Bloodborne: Night Of The Hunt
WARNING: This article contains spoilers up to the first boss battle of From Software’s Bloodborne. Read at your own peril.
It is worth mentioning that I played Demon’s Souls for the Playstation 3 and did not beat it. That was an incredibly difficult and, at times, frustrating video game. I had been out of the loop as far as Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, and safely out of From Software’s clutches since. The release of Bloodborne caused much commotion at the Toilet Ov Hell community and I decided to see for myself what all of the fuss was about.
Bloodborne opened with a short cutscene of a creepy fellow calling me Paleblood and speaking of unraveling the mystery of Yharnam. Character creation followed. I named my character “Breegrodamus” (obviously), picked my appearance (stylish spiky hair and stubbly beard), age (young), and picked my origin, which is like a character class. I selected Violent Past because it had the highest strength of all available choices, and I felt like Violent Past would increase my much needed street cred. I didn’t know what all of the stats were used for, and honestly I’m still not sure what the hell Arcane is used for.
With very little in the way of introduction, Bloodborne dropped me into a hostile and terrifying world. There was no tutorial of any kind. I awoke in a hospital or clinic alone and unarmed. I got up from the operating table and began to wander through the clinic. The only thing I discovered were “specters” of other dead players and notes that other players had left for me, like in previous From Software titles. Oh, there was also a werewolf. A huge, hideous werewolf, blocking what seemed to be the only exit from the clinic. Without a way to sneak past the beast, I had to engage him without any weapons. He was faster than he looked. I threw some childish punches at him, was delighted to find I could hurt him (at about 3 damage per pop), but I mostly tried running around an operating table in circles until he caught me and destroyed me. YOU DIED. This is a phrase I would become increasingly, painfully familiar with.
It turns out I was supposed to die the first time. I was taken to the Hunter’s Dream. The Hunter’s Dream is a safe and central location, like my home base away from the nightmarish game world. After some searching (even the safe dream realm was initially difficult) I was given my choice of a trick weapon (the primary weapon) and a sidearm/firearm. I learned my trick weapon had two functions, and would later learn each trick weapon had two modes as well. Armed with weapons, I ventured back to the clinic to seek revenge on the werewolf that had brutally laid me to rest only moments earlier. He was much easier to kill, which was my first great triumph in Bloodborne – a feeling as powerful as much of my frustration with the earliest leg of the game.
I ventured forth from the clinic into Central Yharnam. I received a minimal amount of information regarding the city or the circumstances surrounding it. Much of what I learned came from brief encounters with off screen villagers locked inside of their homes. Knocking on the doors of villagers led to mockery, as if someone would be so stupid to open their door on the “night of the hunt”. I also learned from observing my surroundings. This night of the hunt appeared to be the monstrous subhuman inhabitants of the village hunting werewolves, as many werewolves were found burning in the streets. I was the Hunter, but I spent most of the initial part of Bloodborne in abject horror that I was being hunted by the mobs in the village.
Each combat encounter with the townsfolk of Central Yharnam was mortifying. Initially every enemy I faced had the power to kill me with a hit or two. I relied on my agility, ability to dodge or sidestep enemy attacks, and reaction time. Central Yharnam required me to play it perfectly, which took me dozens of attempts. The very first leg of the game took me three days to complete. I later read something on Forbes Magazine (who have covered this game extensively) online which said the first level of Bloodborne was designed to break the player. One false move and that same old tune played:
YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED. YOU DIED.
I would learn to pass a small group of townsfolk only to reach a much larger group, like the massive group that occupies the central location of the city. I’m embarrassed to say it took me over a day to realize I could lock onto enemies, to aim my pistol at them or use various other items I discovered, like pebbles and Molotov cocktails. Enemies leaped out from behind pillars to hack at me with butcher knives, pitchforks, and swords. Despite my frustration, Bloodborne benefited from its intense gameplay, suspense, and the incredible horror atmosphere. I became hooked on a game I had considered quitting entirely, since I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to beat the first level. It required repetition and learning new strategies for each encounter. Vicious attack dogs joined patrol parties. A giant armed with a brick brought a new level of fear to Central Yharnam. My first attempt to sneak past him led to him sneaking up on me, with disastrous results. I had to carefully manage my health, stamina, and resources, and tweak my gameplay with each new effort. I was stunned to find a pair of werewolves guarding the end of the first level, and they were not wussified like the initial werewolf I killed in the clinic. Even after I developed a strategy to beat them (kill them with fire) it took several extremely tense pitched battles. Those werewolves (and one more cluster of enemies) were the last thing remaining before Bloodborne’s first boss, the Cleric Beast.
Like the massive group of townsfolk in Central Yharnam, the brick wielding giant in the courtyard, and the pair of werewolves guarding the bridge, my first reaction to the giant, emaciated, wolf like Cleric Beast was “oh fuck”. The Cleric Beast was horrifying. I barely scratched him during our first battle, and spent most of it
running from him like a little girl observing his movement. I made some headway during the next few battles, and managed to somewhat luckily defeat him on our fourth fight together. The fight I won was one of the most tense moments I have ever had playing a video game. Real stress filled my body and mind. This victory again showed me the absolute triumph of Bloodborne. Oh my good god I did it! A new place to save! Another level to explore! More weapons! The first boss turned out to be much easier than the first level, at least I was able to defeat him much more quickly. This opened up the world of Bloodborne.
The RPG aspect of the game allowed me to level up my stats considerably and fortify my weapons, which sped up the exploration of later levels. I defeated some bosses after my victory over the Cleric Beast with relative ease: I beat Father Gascoigne on our first fight, the Witches of Hemwick on the first fight, and the Shadows of Yharnam on our second fight. Others were still very tough. The Blood Starved Beast and Vicar Amelia both took about six or seven fights. The Toilet Ov Hell’s own Jack Bauer was impressed I had beaten each boss without the aid of other players [article-post-submission update: I got aid on Rom, The Vacuous Spider, which was amazing since my helper kicked his ass]. Each victory led to that sheer sense of joy and accomplishment, which is one of Bloodborne’s greatest strengths.
The creation of this article was assisted largely by the sweet sounds of Excruciating Terror.
I recently read an article (also on Forbes Magazine) citing Bloodborne’s overwhelming praise by video game journalists as a failure in that industry. I agree with some of the author’s points about the difficulty of Central Yharnam and acknowledge that I considered quitting a game I had just purchased for $60. However, I believe Bloodborne stands apart from many modern games with their ability to save at any point and their ease of completion even on the hardest difficulty levels. This game has become highly addictive, and still holds a great amount of tension during boss fights and other encounters when I have upwards of 70,000 Blood Echoes (the game’s form of currency) on the line. There are some aspects which need improvement. The game’s multi-player mode leaves much to be desired, as I have only played online with one other person despite numerous attempts to do so. I haven’t beaten Bloodborne, but I think I am getting near the end. Will it stand aside other top tier video games? Will it enter the pantheon of greats held by titles like the original Bioshock or Batman: Arkham City? Only time will tell. At the time of this writing I am still somewhere in the Nightmare Frontier…