I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but my colleague Rebecca is a big fan of a little PS4 exclusive called “Bloodborne”. In her own words:
“Whilst my initial interest and attraction was thanks to Bloodborne’s fast paced action and infamously steep learning curve I found myself falling in love with it solely due to the story etched underneath the violence and bloodshed. For some Bloodborne may present itself as a meaningless hack and slash adventure but for me, the deep seated lore made it far more memorable. I found it fascinating that Bloodborne had a deeper story to tell, and those (like myself) who cared to listen and delve into the nightmares of the hunt found things that will stay with them forever.”
Her enthusiasm for this brutal world of monsters, gore and gothic architecture is infectious – so I decided to give it a go.
A quick prelude – I’m not very good at video games. I play for experiences with friends or to experience exciting stories. While the Souls franchise has those things, it also has a penchant for bone-crushing bosses and controller-throwing, rage-inducing encounters. That said, I’m told they are, in fact, rather good.
The first thing I noticed in Bloodborne’s introductory menu was the weirdly comprehensive character creation suite. I settled on the most basic of appearances and stats, hoping being a “jack of all trades” would negate any troublesome chinks in my armour – save for that of my own inexperience. And then, it began…
Wandering through an abandoned clinic of sorts, my lowly “Hunter” staggers past some old, rickety gurneys. In the next room, a mean looking beast is enjoying a late night snack. As I wander close, it senses me and lurches towards me. I don’t have a weapon, so I dodge it’s attacks and strike when I can – not often, and doing barely any damage. Undeterred, I keep fighting until I fall and the screen (as if I hadn’t realised what is happening) tells me that I’ve died.
I’m told that happens a lot throughout this franchise, but what I wasn’t expecting was for this death to be by design. Dying transports me to a more peaceful place known as The Hunter’s Dream and within minutes I’ve grabbed myself a transforming weapon (the scythe, in case you were wondering) and a pistol. After finding my way back to the aforementioned devil-dog, I cut him down with relative ease, stopping to chug a “blood vial” – I don’t quite know what they do yet, but I know they keep me a little further from death for now.
Emerging into Yharnam, I take out a couple of villagers with no real issues – learning the ropes whilst dodging and switching between the scythes modes. One villager smashes from behind some boxes which almost catches me out, but after using the pistol to stun him, I finish him with the scythe. I was almost confident.
And then I found five villagers walking in a group and got cocky.
Within seconds I was surrounded and, with no blocking mechanic, my frantic scythe-swings left me wide open. My stamina faded and no amount of blood vials could keep me from being KO’d. Lets try that again shall we?
This time, I let the villagers pass. I snuck behind them and wandered in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I found a rather large opponent, (fittingly named the Executioner who eliminated me in seconds.)
Ok, so one way is a bunch of scary chaps with a numerical advantage and the other way is something the size of one of Bloodborne’s intricately detailed homes that line Yharnam’s cobbled streets.
I tried to think outside the box – I followed the villagers along their route, sneaking off to alleyways. More villagers there, but easier to pick off. I started to feel smug again, right up until I spotted this…
This was the first time that I understood what Rebecca meant when she said “nightmares of the hunt”. At first, I assumed I’d trigger a cutscene as I approached. No dice, and I was swiftly vivisected by Yharnam’s denizens. Next? I tried to pick them off one-by-one. Again, no such luck. In fact, that was even more swift! Only one more option…
I ran. I ignored all of my “programming” from the games I’ve played for twenty three years. I ran past the bonfire and a straggling villager. I ran past three less than adorable dogs and the man I presume is their master. In fact, I fan until I fell into a sewer.
And there was devoured by rats the size of German Shepherds.
That’s all for my tale of woe for now, but I’ll return to Yharnam as soon as possible. Its fair to say it hasn’t gone well so far, and I haven’t even found a boss yet!
That said, I can see why Bloodborne is so revered in today’s gaming landscape. In a world of “always online”, player-choice and scripted sequences – nothing feels like Bloodborne (except, I assume, it’s Dark Souls brethren). Yharnam feels like a place in the same way that Midgar or Rapture felt less like game environments and more like parts of real worlds, and every nook and cranny seems to hide secrets and dangers. In fact, just writing this has me excited to discover more!
With that in mind, I’m heading back. Wish me luck!