You may have noticed a lot of people talking about the new PS4 game Bloodborne. It's good, they say. It's really difficult, they say. Maybe you've considered checking it out, but you're worried about that difficulty. I'm here to help.
Bloodborne is the latest game from visionary game designer Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at From Software, the same people behind Dark Souls and, before that, Demon's Souls. Good news: It's brilliant.
Bloodborne is similar to Miyazaki's previous Souls games in a lot of respects. It "feels" the same, it's structured similarly, it plays… if not the same, at least similarly. And it can be brutally punishing to the careless player.
With that in mind, I wanted to assemble some tips for new players. I tend to play this type of game very cautiously. I level up a lot and like to go into encounters as powerful and prepared as possible, with minimal echoes/souls on the line. I'm happy to grind and to explore. I don't try to race through all the bosses to the finish. I try to avoid reading walkthroughs unless I absolutely need to.
If you're a Souls veteran, the following tips probably aren't for you. (And if you already know you don't like Souls games, Bloodborne itself probably isn't for you.) But if you're new and curious, if you want to finally see what everyone is talking about, I think Bloodborne is as good a place as any to start. I'd love to help you get that crucial first foothold.
I've divided these tips up into three parts. First, there are some vague guidelines to keep in mind. Then, I'll list some specific pointers that will tell you items to find, routes to open, and specific actions to undertake during your first hours with the game. If you're a Souls game newbie, you'll probably want to read that part. Third, I'll list some specific boss strategies for the first five major bosses in the game.
As with all of Miyazaki's games, Bloodborne is rife with mysteries and unexplained phenomena. As we've gotten deeper into the game -- and as the internet has collectively picked it apart -- we've come across new and better tips to share. This article has now gotten one substantial update, and it will doubtless get a few more over the weeks to come.
Ready? Let's venture forth.
MOSTLY SPOILER-FREE GUIDELINES
This first section won't really spoil anything in the game or the story for you; these tips are more focused on explaining basic moves and abilities you'll want to understand, as well as underlying philosophies to embrace, the better to enjoy the game. So! For our first tip...
Don't read too many tips articles.
This article's probably fine. You can read it. But… and I know this is a wild thought… maybe don't? At least, consider holding off and reading it later only if you're REALLY stuck. This game offers a lot of joy and satisfaction to the brave player willing to uncover its mysteries on his or her own. At least consider giving yourself a chance to do that.
That also means avoid wikis, forum threads, and YouTube walkthroughs. Give yourself a chance to learn this game by yourself. That won't be comfortable or easy, but who said learning was supposed to be comfortable or easy?
Guess what? You're gonna die. That's the way it goes in this game, just like in the Souls games before it. It's ok. Think of it this way: You know how when you play difficult side-scrollers like Spelunky and Cave Story, how you die a lot? And how that's fine? This is like that, only it's in 3D, with extremely intense sound effects accompanying your deaths. Death is a learning experience, and if you died, you probably died because you did something wrong. Think on it, experiment, learn what to do and what not to do. If you stick with it, you'll stop dying so much.
Believe in yourself.
You can do this. I'm serious! It may sound bullshitty, but it's not. Even if you've never played a Souls game, you can play this game, and you can be good at it. It's very, very easy to watch all the videos of people beating Dark Souls with no armour, without dying, and think, "These games are simply made for another type of gamer. This isn't my thing."
That's not true. OK, it might be true. But I've become convinced that in the majority of cases, it isn't. Look: I'm nothing special when it comes to video games. I'm average, especially at fast-moving fighting games. But I stuck with Bloodborne until it clicked, and now I can't stop playing. That's because I believed I could do it, and when I found that I could do it, I've found it to be incredibly rewarding. Believe in yourself. You can do this. You just have to decide that you're going to.
Read the manual.
Bloodborne technically has an in-game tutorial, but it's obtuse and easy to miss. Instead, just read through the game's manual. (If you got a digital copy, there's a digital manual.) The manual lays out the game's controls, and explains how some basic things work.
Start by focusing on strength, skill, and vitality.
