Technically, I'm supposed to be writing a term paper on internet privacy and information security right now. So I have decided to take some time to reflect back on my journey in Bloodborne instead. This may be a bit of a chaotic write-up since I have no particular structure or goal in mind. This is more or less me doing a thought stream while I am bored.
Before we talk about the new, lets take a moment to mention the old. The aspects I love about Dark Souls 1 are the world and the bosses which call such a desolate land their personal playground. I love the feeling of the levels weaving in and out of each other in a way that feels completely natural. I love the feeling of walking into a room with wide open space, and then seeing a jaw-dropping creature reveal itself. I love contemplating the purpose of said creature even while it closes the gap between it and myself while I desperately try to chug down an estus. All the while knowing that the game will reveal said purpose to me if I put the effort in to discover it.
My biggest fear going into Bloodborne was that it would not deliver this kind of experience in a meaningful way. A lot of people may disagree, but I felt like Dark Souls 2 fell short of achieving this. Perhaps lightning can only strike once on the first Souls game you ever play. Maybe that magic just doesn't repeat itself in the same way?
When faced with this question, Bloodborne dons its hunter's hat, pulls out it's trick weapon, and stands tall in the face of it's predecessors. You do not get a second chance to make a first impression, and by opening with a mysterious speech and blood transfusion, Bloodborne wastes no time. I was immediately interested in the eerie world where coffins line the streets and werewolves burn at the stake.
Let's get a few details out in the open about how I'm playing before I get too deep into my thoughts. I started with the saw cleaver despite it being the generic choice. I am, in fact, not one of the cool kids who run around with the cane that turns into a whip. Oh and I play in the offline mode because who wants to run around in a world where notes and pvp players spoil the day. Because of this I don't summon help for anything either. One is the loneliest number...
With that out of the way, I think its time for me to start drooling over this game's bosses.
We'll start out simple first. Father Gascoigne. Technically the second boss, but I don't have a whole lot to say about Cleric Beast other than he's aesthetically impressive and instills a sense of dread when you first encounter him. So onto the fallen hunter we go!
The good ol' Father wasn't the cause of my first death, but he was the cause of my first boss related death. I was genuinely impressed with the games deception on this matter. I thought by exploring and talking to npc's I had been given some secret key to beating this boss. Here I was riding high on exploration finding new armor, a saw spear, and this special item, but meanwhile Bloodborne was just waiting to swat me down like the fly that I am.
Thinking myself quite the genius, I decided to spam the music box immediately because I connected the dots between the child and this guy. I recommend taking a moment of silence for my character right now. Anyone who's played this fight knows that while the music stuns his human form, playing it more than three times results in him skipping directly to his 3rd beast form. I'm going to reference jaw-dropping moments a lot in writing this, and this was one of them. It goes against everything games have ingrained in my head. Secrets make things better and not worse!
After discovering this deceit, I settled on fighting him without the box. Which actually wasn't all that bad. As it turns out, his bark is worse than his bite. I felt that this was a good fight to help me get used to the shield-less fighting style of Bloodborne. Whenever I fell into Dark Souls habits and tried to back out of the engagement, I was met with a charging strike or a bullet to the face and had nothing to deflect it with. If there was one moment where I learned how to dodge with the game's dashes, this was it. And let me just take a moment to say, this style of fighting feels so much better than Dark Souls. I used to love my shield, but now I'm left hoping that Dark Souls 3 has a viable shield-less strategy similar to this combat.
Upon vanquishing Gascoigne on my third attempt, (with a sliver of health left and a heart racing a mile a minute) I unknowingly began making my way ever so slowly toward the once beautiful Vicar Amelia. The Blood Starve Beast also happened next, but since I killed him on the first try without really being hit I don't have much to say about the fellow. He's poisonous, or so I hear.
