Bloodborne Has Clicked For Me (And It Only Took Four Years)

A few weeks ago, I was cursing former Kotaku jerk Kirk Hamilton for forcing me to play through all of Bloodborne. Now, I’m fearing the old blood just like the rest of you.

First, a bit of background: I bought From Software’s PlayStation 4-exclusive action game when it first came out back in March 2015. It was my first Souls-type game, and I don’t know if I was mentally prepared for it. After slashing my way through Central Yharnam, slaying the Cleric Beast, and finally defeating Father Gascoigne, I arrived at the outskirts of Old Yharnam and just kinda gave up. I didn’t feel like memorising more level layouts or slamming my head against more bosses. There were too many other games to play.

Now... well, now there are still too many other games to play, but after losing a Splitscreen predictions bet to Kirk earlier this month, I am contractually obligated to play through all of Bloodborne. (Thanks to a little-known constitutional clause, everything said on Kotaku Splitscreen is legally binding.)

So I started a new game of Bloodborne and braced myself for misery. I had enjoyed the dozen hours of Dark Souls I played last year, but I never felt a burning desire to finish it. I just figured these types of games weren’t for me. I appreciated them — the intricate level design, the embrace of difficulty as an expressive tool — but I never really loved them. I generally prefer games with more narrative structure, and so I didn’t expect to find much to love in Bloodborne today.

During my first session, I started re-learning the streets of Central Yharnam and re-making the same mistakes I had made four years ago. (Somehow, like a dummy, I missed the first lamp until I unlocked the shortcut leading back to it.) I defeated mobs of angry citizens, knocked on the doors of creepy laughing women, and beat the Cleric Beast pretty quickly, on my second or third try.

My second session, last week, was far more frustrating. The game’s second boss, Father Gascoigne, is seen by experienced Bloodborne players as something of a test to make sure you know how to play. “If you can beat him,” the game is saying, “you can beat anyone.”

I could not beat him.

Dear reader, I spent hours and hours battling Gascoigne, hiding behind graves to dodge his shots and learning how to parry just at the right time. I used the special music box I got from his wayward daughter to stun him temporarily and get some free shots off, but it wasn’t enough. Really, he wasn’t the problem. The problem was that every time he got to 1/4 health, he’d transform into a giant beast, pin me against some gravestones, and crush me almost instantly.

Finally, I decided to try something new. Instead of fighting him in the graveyard, I ran up the stairs above his house and led him to a more open area, where I could circle around his beastly form and dodge without running into any graves.

Using that tactic, I defeated him on the first try.

Then came my third session, yesterday. I ran through the Cathedral Ward and entered Old Yharnam, where I was greeted by a hunter with a machine gun. This was... alarming.

Suddenly, something in my brain clicked. As I descended the depths of Old Yharnam’s abandoned buildings, fighting poisonous nightmare monsters and dodging machine gun fire along the way, I started to see what all the fuss was about. When I unlocked a few shortcuts and made my way back to the Cathedral Ward, hunting and exploring and seeing how the game’s brilliant maze-like levels connected to one another, I really started to see what all the fuss was about.

Bloodborne is a game full of satisfactions both big and small. Finding a secret area, unlocking a new passage back to the latest lantern, mastering an enemy’s attack patterns... it all adds up, and when you get it, you really get it.

Then I met Vicar Amelia.

I started fighting Vicar Amelia yesterday afternoon at around 4pm. She didn’t seem so tough. Big, slow brute — just gotta roll around her and take out her legs. After trying a few times, I had gotten her down to half health, but something wasn’t working. I’d get sloppy and dodge the wrong way, or I’d get pinned by a couple of attacks and die almost immediately. By 5:30 PM, my eyes were hurting. By 6:30 PM, my throat was dry and my fingers had started to cramp. I never thought I could hate a dog, but here we were.

I took a break to make dinner and watch a documentary with my wife, then got back to it. Getting to the Vicar became second nature — killing the first couple of Church Guards to farm for healing potions, then climbing a few stairways, dodging a giant, learning how to roll just at the right time so that tall dude with the giant wooden cross couldn’t spike me on my way to the boss, and so on.

I’m travelling later this week and won’t have my PlayStation 4 from Wednesday night through Sunday, so I knew that if I didn’t get her last night, I would be waiting for a long time. I went to Reddit and looked at a few posts before I found one particularly interesting tip: Turn off target unlocking. It seemed weird. Unintuitive. Without locking on to Amelia, how would I keep track of her and watch her moves so I could dodge the right way? Wouldn’t I get lost in a swirl of claws and fluff?

Yet... unorthodox strategy had worked for Papa G, so hey, why not just try it?

Then...