In theory, you can go with whatever character build you want. There aren't "classes" like there are in most RPGs, or even like there were in the Souls games. After putting in 20-30 hours with the game, my advice would be to focus on a background high strength, skill, and vitality. Troubled Past and Military Veteran are the two easiest picks. Could it be that late-game stuff will favour blood and arcane stats? Possibly. But even while levels get more expensive as you go, there's no cap, and you'll never be entirely unable to build up another stat, should you want to.
Consider the saw cleaver/blunderbuss combo.
Bloodborne's starting weapons are all viable options, and if you want, you can buy any of the ones you didn't pick once you're a little ways into the game. However, for my money, I'd suggest going with the middle-of-the-road Saw Cleaver/Blunderbuss combo. The saw cleaver is a tremendous weapon, good for up-close and long-range attacks. I'm still using mine now, even though I've unlocked some awesome secondary weapons.
Explore the Hunter's Dream regularly.
You may think you know all of what there is to do in the Hunter's Dream, but trust me: You don't. Explore regularly. Not only do some new areas and options open up as you progress through the game, there are some areas you probably just won't notice at first.
Don't buy blood vials or bullets.
Don't waste your echoes on blood vials or bullets. You'll find so many out in the world that soon, you won't have to worry about them at all.
Keep your eyes open, and check every corner for secret paths.
There are tons of secrets in Bloodborne, lots of areas that are easy to miss. Go slowly, and work your way back through areas you've cleared of monsters. Often, you'll have to destroy some crates to clear a path to a ledge you can drop to. If you can see a safe landing point below the ledge, you're supposed to go down there. Take a chance and see where it takes you -- more often than not, you'll wind up finding some sort of useful item or upgrade material.
Pick up everything.
Even if you're full up on bullets or health vials, pick them up anyway. The ones you don't keep on your person will be automatically put in storage, and the next time you die, you'll come back with a full loadout. Having a good 50 health vials in storage becomes extremely helpful when you're fighting a boss seven or eight times in a row.
You can play Bloodborne offline, if you want. But like its predecessors, Bloodborne shines online. You'll feel like you're a part of something, watching the ghosts of other players fight alongside you (and reviewing their grisly deaths) as you go. It's a blast to leave helpful or poetic notes around, and to read the musings of others. Basically: Trust me, play online.
Keep your controller charged.
This is another way of saying, "This game doesn't pause." Bloodborne never stops, and there's no way to call up a menu to catch your breath. There's nothing worse than having your controller die in the middle of a boss fight -- it will mean almost certain death. Keep your controller charged, and keep an eye on that battery meter.
Don't be afraid to upgrade your starting weapon.
Bloodborne isn't like other RPGs where your starting weapons are quickly tossed on the junk heap. Whichever weapon you start with, you can keep using it for a big chunk of the game, if not for the entire game. I used the starting saw cleaver as my primary weapon for a couple dozen hours, and with a handful of upgrades, it kills beasts as effectively as anything else I own.
Pay attention to weapon attribute bonuses.
As you upgrade your weapons, you'll see the ratings under "attribute bonus" improve. Each weapon has a bonus associated with your strength, skill, blood, and arcane stat, and many have two or three. The higher those ratings, the more of a bonus you get based on the corresponding skill. Pay attention to those, and if you've got a weapon you really like, increase that weapon's most valued stat to get the best bonuses.
Keep your weapon in good repair.
Every time you revisit the Hunter's Dream, stop off at the weapon upgrade station and repair your weapons. It doesn't take much for your weapon to degrade slightly, and it's cheap and easy to keep it in top shape. Every little bit of damage matters in this game, so make it a priority to always keep your blades sharp.
There's no way to survive in Bloodborne unless you're willing to mix it up with monsters, up close. You have to get right up in their grill, dodge their mighty swings without fear, and slice them apart. At first, this will seem daunting. If you keep at it, you'll get better at it, and soon you'll be the most deadly thing walking the streets of Yharnam. Generally speaking, Bloodborne rewards aggressive play. See that monster there? It said something mean about your little brother. It made him cry. Are you gonna take that? Go do something about it.
