Well, Bloodborne has been out for a while so I think I can probably answer pretty honestly. When Dark Souls came out, I viewed it as quite a stark and obvious improvement over Demon’s Souls. Right now, I’d still say DS1 is better than Demon’s Souls, but my appreciation for Demon’s has grown over the years, so the gap of improvement between the games isn’t quite as vast as it seemed back in 2011.
Dark Souls II is obviously the more controversial entry here, but I’ll still stand by that this game easily ranks among Demon’s and Dark 1 in quality. Dark 2′s blemishes are generally easier to spot (and I mean that literally; terrible animations and some absolutely hideous looking areas are my chief complaints). However, Dark Souls II offers some mechanical enhancements that really elevate it. I love how expedient everything feels once you’re comfortable with the game; you can re-fight bosses pretty much whenever you want, multiplayer is the smoothest and most reliable across all four games, and DS2 has the motherfucking Rat King. Some of my fondest memories in the whole series were spent in his servitude. Plus, even though it takes a while to hit its stride, Dark Souls II still has a great story that hits a sense of momentum I’d say even DS1 lacked, and its NPCs are wonderful and memorable. If you factor in the DLC, then Dark Souls II also has my favorite boss fight in the whole franchise, and possibly my favorite area and enemy type too. Seriously I love the Sunken King DLC so much; it’s just so ridiculously good.
I’m still not sure I’d say it’s better than Dark Souls I, but the quality of Dark Souls II is not a far cry off either.
When it comes to Bloodborne, it also has some glaring flaws. The multiplayer just flat out sucks, there’s a serious limit in “spells” and build variety, there’s a real lack of flexibility in design compared to Dark Souls II (smithing materials can be a pain to get, nothing like bonfire ascetics, you’re forced in NG+ far less elegantly, etc), the NPCs and their quest lines are quite disappointing, and it’s lacking in stand out boss fights compared to past games. I’d say only maybe three or four bosses in Bloodborne are truly “great.” Also, I can’t emphasize enough how head-scratching the Chalice Dungeons are. I don’t hate them like others do, but they are quite a slog, and even with post-launch patches and updates, getting connected for co-op in chalice dungeons is still a frustrating waste of time! Chalice Dungeons feel like they were designed for multiplayer and yet it’s almost inaccessible.
But, all told, I think Bloodborne is maybe the one that’s my favorite, and that’s not something I’d seriously considered until very recently (still months after its release). The art direction and visuals are downright unbelievable. Even after several playthroughs, so many areas look and feel downright enchanting. I can’t believe how good they look while being so dense in creepy detail. This also goes straight to the character and enemy designs. Almost everything in Bloodborne looks and feels perfect. I really can’t stress how much the visuals really do define this game. Plus, Bloodborne is a horror game. I love horror games and grew up playing them. The best kind of horror is the kind that leaves you thinking about it for days, weeks, months, shit maybe even for a decade or so (coughsilenthill1/2/3cough). Bloodborne exposes you to its horror elements, teases them, assaults you with them, and drops you right into unfamiliar and alienating circumstances. Getting kidnapped into Yahar’gul, snatched up by Amygdala, confronting the Brain of Mensis, and taking the stagecoach to Cainhurst are so brilliantly implemented I can’t believe they all work as perfectly as they do and exist in the same damn game. Those were the highlights of my first playthrough.
Plus the Upper Cathedral Ward! Or the existential mindfuck of finding the Abandoned Old Workshop. Or sneaking into the upper floor of Iosefka’s clinic, confronting her, and then emerging right back where you started. That’s not even getting into how genius and thought provoking the cosmic horror presentation is. Even an extremely gamey mechanic like Insight feels like an integral and fluid part of the design is setting Bloodborne’s tone. That subtle whispering effect and the little warp around the Hunter’s head when discovering you new areas or seeing crazy shit still makes me sit up straight.
Bloodborne does still succeed on some mechanic fronts too; the swift attacks, vicious heavy attacks, and quick dodges make the core combat feel wonderful (even though it is lacking in options). Plus I absolutely adore the blood splattering decals that cover the character model. That is some next-gen shit right there.
tl;dr - There’s not much more I love than a good horror game, and Bloodborne is a fantastic horror game that’s extremely creative and memorable with its scares, atmosphere, sound/visual design, and pacing. Previous Souls games definitely get their toes wet in similar ways at times (such as dropping into the drained New Londo Ruins), but Bloodborne takes it to an entirely unmatched level. It is definitely a bummer that it has so many mechanical setbacks, and I do wish that it had scaled back a little on the subject matter. The Berserk influence runs a bit too deep I think, since some of the imagery, events, and implications are more sickening than just being disturbing and thought provoking. A side quest that ends with you killing a mother and her– grotesque, but still ultimately affectionate and harmless– baby and then eating a part of the baby was rather tactless, especially for a game that can do things considerably more interesting and creative to scare or unsettle the player.
As for Dark Souls III, I love what I’ve seen of the screenshots and details on the gameplay. The “apocalyptic” scenario sounds fascinating, and the combat taking some cues from Bloodborne has me extremely excited.
WHEW. Hopefully that answered your question, haha!