Then...

Bloodborne is a good video game.


Comments

    Took me 18 months. Welcome, kind hunter.

    I've been playing bloodborne since release pretty regularly. Its absolutely my favourite game and only game I've ever cared enough to platinum/get all achievements.

    Not my fav FROM game but it was my first. A truly magical experience like no other. Took a few hours to gel with me.
    DS2 took many false starts after a few months and it remains my fav FROM game. That moment when these games click is something I’ve never experienced anywhere else in gaming.

      I've tried to get into DS2 many many times but always find it too hard to get into for some reason. What about it makes it your fav?

    I tried it at launch, coming right off beating Dark Souls 2. Didn't work, at all - I struggled like hell through Gascoigne, got to the bottom of Old Yharnam, and couldn't beat BSB; after a few nights, gave up. I only went back to it last year, after playing Nioh for the better part of a year, and flew through everything - beat BSB in three attempts, and only really stumbled at Shadows and Orphan.

    Once you get it, once it clicks - it's fantastic... Might one day go back for that last trophy, but Defiled Chalice is a nightmare.

      Nioh is actually appropriate practice for bloodborne. The combat is much closer in style/mechanics than any of the dark souls games.
      As much as I love bloodborne it is my least fav FROM game.
      I played Nioh well after the FROM games but when I went back to bloodborne I was waaaaay better equipped to deal with the pace of combat.

        Oh definitely. My DS2 experience was 90% spent hiding behind a giant shield and whacking anything that bounced off it with the biggest Ultra Great Sword I could find... so it's no wonder BB gave me trouble. I played Nioh in full light armour, dual swords - the fastest, most mobile build I could put together - and only gave up when I hit Way of the Wise and started getting one-shot by basic enemies... needless to say, I got very good at dodging. And because BB felt way slower than I was used to at that point, I was able to get comfortable with parrying early on, which made a *huge* difference.

    Strange, my experience was exactly the same. I tried it two years ago and didn’t get it. Then I tried it a few months ago and I fell in love.

    Wait until you get to the endgame DLC. It’s hard.

    This game DEVOURED my 2015. I wasted a couple of days on Arkham Knight before going back.

    Never before has a game prompted me to actually look into the classic literature that inspired it.

    Never before had a game inspired me to make a YouTube series just so I could play it again.

    Never before has my microphone clipped so hard when I screamed "YES!" after finally beating the bastard Orphan of Kos.

    Never before have I consumed a piece of media so ravenously, that I was able to notice pieces of its subtle brilliance. For example, the brass bindings thought to "ward off beast blood" on the right leg of the "Decorative Old Hunter" set, which happens to be the leg that you stab blood vials into when healing...

    Bloodborne is a good game.

    Last edited 23/01/19 3:45 pm

    Also, I think it's worth pointing out that probably a lot of people struggle with Amelia, because arguably they're "under-leveled" when they first encounter her. Minor spoilers for those interested, but going off to the left of the Church will bring you to a somewhat optional area which is more your "level"

      Beating the boss in that area will also give you access to an additional way of buffing your character.

    I've finished Bloodborne and started it many times over but I still don't really "get" it. The story and aesthetics are great and I like the world that has been built but in terms of gameplay it just doesn't click. My biggest problem is with the combat which always feels like a contradiction of itself. The game wants you to be aggressive and fast with a sense of high risk, high reward underpinning its design but does so by giving you the sluggish and clunky Souls controls.

    Every time I play it I feel like FromSoftware wanted to make an action game but didn't know how to make something that wasn't a Souls game. It's something I'm worried about with Sekiro. Everything they say makes it sound like a faster paced Tenchu with Bushido Blade style combat but I can't help feeling like I'm going to find myself frustrated by controls that haven't quite moved on from the Souls series.

      I'm the same with these games. I like the premise and environment of the game but I just find the controls sluggish, clunky and unresponsive. It frustrates me. I like the challenge aspect especially as it reminds me of the challenges of games like ninja garden, which I loved. To the point I collected every scarab and 100% completion of the game. I replayed it a lot. Hopefully Sekiro is as great as it looks and I'm thinking the controls have to be better judging by the videos.

    I tried Bloodborne a year or two ago, having never played a Souls game but hearing/seeing a lot about the game(s). Honestly I WANTED to like it, but found it so frustrating I bounced off it really hard.

    I later played Nioh and while I didn't finish it (mostly because I got pulled off it to another game and never went back, not because I wasn't enjoying it), I got much further into it. It was a bit friendlier I think.

    Anyway, I still wish I had it in me to learn Bloodborne and perhaps more than anything, conquer my own easily frustrated self. This article has me thinking about trying it again...

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