...but don't be greedy.
Being aggressive doesn't mean you shouldn't be prudent. If a gigantic enemy is smashing everything on the ground in front of it, you shouldn't charge in there. Every encounter in the game involves some sort of high-stakes, up-close fighting, but there are plenty of instances where you'll be well-served by keeping your distance and proceeding with caution.
Know which weapon-form to use.
Your trick weapon can convert between a short-range mode and an extended mode with a heavier attack. Learn which enemies you can take down with which type of attack, and get comfortable switching between them. At first, don't even worry about mid-attack switch combos (which are cool, but a bit advanced). Start by picking one mode or the other, depending on the enemy you're fighting.
Mercilessly exploit your environment.
As often as not, the walls, pillars, and doorways around you can be exploited for a tactical advantage. As you enter a new area, make note of all the choke-points. If you're facing a tough mob or a difficult boss, remember to use your environment. Is a boss charging you or hitting you with a hard-to-dodge ranged attack? See if you can get something in between you.
Never fight two enemies at once unless you absolutely have to.
This is an old Souls rule, but unless you have no other option, never fight two enemies at the same time. You can almost always lure one away, either with a thrown pebble or by carefully sneaking into their line of sight. This ain't a stealth game, and most enemies are pretty thick unless you get right near them. Just because the game's designers have placed two enemies side by side, that doesn't mean you're "supposed" to fight them simultaneously.
Maintain some space behind you.
When you get into a fight, particularly with a bigger enemy, be sure you know what's behind you. There (obviously) shouldn't be any enemies back there, but also, keep track of how much space you have in case you have to steadily back up and dodge an enemy's attack. Never, ever allow yourself to be cornered.
Keep calm and wait for the windup.
This is one of the most important rules in this game: Keep cool. Even when the music is pumping, and a boss is belting out some ear-splitting shriek, and every muscle in your body is telling you to panic… keep cool. Back up slowly. Don't start mashing the dodge button, or frantically flailing with your weapon. That way lies an empty stamina bar and certain death. Move slowly. Never take your eyes off the boss. Wait for the windup, for the boss to back up to charge, or pull a claw back to swing. Only then should you move. The calmer you can be, the better you'll do against difficult bosses. Remember: They all have a pattern. You can beat them.
If you're stuck on a boss, turn down the volume.
Once you know the boss's attack patterns, it's rarely all that helpful to hear it screaming at you over the din of the music. Lower the volume. You may find yourself able to relax and focus better than you could with the volume cranked. Some of the fun of the game is the intense, immersive fear it conjures -- and the feeling you get when you conquer that fear. That feeling is diminished by playing the game quietly, but if you're well and truly stuck, it can be a good approach.
Master the parry and the visceral attack.
Your off-hand weapon isn't just useful for occasional crowd-control; it's the means with which you can "parry" your enemies' attacks. If you fire a shot just as your foe is mid-swing, you'll hear a "DING" sound, and they will fall to their knees. When that happens, you've got about one second to line up directly in front of them and press R1, and you'll be treated to a powerful "visceral attack" that will take out most ground-level enemies and will do big damage to bosses.
I don't use visceral attacks on every enemy -- not even close -- but I've got it pretty dialed in for some of the bigger, slower ones, like the Franken-dudes in the gif above. Learning this skill makes clearing those enemies much easier, and it's a really satisfying thing to pull off.
Alternate between locked and unlocked combat.
Start practicing switching between "locked" and "unlocked" combat. By clicking the right thumbstick, you can lock onto an enemy, which keeps the camera (fairly) aggressively pointed at that enemy and helps your attacks directly target it. Good general rule: If you're fighting one big enemy, stay locked. If you're fighting a mob of smaller enemies, unlock and use wider attacks for crowd-control.
