Let me begin by saying that this article is in no way a review, it’s more of look into the world of Bloodborne. Perhaps someone who hasn’t played Bloodborne can read this article and think “Why yes, I do love being a masochist. I think Bloodborne sounds perfect for me.” When I first saw Bloodborne I was confused, was it like Dark Souls, or was it something entirely different in itself? Unfortunately, as a person who has not yet gotten around to play the Dark Souls franchise yet, I can’t myself say with complete certainty. However, from what I’ve seen, it seems to borrow some aspects of the Souls series and then morph those aspects into an entirely new and exciting piece. I’ve spent dozens of painful, yet enjoyable hours in Bloodborne’s gristly universe and as my time has progressed, I’ve found that there are three recurring questions that rattle around my brain.
Is it a health bar, or a will meter? Let’s start by looking at the health bar, or will meter, or… Interactive life thermometer. Whatever you want to call it, you have to appreciate the ingenuity and simplicity behind such a solid mechanic in the game. In my honest opinion, I have to say that the will meter is arguably the most well thought out aspect of the game. Sure, the level design is superb, the animation and AI of the enemies are well-done and the creativity behind even the smallest assets are downright impressive. But, what the will meter is to me is a life-line, it allows you to keep fighting that much longer depending on just how much you want it.
I’ll give an example; below you’ll see an image of a hunter fighting some form of beast. Unfortunately the screenshot has been taken mid-strike so all you’re seeing is a mix of anatomy and weapon surrounded by blood. But that’s beside the point, in the top-left corner you’ll see the health meter or whatever we’re calling it. Once a player has been hit, the white marker on the meter goes down, but the redness will remain in the same place for a short period of time, followed by it slowly dropping. The cool thing here is that if a player wants, they can quickly dodge and retreat to a safe location, then bosh a few health potions. However, if they’re feeling courageous, they can carry on swinging, gaining chunks of their health back with each successful hit to an enemy.
It’s a seemingly small aspect of the game, but it can be very useful. Just imagine, you’re fighting the final boss of the game and both of your health bars are down to just a slither. Instead of fleeing and risking being hit in your attempt to drink a blood vial, you continue to hit the boss at the same time they hit you. Who will win? Whose doing the most damage? It definitely leads to some intense situations, some of which you’ll win and others which will lead you to sit there and think “Why didn’t I just run away and drink a darn blood vial? I wasted all that time… I could’ve had him!”
Should I keep going, or should I run away like a coward? The second question I ask myself revolves around pride, self-respect, honor, and most importantly, how many blood echoes I’m going to lose if I accidentally run into a boss. When I first wrote this question it was in regards to; do I carry on for another run, or do I put the game down and go play something easy? But now that I look at it again, it can also be related perfectly to the fight or flight analogy. That’s where Bloodborne thrives, it plays on your greed so well. You can spend twenty minutes going through an area perfectly, using minimal blood vials, finding lots of secrets and earning an amount of blood echoes which are just shy of getting you a level-up.
That’s where the question comes into play. Do you want to be a coward? A puny hunter who went back to his dream, sold his pebbles and scraped just enough blood echoes out of his wallet to afford an upgrade. Or, do you want to be a fighting hunter who strikes fear into the very hearts of the beasts who roam the night? That way, when you make your glorious return to the hunter’s dream, you’ll have enough for three upgrades and ten blood vials for your troubles. It really hits you right in your gaming manhood, the satisfaction of earning those echoes can only be matched by the amount of sweat dampening your controller and the voice inside your head constantly repeating “Turn back you idiot, turn back!”.
If you aren’t brave enough to continue, then what are you brave enough to do? All that awaits you is the walk, or more so sprint of shame back to what used to be your corpse. You return to your echoes to find a huge man covered only by a cloak and the sack on his back has consumed them. You have one chance to redeem yourself, kill this foe or forever lose the thousands of echoes you’ve accumulated throughout your journey. Then, when you lose is when you decide you’ve had enough, it’s time for a cold drink and a long walk to contemplate your next journey.
How in the blue hell am I to kill that thing? Bloodborne does very well at creating a learning curve. The curve isn’t fair, mind you, as it’s somewhat similar to a father shouting at his ten-year-old son asking him why he isn’t able to run up a wall. You start off small, first you’re mauled by a werewolf, however, once you acquire your first set of equipment, the game becomes slightly different. Instead of being mauled by a werewolf, you get lit on fire and shot by the crazed villagers of Yharnam. You’ll get your brain sucked up by some weird jelly-monster, spiders will try to eat you, hunters will want to get rid of you and many other absolutely insane creatures will reveal that they also aren’t particularly fond of you.
However, I’m digressing, the point of this question is the sheer scale of the enemies you’ll encounter in the game. You see villagers and you shrug, there’s no real challenge there besides the fact there’s several of them attacking you. But as you near the bridge you hear screams of a giant Cleric Beast. The first of the deformed and exaggerated monsters who you’ll be squaring off against. That’s where you start asking yourself, how am I actually supposed to kill this thing? It’s twenty feet tall, quadruple my size and has claws as big as my body. So you die, and trust me, you die, a lot. But then you go back, you level-up, you see yourself become stronger and you realise you can defeat this beast. Once again, here’s your satisfaction; you didn’t grind to beat this boss, you didn’t have to sit through boring areas. You fought through abandoned cities, universities, forests and frontiers of a nightmare to better yourself, ultimately proving that you’re a worthy adversary for any kind of foe.
With this question comes another personal example I can share with you. As I slowly made my way through the districts of Yharnam, I witnessed things changing around me. I fell deeper into the night, the Blood Moon rose, some enemies fell asleep and others creeped out of their nest. Below you’ll see something known as a Lesser Amygdala, it’s a hideous thing, like a gigantic spider. Once you reach a certain point in the game you’ll notice these things all around the place, they’re mostly wrapped around buildings. They move slightly, they look at you, they’ll even grab you and try to hurt you. I don’t particularly like spiders, or anything that resembles the demon spawn of a Lesser Amygdala so I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to fight anything like it. I was wrong, all of these confrontations and instances where I’d met this monster would be foreshadowing. Not to fight a lesser version though, but to fight a fully grown version of the Amygdala on its own terms. As you reach the Nightmare Frontier you fight this thing mano-a-mano and that’s when I came to truly appreciate the scale of everything about Bloodborne.
As of right now I’m currently still enjoying Bloodborne, I’ve finished the story and witnessed its three endings, but have chosen to continue the torture; mainly because I’m a huge fan of the abusive relationship me and Bloodborne share. As I slowly make it through the Chalice Dungeons to find Yharnam, The Pthumerian Queen and gain the platinum trophy, I find that I constantly ask myself the above three questions. But, the last question is of course: When will Bloodborne 2 be released?
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