Amelia, however, was a different story. She can take the credit for being the second boss to kill me, and when I almost had her dead! Amelia felt a lot like the Cleric Beast in terms of having an imposing design. The transformation and eerie screaming as if in pain the entire fight really helped set the mood for this world. What in the heck is going on here? She also gave me my second jaw drop of the game, and right when I vanquished her!
I'll paint you a little word picture of the situation. No blood vials left, molotov in hand, a few ticks of health left for myself, and a few ticks of health left for her. We both stand out of reach of each other. She leaps into the air to come crashing down on me and I wind my arm back preparing for the throw of a lifetime. The bottle sails through the air and catches her right before she descends upon me. Instead of falling in crushing defeat, I'm treated to a wave of bloodmarks falling down on me, and its at this moment that I can finally exhale once again. A friend of mine was sitting next to me watching the fight, and we both just looked at each other and started laughing at how close that was to failure. It's moments like this that I'm going to laugh about and reference with a spark of excitement in my eyes for years to come.
What was next you might ask? Well, dear reader, I next moved on to kill the Witch of Hemwick and Darkbeast Paarl. I also ditched that old saw spear and moved on to Ludwig's Holy Blade because it seems pretty ideal for the quality build I have going on right now.
I don't have much to say about either of these bosses because they were also one try kills, but let me just take a moment to dote on Paarls design. This an intimidating creature. My friend and I decide to explore the secret area we stumbled into for a bit, and we see what looks like a ball of fur off in the distance. I'm hesitant because of the difficulty of the monsters in the area, but I am encouraged to get closer. The second I take one step too close a skull looms out of the mass of fur and things become electric. I'm not sure if I just got lucky on this fight. I did immediately notice that things were pretty safe directly under his body as long as I rolled away when he decided to use Thunder. That strategy lead me to a safe and easy victory. I think knowing not to lock onto large creatures in this kind of game also helped make things easier since you could knock him down by attacking the legs. Still, take a moment to appreciate how great this thing looks and animates.
Next on my hit list just so happened to be Shadow of Yharnam. Before I talk about this trio, let me just say, I hate the Forbidden Woods. Those giant snakes were...ugh. And it just dragged on forever. By the time I got to what was obviously going to be the boss zone, I looked over at my friend and said “I kind of want to go back and save my 30,000 bloodmarks, but I really don't want to redo any of this level.” And with that I walked forward.
I immediately regretted my decision when I saw three enemies instead of one. My history with multiple enemy bosses in the Souls games has been... unpleasant to put it nicely. They're never fun, and they hardly ever feel fair. Frankly, I had enough of them with Dark Souls 2, but that's an unimportant tangent. Having written off these bloodmarks to the void, I decided to get as much information on the Shadow as I could in this first attempt.
I immediately recognized one as a spellcaster and the other two seemed to be rushing me with weapons. I also notice a giant tombstone that seems perfect for playing ring-around with and for blocking ranged attacks. With that, I decide to focus on the guy shooting fireballs at me while I play keep-away with the other two. It's a long process of dodging through fireballs (is the dodging mechanic easier in this game or is my timing just better through experience?) and frantically running away when the katana and flamethrower guys catch up to me. Eventually, I take the mage down, and the other two have snakes burst out of their chest. Okay...I shrug that off and decide to go for the katana guy next because he seems the most combo happy and also runs after me faster than Mr. Flamethrower. It takes awhile and I have to learn to dodge their new ranged snake attacks, but katana goes down without too much difficulty.
It's at this point that I have a huge “oh shit” moment. I leave fire guy alone for a few seconds to go heal and suddenly giant snake heads are popping out of the ground and taking half of my health bar. We can't have that, so I switch to being completely aggressive against this guy to prevent whatever he did to summon them. It doesn't happen again, but just once to cause a feeling of helpless “here comes the bullshit thats going to make me restart this 3 boss fight all over again” was more than enough. I'm beyond happy that I beat this fight on the first try, because I could see killing all 3 of them over and over again getting really old real fast.