The most crucial difference between locked and unlocked combat is how your evasive moves (the circle button) work. While unlocked, you'll do a dodge-roll in the direction you're facing. The roll is great for full-on retreats, or for those moments when you need to get the fuck away from a boss and snap a health potion or two. But locked combat is vital for survival, because it replaces your dodge-roll with a superfast sidestep dodge. Start practicing the dodge. Learn it, love it, come to feel it in your bones. It will be the move that leads you to many a victory.
Master the side-dodge.
The lock-dodge can be used to leap back and pull yourself away from an enemy attack. Think of it as sort of a juiced-up version of the standard backstep. However, the dodge is most useful as a means with which to sidestep an enemy attack, which, if they really committed to the move, will usually leave you behind them, primed to unleash a deadly attack or two on their exposed flank.
Dodging isn't just for defence.
It may be called a "dodge," but you can dodge toward an enemy and use the move to rapidly close with them. Think of it as a "lunge." This becomes more important as you get further in the game and start facing faster, more nimble enemies. It's not enough to simply sidestep an attack and quickly strike. You'll need to make up the space between you and your foe fast enough to get off a swing, then get away before they counter. Think of the lock-dodge as a way to move quickly in any direction. It's a way to avoid attacks, but it's also a great way to dish out your own.
Learn your charge attack.
In addition to the heavy and light attacks for both forms of your weapon (and variants you can find by transforming mid-combo), each trick weapon has two charge attacks, one for each form. You can perform them by holding down R2, which will charge up your weapon for a high-damage attack. Learn the timing on those, and practice on easier enemies. They can be crucial for doing big damage to larger bosses.
Keep swinging to regain more health.
Much has been made about Bloodborne's "regain" system, which lets you regenerate lost health by landing attacks shortly after being hit. It's an ingenious system that rewards aggressive play, and you should take advantage of it as often as possible.
Here's a tip: You can actually "hit" enemies that are in the middle of their death animation and get even more health back. That can be useful, since I'll often find myself taking a hit near the end of a fight, having a fair bit of health to win back, and then killing my foe with the next strike. When that happens, keep swinging. You can get two or even three more swings into the monster's ragdoll-ing body as they go down, and while you won't see a "contact" animation, you'll still get health back.
Save bullets by using blood.
While you're out and about, you can hit "up" on the D-pad to trade a chunk of health for five bonus quicksilver bullets. That's worth doing, especially if you're out running through areas you know pretty well. While you can always use a blood vial to replace your lost health, if you time it right, you can trigger the ability just before landing some attacks on an enemy, regain the health from your attacks, and get five bullets for free.
Remember your items.
If you're exploring carefully, you'll find a lot of items. Use them! It can be easy to focus entirely on attacking and never really bust out your throwing knives or burning oil. But if you're having trouble with a boss fight, it can be a great time to dig into your inventory and try out a few of the things you've found laying around. A bit of fire-paper or a well-timed molotov can turn the tide of a tough fight.
Capture video of your fights and rewatch them.
I've been capturing all of my gameplay through an external capture box. Of course, I'm doing that because I'm writing about this game, and because I want to make as many GIFs of it as possible. But I've found that by going back and watching myself play, I've also gained significant insight into how combat in the game works and how I can be better at it.
It's similar to recording yourself practicing a musical instrument and listening back -- what sounds one way in the heat of the moment sounds very different to a dispassionate listener. You'll watch yourself fight and see huge mistakes, miscalculations, and enemy wind-ups that you completely walked into. If an enemy is kicking your arse repeatedly, watching video of a failed fight can help you understand their patterns and help you keep a cool head next time you face them. If you don't have an external capture box, remember that your PS4 can capture video natively. Set it up so that you can hold the share button and save whatever just happened, and set aside some time to review. Knowledge is power.
Don't freak when bodies move unexpectedly.
The ragdoll dead bodies in Bloodborne can get a little...goofy. That can be an issue when revisiting areas, where you'll see the bodies "drop" all over again as you walk into the scene. The first few times this happens, you'll probably be so keyed up for unexpected motion that you'll panic a bit. Don't worry -- they haven't come back to life, that's just the game's physics engine fucking with you.
