“You died”: Bloodborne

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Bloodborne cover art

 

Bloodborne
Released: March 24, 2015

I’ve only gone and got myself addicted to a game in my third year of university. I’ll say it right off the bat, I love this game and it’s incredible. Yes, it is exceedingly difficult, but the sheer joy of finally defeating an enemy (or a horde of them) is the most rewarding feeling. Admittedly, I haven’t played much of it simply because I am finding it challenging, however, I am completely fine with this. I felt like the PS4 was going to waste somewhat with only my brother around to play Fifa 16 while I’m away at university. For such a good console, it was as if my brother was doing it a huge disservice. Although, he did clarify to me that he plays games to relax and Bloodborne is anything but a relaxing experience. I debated between Bloodborne and Dark Souls II (2014) for a while and after consulting my friends, the overwhelming consensus was to go with Bloodborne. I do love fantasy, but the lack of a shield in Bloodborne seemed to suit my style of play better than what Dark Souls could offer me. Maybe one day I’ll go back to buy it but right now, my efforts are going into giving this game my all. The game has been out for just under a year at this point but I’ll put a spoiler warning here for those who are interested in playing it as I will be talking about specific content to do with the story and the game in general. I knew next to nothing about this game and I feel like that gives you a better experience when playing it for the first time. So, just a friendly reminder that if you are planning on buying this game then go try it for yourself first and let me know what you think of it when you come back to read my take on it.

I don’t play many RPGs, so this was a nice change but the learning curve is steep. Not only this, but I didn’t expect to feel so jumpy and on edge while playing it. The number of times that my parents have heard me getting scared or shouting in elation is quite humorous. It’s more to do with not realising that enemies are far more active in this game than in others that I’ve played. I feel the need to check every corner and watch my back as I progress through the beautifully constructed world that is Bloodborne. Initially I didn’t think there was much of a tutorial, which I was perfectly fine with as most games these days tend to hold your hand and give constant reminders of how to play throughout. This did lead me to press random buttons to figure out what controlled what but I got there eventually, give or take a few keys. I did find that if you roam around the Hunters Dream (a safe haven for the player from all the monstrosities) that there were several notes scattered across the ground that could be interacted with to learn the controls. This served as a strong indicator of what the entire game would be like.

The story is purposely kept very vague to prompt the player to go out of their way to unearth it, but the game doesn’t make that easy for you. As a new player coming into the game having never played any of From Software’s previous Souls titles, I had no idea what I was looking for. My friend did advise me that the story line was hidden within the game and this prompted me to try and remember small details whenever I did make conversation with another person. I did like the sense of exploration and figuring things out for myself, such as lanterns illuminated in a reddish colour indicate a window or door that can be interacted with to speak to someone on the other side. A most ambiguous detail but once spotted it becomes painfully obvious. For the majority of my playthrough so far, I have refused to look up guides or walkthroughs as I want to piece things together myself, and I kept this mentality until after I beat the first boss. I enjoyed being out of my comfort zone as I travelled around the first area of the game, rather tentatively and slowly at first but I soon got the hang of it. Learning how everything worked was quite the experience as well, such as the Blood Echoes earned from killing foes acted as the game’s form of currency that can be used to upgrade your character and weapons. Even figuring out how to equip my secondary weapon was a victory in my eyes! It might not sound like much, but I forgot how easy games are nowadays when every button and their function is spoon fed to you. It might have been a small victory, but it’s the small things that makes this game great.

The first boss battle was like something straight out of an epic poem or film. As soon as the chorus of this beautiful music began to sing and I looked upon this gigantic beast I was filled with both terror and sheer excitement. I respond to music very strongly and the combination of the incredible score and the screeching Cleric Beast was in every sense the perfect introduction to the type of game that I was playing. Having defeated the Cleric Beast after four attempts I had become slightly cocky and thought I could take on the world after bringing down such a colossal monster, but the Scourge Beasts on the other side of the Great Bridge and my friends were quick to knock me down a few pegs. The Cleric Beast, while I do consider defeating it an achievement, was child’s play compared to my struggle with Father Gascoigne. After becoming somewhat lost and too scared to venture into the Yharnam Aqueducts, I admittedly looked up a guide to figure out where I was going and came across a window that I had not interacted with. A little girl responded from the other side of the window, explaining that her mother had gone missing while looking for her father and provided a music box to me that her mother had forgotten to take with her and it played her father’s favourite song. It seemed useless at first until I accidentally used it in battle with Father Gascoigne and he staggered backwards, clutching his head in pain. I stared at my TV screen in shock as I dodged his incessant attacks before he made short work of me. I had not expected to feel sympathy for Gascoigne after he had defeated me countless times as I put the pieces together but eventually after continuously seeing ‘You Died’ appear on the screen, a primal rage within me completely shattered any sympathy I had for him.

