games are made of, and demonstrates why they shouldn’t be categorically rejected for retro games. I love retro games, don’t get me wrong. But we need to appreciate how far we’ve come too. The final piece that completes this puzzle, which is unlike From Software’s other Souls games (Bloodborne doesn’t say Souls on it, but it’s a Souls game in almost every design aspect), is the exceptional soundtrack. While the other games didn’t have terrible soundtracks, they definitely weren’t the top priority; especially Demon’s Souls. Onward and forward as I butcher explanations as to how an orchestra works.
This song. This song is so haunting. So intense! This is how an orchestra should be used in a video game. The bass is what makes this song. Those heavy, drawn out notes when contrasted with those violins and the choir, it sends chills down my spine. First impressions are so important, especially with video games. If this doesn’t get you excited to get started and see what the world of Bloodborne has to offer, I don’t know what will. Let’s go to the track that made me realize that I had to talk about this game’s soundtrack.
This is the song from the first ‘optional’ boss of the game. While technically it is an optional boss, most players will really want to fight it on their first playthrough. It provides a much welcomed checkpoint and ability to level up. Seeing as a player has already beat the game without levelling up while starting with the worst possible character, it isn’t for everybody. The opening with the choir is exactly what I wanted to hear several games ago when they tried and fumbled doing the same thing for Demon’s Souls Tower Knight. This combined with the intense roars of the Cleric Beast definitely got me super excited and on the edge of my seat. The cycle between the choir and the intense orchestra help compliment the fight so well. The subtle use of the drums really help guide the track and give it quite a bit of depth. This is certainly not the best boss in the game, but the song makes it memorable, that’s for sure.
This song is from the first mandatory boss of the game. And as a fun piece of information, it wasn’t until I wrote this review that I finally heard the whole song. I either was killed or killed the boss before hearing the whole thing. Which is kind of disappointing considering the best part is at the end of it. But at least the whole song is incredible. I think my favourite part about this song is the back and forth between the brass and string instruments. I think they compliment each other so well and really break the track up. If it were just the string instruments dominating most of the track, I would lose interest. So those brass instruments coming in to compliment things so well, I couldn’t be happier. The best part of the song (which as stated, I never heard prior to writing this), is when the choir and percussion come in thunderously. Again, chills were sent down my spine when I heard it. I wasn’t aware of the trick to fighting this boss, and was doing so solo, so I heard this song quite a bit. I am sure you can tell why I didn’t mind fighting him over and over again.
And now for something completely different. This is one that I think needs to be experienced in context and demonstrates how soundtracks compliment gameplay quite well at times. This song and the boss fight fit hand in glove. If you don’t mind minor spoilers, go check out the Wet Nurse fight on YouTube. Just based on the bosses’ name alone, I am sure you can understand why this song fits so well with the fight. It is a very creepy song that would probably play in a horror movie based around a devilish baby or something (I don’t watch horror movies, but just sounds like a thing). This music box sound is very welcomed for this fight, and makes for a very interesting tone change. The song itself is nothing stellar to listen to on its own, but it really is important as a contrast to the heavy, orchestrated themes that precede it.
If Bloodborne were a dish, it would be Fugu that you had to prepare yourself. If you act carelessly and don’t know what you’re getting in to, the experience could be crippling, or even deadly. You’d be fearful to even press on. But if you persevere, there is the potential to eat something delicate and magical. It is an experience that many will not take a chance on. But if you do, you will be treated to something that not many will truly understand, and is near impossible to explain to those who haven’t tried the potentially poisonous fish. So go on, take a chance and try it. Not Fugu. You really could die from that, people train extensively to be able to prepare that fish. Bloodborne is much safer; physically at least. And much like the hunter fading in dreams in Bloodborne, drifting to obscurity, so must this column. Although this column will end, another will surface in the future. It has been a short, but wonderful journey. We’ll see you on the next project.
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