Use lock-on to determine friend from foe.
There are friendly NPCs scattered throughout Yharnam, and in the Souls tradition, it is entirely possible to screw up, accidentally attack them, and either kill them or turn them irrevocably hostile toward you. If you're coming up on a new-looking character who is standing still, there's a chance that he or she is friendly. It can be tough to tell, but the best way to gauge it is to try to lock onto them. Most (or possibly all) friendly NPCs can't be targeted until they turn hostile, so if you can target the character and you see a life bar over its head, chances are you're gonna have to fight it. Even then, it's best to approach (keep your guard up!) and let the potential enemy make the first move. Better to risk death than to accidentally kill one of the few friendly faces you'll see.
Echo farming is a viable pastime.
I've been playing Bloodborne in a particular way. I don't feel rushed, I don't force myself to fight a boss I'm having trouble with, and I repeat sections I've already cleared over and over to master them. That means I spend a lot of time farming blood echoes and hunting for hidden items. This is a perfectly valid way to play the game. In fact, it's a really, really fun way to play! Yes, there are people who can already beat the game in less than an hour. That doesn't mean that playing quickly is the "right" way to play. Take your time, if you want. In fact….
Because I explore and re-explore so constantly, I'm always finding new stuff in areas I previously thought I'd cleared. Just last night, I found a large underground area in Central Yharnam that I'd missed previously.
Furthermore, as I've progressed through the game, the world has changed in subtle ways. Yharnam and its surrounding environs aren't stuck in time, and as the night of the hunt progresses, you'll find new characters in new places and some surprises waiting in places you thought you'd cleared out. Take a break from that boss battle and work your way through one of your old hunting grounds. You never know what you'll find.
Don't worry too much about Insight at first.
Each time you face a boss or encounter some unexplained phenomenon, your Insight counter will go up by one or two. Don't worry about Insight too much, at least at first. It starts to factor later in the game, but at least at the start, don't sweat it too much.
Read item descriptions.
All of the items in the game help fill in some of the mysterious backstory of Yharnam, the disease, the beasts, and everything else. If you want a better idea of what's happening, read item descriptions by pressing the square button twice while examining something in your inventory. More importantly, however, is that you read the description for every "key item" you find while adventuring. Many of these will unlock whole new areas, but it's up to you to figure out where you have to go to use them. The answer is always there, you just have to read the description and work it out.
Provided you're playing online, you'll find a lot of notes waiting for you in various areas. About to open a door you've never opened before? Chances are there's a note on the ground telling you what's ahead. And for the time being, chances are you can trust that note...
…but also trust your gut.
It is possible for players to troll you with notes that lie about what's ahead. "Time for courage!" doesn't necessarily mean you should jump into that potentially bottomless pit. That said, you can usually trust your gut in those sorts of situations. There'll likely be more than one note, and if you see two notes saying the same thing ("Bonfire awaits," for example), it's a pretty safe bet that they're not lying.
AND NOW FOR SOME SPECIFIC, MORE SPOILERY TIPS
If you're just starting out and want to get your feet under you, here are some more to-the-point tips on what you should do first. They won't spoil anything too major, but they will hopefully get you on your way toward having a foothold in the game.
First thing you do, get the left-hand Yharnam shortcut open.
This being a Souls game, every new area is loaded with shortcuts you can unlock. Those shortcuts will make it easier for you to get from one place to another without having to fight your way back through every difficult area. The first and most important of these is in Central Yharnam, atop the first ladder you'll climb.
You'll see that initially, you can go right, but not left. Your first goal in the game should be to go through the right-hand door and do a big leftward "U" up through the central square where the mob is burning the werewolf carcass. Get past there to the square where the big dude is banging on the door. In the back-left corner of that area as you enter, there's a place where you can break some boxes and drop down. (It's next to the house with the laughing women.)
From there, kill the dogs, and go left. Head back around, through the house with the hidden guys, and up to the gate atop the stairs. You can open the gate from the other side and be back out at the lantern. Once you get that left-hand gate open, it becomes much easier to work your way through the level and master it.