I tried over and over again to defeat Gascoigne for days but I would either quit the game because I couldn’t take it or I was starting to get a headache from looking at the TV for too long. The most painful part of Bloodborne so far is that the majority, if not all, of my deaths do not feel unfair. I cannot blame the game for my failures, which is definitely a positive thing, but it’s hard to come to terms with when you have to realise that fact. There were moments in my numerous battles with Gascoigne that I thought to be unreasonable, but it all boiled down to him being an extremely powerful adversary and I couldn’t criticise the game for being difficult. I knew what I was getting myself into when I bought this game, I just had to pick myself up whenever I died and try again. I did and continue to refuse to play online simply because I’m too proud to admit if I need help in a game, and if Gascoigne was to be defeated then it would be with my character’s singular strength. With this determination in mind, I spent an excruciating three hours yesterday continuously trying to work out Gascoigne’s combat patterns and eventually succumbed to the internet for help. I would not recommend Eurogamer’s guide on how to defeat Father Gascoigne as it all seemed fine in theory but I found it hard to execute their ideal way of playing the game. This then led me to combine what I had read, what my friends had advised me to do and just getting stuck in. I kept telling myself one more try and at one point my dad had decided to come into the room and watch me as I had been ranting and raving about an extremely challenging boss battle for the last few days. I am currently calling my dad my good luck charm as it was only when he decided to watch that the glorious cerulean words ‘Prey Slaughtered’ appeared on the screen. I was so elated that I screamed, and it was only when I had calmed down that I came to realise how fast my heart was beating and that I had forgotten to breathe in the last minute or so.

Now, this may all sound very dramatic and exaggerated but being a lover of video games, I become immersed and invested in them very quickly. I find that I’m the same with many TV series and, on a much higher level, books. In my eyes, it’s not so different from watching a film for the first time and having some kind of emotional response or attachment to characters. After putting hours into this game and finally making progress, it was bound to trigger something as intense as that in me. This is one of the biggest selling points of this game. The sense of achievement in simply doing things, from the mundane such as working out the controls to the exciting moments like finally winning a boss battle, is absolutely overwhelming.

The defeat of Gascoigne has clouded my thoughts of other incredible details in this game. One of the immediate things that caught my eye was the design of the environments, which was so masterfully crafted that I couldn’t help but become absorbed by it. Although Bloodborne is not fantasy based like its Souls counterparts are, the scenery feels as though it is spawned from fantasy with it’s impressive use and display of Gothic architecture. The creatures, however, reminded me that Bloodborne is in fact set in a nightmare of sorts and the enemies were quick to stress this. The enemies have been very diverse considering it is only the first part of the game, which makes me eager to see what else there is store for me. Having only progressed a small amount in this game, I can’t talk about the story line with any certainty but from what I have managed to uncover it is most intriguing and I am excited to find out more as I go. From what I do know, the character the player controls (known as the Hunter) must slay all of those who have become infected with a type of virus if they hope to return to the ‘waking world’. More so, I am enthusiastic to start on the next area of the game. Central Yharnam had become all too familiar to me as I continuously roamed around the same areas repeatedly in an attempt to gain more Blood Echoes to level up my character. I didn’t mind doing this but it did become quite tedious after a while as I memorised where every enemy was by this point, which sucked the fun out of it a little, so I’m more than happy to be moving onto a new area.

One thing that my brother did mention, which has since stuck with me, is that his main issue with the game is that there is only one button to attack. While this is not strictly true (R1 to use right hand weapon, R2 to start a visceral attack, L1 to transform the right hand weapon and L2 to use left hand weapon) I did understand where he was coming from. It seems very simple in theory, but executing attacks perfectly requires time and patience. I can acknowledge that to some it may seem boring to be pressing R1 repeatedly to keep a string of combos going against an enemy, but hitting them as many times as your stamina bar will allow isn’t always the ideal strategy. I’m not the best tactician, I don’t claim to be, but I feel as though Bloodborne is lucid enough to show weaknesses in enemies but the effort that goes into working them out is entirely down to the player themselves. With the Cleric Beast it was better to stay close to it to avoid it’s wide ranged sweeping attacks, and Father Gascoigne required a more balanced approach of keeping him close and putting a fair amount of distance between you and him due to his use of a left and right hand weapon, exactly like your character. His beast form was more difficult to figure out as he becomes even faster and more aggressive than before, which in turn made me panic, but it soon became clear that dodging his attacks would prove more effective and to jump underneath him rather than away from him as he covers a lot of ground very quickly.

I’m certain that my friends have become quite tired of my constant stream of commentary whenever I find something new or difficult in this game but I can’t help it. This is one of the few games that I’ve been so desperately excited to share with people, so I feel the need to update everyone whenever I make progress. No other game comes close in terms of the thrill that I get from BloodborneThe Last of Us (2013) remains my favourite game as of the last few years, but Bloodborne is in an entirely different category that up until now I did not have as much experience with. I am sad to be parting with Bloodborne as I will be going back to university but having beat Father Gascoigne, I feel as though I can leave it feeling satisfied that I finally did it.

As standard procedure on this blog, I can’t rate this game as of yet as I have not even come close to completing it but with how amazing I have found it so far it’s safe to assume that it’s going to be positively received. But you never know, something could happen later down the line that makes me reconsider but as of right now, I am enjoying this game to no end and I cannot wait to continue it when I next get a chance.

I would recommend Bloodborne if you enjoy games that are atmospheric, blood-pumping and gratifying.

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