Even though it seems like I'm complaining, this fight was fun. It was the best designed multiple enemy boss fight I've played between Dark Souls 1 and 2. (I haven't played Demons) It forced me to switch away from my greatsword style play for a more agile approach with the one handed version of the blade. I was on my toes all fight, and I felt rewarded for playing skillfully and adapting rather than being cheated out of a win by being outnumbered. If this is any indication of how they will design future group fights in Dark Souls 3 then I say bring it on!
Speaking of being outnumbered, Rom! Oh Rom. Okay, so I'll admit that I heard a lot of complaining about this Rom the Spider guy back when the game released. I knew beforehand that he casts spells and summons monsters, but that's all I really knew going in. I did not realize that he creates an army every time he teleports, and I did not realize that you can't fight him like a traditional boss. This has been my toughest fight yet, and required the most change in my play style.
All together I think he killed me 4 or 5 times before I got a handle on the fight and vanquished him. Definitely the toughest boss yet, but not because he's mechanically difficult. I'd say its because he is different. I'm used to strafing around bosses, getting a couple hits in, dodging the attack, getting some more hits in, and repeat. You can't do that with Rom. If you stay anywhere near him you will get nuked with spells. I quickly found out that if I started my attack animation with my greatsword and he decided to start casting I could not get out of the area of effect before it went off. So what was I to do? I have to be close to attack, but can't stay close because of the spiders and the explosions.
After banging my head against him a couple times I realized that I can't just hope to get lucky on this one. I have to change strategy. I started to think about what was killing me. The answer was basically spiders hitting me once and stun locking me, or me attacking Rom and getting stuck in one of his attacks. Any time I was standing in one general area for too long was a time that I was dying. Because of this I decide to go complete guerrilla warfare on him. I switch to my 1 handed mode and decide that sprinting is the name of the game. If I don't stop moving none of his attacks can hit me. At that point the only threat is accidentally running into an attacking spider.
I give it a shot and tried to skirt the area around him without going far enough out to trigger his meteor attack, and it worked! The satisfaction in seeing him disintegrate was amazing! This might have been a long winded explanation for the boss, but what I'm getting at is that Bloodborne is forcing me to change on a per boss basis. I would never fight any other boss the way I fought Rom. Dark Souls never did that for me. I did the same thing against every boss in Dark Souls. I attacked, shielded, attacked, and shielded again and again. And if it didn't work I either raised my attacking abilities or raised my shielding abilities until it worked. Part of that may just be my fault for playing that way, but I don't feel like Bloodborne allows for this as much. I haven't grinded in Bloodborne either because I haven't felt the need yet.
And with that, you're effectively caught up on my Bloodborne experience! I just started the blood moon and met a man by the name of Martyr Logarius. We'll see how long it takes me to bring him down. He doesn't seem too terrible really, but I was running out of blood vials when I tried fighting him. Oh well.
I can't say for sure since I haven't completed the game, but I feel like Bloodborne is hitting that same magic as my first Souls game. If things continue on this way, I think I might like Bloodborne more than Dark Souls 1. Is this becoming a case of Miyazaki being the only man who can make these games feel this way for me? As I understand it, he had limited involvement with Dark Souls 2, and that might explain why that game fell flat for me. Its probably a bit of an oversimplification to say that since it takes an entire team to make a game and not just one man. Still, it makes me wonder if he has the creative spark that makes these games what they are to me.
I had hoped to write a bit more on my opinions of the mechanics of the game in comparison to the previous games and on the world itself, but I got so caught up with the bosses. Maybe another time! I don't usually do blogs here, but Bloodborne inspired me and I just had to get my thoughts out there. I know its been awhile since the release, but how did you all feel about the game. Do you have a favorite or least favorite boss? Just try not to spoil anything past Rom for me please! So keep anything past where I'm at marked out as a spoiler if you can and I'll come back to check it later. Trying to keep this as a blind play through.