Second thing you do, fight the first boss at least once.
The second thing you'll want to do is fight the boss on the bridge at least once. To get to the boss, head left through the gate from the lantern, into the abandoned house, up the stairs (watch out for ambushes), and to your left on the bridge. Then get ready!
Once you take on the boss, assuming you die (you might not!), you'll awaken in the Hunter's Dream, and the doll will be awake. She's the one you talk to to level up and convert your echoes into crucial stat-boosts. Once you've awoken the doll, you can begin farming echoes from Central Yharnam, and will finally start to feel like you've got a foothold. I spent a long time unsure how to awaken the doll, because I explored almost all of Central Yharnam before I figured out where the boss was.
Knock on every door and check every window.
There are actually a fair number of civilians hiding out in Yharnam. You can usually find them based on the fact that the lantern near their door or window is lit, or there'll be some other subtle light emanating from their house. Knock on their door or window and hear them out. Remember to keep talking to them until they start repeating their final line of dialogue. Most of them are just dicks, but some will give you helpful items, while others will ask for help. You never know what you'll find.
Get a cool item from the neighbour by the lantern.
Directly next to the Central Yharnam lantern, there's a window with a coughing dude behind it. Talk to that guy, a bunch, and eventually he'll give you a pretty good item.
There are two areas in Central Yharnam with useful hidden items.
And now, I will show them to you. First one is here, just past the area with the dogs in cages and the scared old woman's house:
You'll have to bust your way through some barrels and other breakable objects, then drop down. If you're careful, you can cut down the bodies you find inside, then drop down and grab the items attached to them.
There's also a door up in that upper area that leads out onto a balcony where an important character is waiting to have a chat. Don't attack! See what she has to say.
The second hidden area is off of the courtyard behind the bonfire, where the Franken-guy is banging sadly on the door. It's off to the left side, facing Franken-dude:
Go up those stairs, kill the men and their dogs, and keep going up. Go straight to the other side of the bridge (the werewolves won't see you). To your left, you'll see this:
Knock through that stuff, and the coffin to the left, and you'll see a ladder going down to an area with some enemies, but also some useful gear:
Hunter-style enemies only need to be killed once.
Throughout the game, you'll go head-to-head with a number of powerful fellow hunters, human opponents who have the same types of weapons and skills you do. These fights are always pitched and generally extremely difficult -- it will give you a whole new appreciation for how the monsters you keep killing feel. Good news, though: Those enemies only appear once. When the level resets, they will be gone... and that includes the jerk atop the tower in Old Yharnam.
Insight can make the game harder.
Are you noticing that enemies have suddenly become more difficult? It could be that your insight has become too high. If your insight is north of 20 and you start to see enemies performing unexpected new attacks, consider buying some stuff at the Insight shop to get it back down. We're still not entirely clear on all of the effects of high insight, though, so it could well be that extremely high insight counts unlock untold mysteries. We'll keep investigating.
Try Ludwig's Holy Blade and the Kirkhammer.
Not only does the Kirkhammer have an extremely good name, it's also a very good weapon. It and Ludwig's Holy Blade unlock after you beat a few of the early bosses, and they both scale very well with your strength and skill stats and can become extremely powerful as you go. All of the weapons in the game are good, but they don't all scale equally, so both of those weapons can be great mainstays for mid-late game play.
Always kill the little crawly dudes.
As you progress through the game, you'll sometimes see these sad little crawly spider-things running away just as you walk into a new area. (Technically they're little sacks of skulls, but whatever.) The first one I encountered was in Old Yharnam, over to the right as I exited from the lantern, slinking away and down over the ledge onto the roof below. These guys only appear when you first enter an area, and you have one shot to kill them -- if you do, you'll get some rare upgrade materials. It's always worth running them down; keep your eyes out for ambushes as you do so.
Do the Chalice Dungeons regularly.
