Once more unto the breach, dear hunters. Bloodborne's DLC expansion hits next week, and while I can't talk about The Old Hunters yet, its impending arrival prompted a return to From Software's bloody action game. Specifically, I dived into New Game Plus mode. You know what? This game's still frickin' amazing.
New Game Plus brings your character over, stats and all, but facing enemies who hit much harder and take longer to bring down. Not much else really changes. You can stack New Game Plus multiple times, with some arguing the real challenge doesn't really kick in until you've made it a few layers deep.
Even though I've been away from Bloodborne for months, it only took an hour or so before I'd settled into the game again. The combat is so fast, so smooth, and so responsive. I'm dashing, darting, and slashing my way through Yharnam as though it were yesterday, and those old, familiar feelings are rushing back.
What I've enjoyed about New Game Plus is how — and this is gonna sound ridiculous — easy it is. I'm not saying Bloodborne is easy; it's not. Bloodborne, part of the Souls lineage that started with 2009's Demon's Souls, is tough as hell. These games are brutally challenging, but once you've accustomed to their particular rhythms, your instincts begin to take over and things click into place.
This was nowhere more apparent than when I stumbled into the boss fight for Blood-Starved Beast, who whooped my arse the last time I showed up. His attacks poison you, which means health is not only dropping from his strikes, but the poison is slowly killing you, too. Players are forced to juggle attacking, dodging, and rolling with healing and popping antidote items. The first time around, I was out of health vials and antidote, but the boss was a strike away from death. Worried I'd have to start again, I rapidly spammed R1 over and over, not worrying what might happen. As my health tick-tick-ticked down, my character pulled off one last swipe — and we died simultaneously. It was heartbreaking and exhilarating, but here's what's important: Prey Slaughtered.
That first battle happened a few hours into Bloodborne, while our second tango had me equipped with dozens of hours of experience with the game's combat system. The result? He only managed to hit me twice in the few minutes we're facing each other, and the Blood-Starved Beast was no more. Even though he's more powerful than ever on New Game Plus, it didn't matter — my skills had improved dramatically, a point that's not exactly represented on a stat sheet.
(I'd show you proof of this encounter, but it has one of the new weapons, so that will have to wait until next week.)
I blew through the first half of Bloodborne in a single evening last night, a task that took me more than a week earlier this year. Some of my success can be attributed to an arrogance that helps in these games, a feeling of "whatever's coming up, I've got it — no problem." Whereas before I'd be overly cautious, leading to mistakes of timidity, now I'm sprinting around and tearing shit up.
Your first time through a new Souls game is harrowing, as it's unclear what tricks and traps lie ahead. The series has always been a playful tug-of-war between player and designer, a fine line between trial-and-error and sportive surprises. Your second time, however, you can push back and feel powerful.
Maybe I'll play through the rest of Bloodborne, maybe not — there are so many games to play! Though the reason I'm hustling through the game is to grind experience points for the DLC, gotta admit: it feels good to be in Yharnam again.