Bloodborne’s dark story unfolds in the gothic city of Yharnam. You control a hunter from foreign lands who’s travelled to Yharnam to unravel the secrets of the Scourge and the Hunt. After an unexplained (and gloriously unnerving) cutscene, you’re left on your own, the only way forward to clear the seemingly never-ending path of monsters the game puts in your way.
The world of Yharnam is reminiscent of a devastated Victorian city. The gothic architecture, abandoned prams and barred gates all hint at what sort of place this is. Worse still, the Scourge has transformed Yharnam’s residents into crazed shadows of their former selves, and they don’t seem to like you. Not one bit.
Enemies in Bloodborne evolve with the dark environments of the game. In the first area, you’ll mostly face off against angry townsfolk but, as you explore Yharnam further, you’ll face bizarre enemies such as hungry pigs with multiple eyes, giant flea-like creatures and mutated choristers with gooey external brains. Bloodborne’s enemies not only fit perfectly into their sinister environments, but also act as a gauge of how deep into the nightmare you are.
Lore is a hugely important part of Bloodborne. Yharnam is evidently a place of hate, with three main factions desperately fighting for control of the city; the corrupt Healing Church; Brygenworth College and The Hunters Workshop. This after an over indulgence in tainted blood (a bit like a drug) provided freely to Yharnam residents turned everyone and everything into beasts. This story of conflict builds up slowly through the game and unearthing new areas reveals the starting points and key events which have influenced these mass nightly hunts.
Bloodborne’s story works around the phases of the moon, with events and fights being locked off once the moon has transitioned into its next stage. Along with the steady move of the moon across Yharnam’s sky, the enemies you face also transition into much darker and ghastly aberrations of themselves the deeper into the nightmare you get. This progression of depth shows the seriousness of the blood scourge and the corruption that it has left behind. It also means that Bloodborne is one of the most immersive and alluring gaming experiences on the PlayStation 4 to date.
There are over fifteen bosses in Bloodborne (not counting the bosses in the optional Chalice Dungeons) but not once did a boss fight in the main game feel repeated or rehashed. The mix of human and beast fights kept the game feeling fresh and kept me on my toes. Each fight also revealed a juicy snippet of lore. For example, Father Gascoigne, a hunter gone mad with lust for blood, shows the consequences for Hunters who overindulge in the Blood ministration. And defeating Rom the Vacuous Spider allows the moon to transition into its final Blood Moon phase. I already enjoyed the boss fights, but when I released that their individual stories tied all the lore together I was even more in love with them.
As I neared the end of the game I found myself desperately grasping at the lore, attempting to tie loose ends together and understand the Hunt and its origins. As satisfied as I was with the gameplay I wanted more from Yharnam’s history. And this thirst was quenched with the release of The Old Hunters DLC. FromSoftware offered up a thrilling eight-hour experience that was just as dark, just as gory and just as brilliant as the main game itself. The Old Hunters introduced three large areas that are not only exciting to explore, but each hold a key piece of a ‘secret’: the real reason for the Hunt and the Scourge.
Overall my journey through Yharnam was one of complete surprise. A game that I assumed I would play through with little afterthought ended up being one of my favourite games of all time. One that I still obsess over any time I have a moment spare. Taking part in the Hunt had a lasting effect on me and I’m still bewildered that Bloodborne had such a rich vein of story waiting to be unearthed. If you like a darker game with a lot below the surface, then Bloodborne is a must!