After you beat the Blood-Starved Beast, you'll unlock the ability to go into standalone Chalice Dungeons. You should start doing them soon after you unlock them, because it's possible to put them off and wind up hugely over-leveled for them. I didn't finish the bottom two floors of my first Chalice Dungeon until well after I first attempted it, and found myself killing bosses with a handful of heavy attacks. Not that it isn't fun to rip through enemies like they're nothing, but the rewards and challenges of the first few chalice dungeons are much more appropriate for low/mid-level characters.
Try playing with a friend.
The co-op/adversarial multiplayer in Bloodborne is more complicated than in most other games. That can be cool, in a way, since nothing would dispel the game's mystique like having well-organised matchmaking and lobbies. But it can also be annoying, since getting into your friend's game is a bit of a rigamarole. Still, it's very fun to play alongside a friend, and definitely worth doing. We've written a separate guide on how to get the game's multiplayer working.
You can cheat if you really want to.
If you're getting your arse whipped and simply don't have time to grind your character to a higher level, you CAN cheat and level up. There's an item-duping glitch that lets you easily make multiples of any stackable item, which you can then sell to the store for echoes and level up. I really, really, really urge you not to use this method, since it robs the game of a lot of what makes it so fun and rewarding. But if you're just not having fun and are considering quitting, I guess this is a way to level the playing field a bit.
OK! Time to get even more specific and talk about boss strategies.
TIPS FOR THE FIRST FIVE BOSSES
Bosses in Bloodborne each require a unique strategy. The early bosses, in particular, are designed to teach you important lessons about how combat works in the game, and later bosses compound those lessons with their own challenging attacks, unexpected defences, and mid-battle transformations.
We've broken down our strategies for the first five bosses in the game, which should give you enough of a foothold to figure out the rest of them. Some general tips for bosses, before we get specific:
- There's almost always a shortcut. You can usually find a quick path from the nearest lantern to each boss, and once you know where you're going, can even run/roll your way past any enemies between the two.
- Stay back at first. Most bosses have a variety of close-up and ranged moves, and if you keep your distance, you can usually get a feel for what you're up against.
- Don't go into a fight with a ton of echoes. An obvious tip, but one to keep in mind. Try to go in with as few echoes as possible, and just let go of whatever ones you lose the first time you fight. It's much less stressful when it's just you and the boss, with nothing else on the line.
- Beware the boss's transformation. Most every boss in the game has at least one transformation that occurs when you get their health to a certain point. Maybe they will become more aggressive, or start healing, or being launching more ranged attacks, or drop their ranged attacks and start quickly closing for melee. Whatever it is, be ready for it, and be ready to switch your strategy quickly in response.
- Remember that you can call for help. Once you obtain the beckoning bell, you can always call for someone to come help you beat a boss that has you stuck. Granted, it diminishes the feeling of accomplishment that comes with beating a boss solo, but co-op fights are usually just as exciting and white-knuckle as solo fights.
And with that, here are some tips for the first(ish) five bosses in the game.
The Cleric Beast
The Cleric Beast is located on the bridge near where you start; the route to it is detailed a bit higher in this article. It's a good idea to fight it early, since your first encounter with it will cause the doll in the Hunter's Dream to wake up and unlock the ability to level up your character.
It may look intimidating, but the Cleric Beast isn't actually all that difficult to beat. Keep some distance, and watch out for its powerful left arm. When it commits to an attack, use your lock-on dodge to quickly close and dish out some damage. You can generally dodge to your left when it winds up to attack you and get behind it to deal some more damage.
Molotovs can really whittle its health down from range, and when it leaps toward you, roll forward and you'll probably wind up behind it with a good chunk of time to land heavy attacks. Be patient, keep your eyes open, and you'll be fine.
Father Gascoigne is the other boss in Central Yharnam. He's the first hunter-style enemy you'll face, but certainly not the last, so he's a good introduction to the fundamentals of taking on other hunters. He's very fast, and you'll want to keep moving and keep him in your sights at all times. His windup is actually fairly slow, so it's actually not all that difficult to catch him in a swing with your gun and parry him, which sets him up for a visceral attack.
The safer strategy, however, is to use the gravestones that are liberally scattered around the area to your advantage. His gun won't hit you if you have some gravestones between you and him, so try to keep your distance, let the graves block his shots, wait until he takes a heavy swing, then sweep in and get off some hits.
Once his health gets low he transforms into beast form and becomes much more aggressive. You'll have to fight him like you would any other large enemy, keeping out of his reach and waiting for him to overcommit to attacks before swooping in. His attacks are easier to read and counter when he's in beast form, and even if you miss the window to do a full gun-parry, you can at least knock him back with your gun and get off a few quick attacks.
Bonus tip: If you were paying attention when you talked to the little girl hiding behind a window near Gascoigne's area, you know that she's looking for her father and her mother. Turns out her father is none other than Father Gasciogne himself. If you play the music box she gives you while fighting him, he'll freak out, leaving him open to attack.
The Blood-Starved Beast
The Blood-Starved Beast will likely be a lot of players make-or-break Bloodborne boss. It's the first boss that feels truly daunting, largely because of its poison attacks. You'll find it in the lower reaches of Old Yharnam. On your way there, a werewolf will burst through a wooden door -- be sure to climb that tower and open the door near the top before fighting the BSB, since that will open a shortcut from the lantern to the beast's lair.
Our best advice for the BSB is simply to keep your distance and keep your eyes peeled. Generally, it's wise to keep a pillar between you and the boss so that its attacks can't quite reach you. When it winds up to do its dash attack, dodge to the left, then quickly dodge towards it when it misses you to get off a quick attack or two.
The BSB will "activate" its poison twice, and as it goes through that animation, it's open to attack. If you get hit once or even twice, you may not yet be poisoned, so try to keep your distance while your poison meter inches back to zero. The Beast may seem fast, but you're still faster -- if you sprint away from it, you can catch your breath, use an antidote, or let your poison meter go down. If you're running low on antidote, there are a few located on a dead body behind the altar at the back of the room. Good luck.
Vicar Amelia is a very Souls-y boss, a large dog-like beast in a big-arse open area who will pound you into the ground if you aren't careful. Keep your distance, and let her attempt her leaping smash attack. When she's in midair, dodge forward and to the right, which should get you around to her side (her left, your right) and let you get off some attacks.
When she moves into a praying position, get ready to dodge to the side, since her ground-pound will send a very damaging cone of air directly at you. Once you have her health more than halfway down, she'll begin to pray to regenerate health -- it's vital that you stop her from doing that, either by hitting her with some Numbing Mist or by interrupting her healing move with a charge attack from behind. Keep your distance and choose your moments, and you should be fine.
The Witch of Hemwick
The Witch is actually one of the easier boss fights in the first areas of the game. She's not a particular powerful enemy on her own, but has a bag of tricks that are designed to keep you on your toes and disoriented. She'll summon nightmare creatures that will stalk and attack you; they're actually not that difficult to kill, and almost as easy to dodge. Wait for the red light that signifies her appearance, then hit her with a charge attack and as many follow-ups as you can. Eventually she (and her doppelganger) will start casting a white spell that, if it hits you, freezes you in place for an agonizing amount of time. Roll through the spell's projectiles and they should miss you, freeing you up to finish her off.
And now for two final, most important tips...
Expect the unexpected.
What a dorky tip, right? "Expect the unexpected." What a trite thing to say. Except it's true. You should. This game is full of surprises, many of which I and the rest of the world have yet to discover. Expect the unexpected. Embrace doubt. If you think you're safe, you may not be. Keep your wits about you.
Kick over all the books in the Hunter's Dream.
Because they're right there, you know?
I hope that those tips are helpful for anyone starting out. If you have your own tips, share them below, though be mindful of spoiling too much of what happens without some sort of warning first.
Good luck with the hunt, everyone. You're gonna need it.
This post originally ran on March 25, 2015. We updated it for the first time on April 1, 2015, adding a number of new tips, fine-tuning a few of the old ones, and have added tips for the first five bosses.
Pictures: Bloodborne Wiki