As many will already know from my past posts, there’s a very specific game I always talk about here on the Forums. It always comes up when I’m talking about the things games get right and what they do particularly well. That game is, of course: Bloodborne.
Developed by From Software under director Hidetaka Miyazaki in 2015, Bloodborne is an action-RPG centred around building a player character and equipping them with weapons, armours, abilities, stats and all manner of things to allow them to fight more successfully in the dangerous world they find themselves in.
Though there is more to it than that. The setting, story, art design and music all have a distinctly gothic horror theme to it, with undertones and eventually over-arching themes of cosmic, Lovecraftian horror as well. Oh, and did I mention this game is incredibly difficult?
Some people may want to get into Bloodborne since I talk about it so much, but that initial hurdle of the game being massively punishing may put people off. So I think I’ll compile a little list here of what you should do to really sink your teeth into this legendary game
Step 1: Know What You’re Getting Into
This one may not be important for most, but I know it’s important for a lot of people. See, some people expect their games not to hold their hand per se, but to give them a certain level of guidance. This is more or less standard practice these days. From Software does not do things this way. All of their games have a very steep barrier of entry but don’t fret. This isn’t a mistake, it’s very purposeful. Once you’ve cleared the barrier of entry, you will realise how deliberate this is. The difficulty in any given From Software game isn’t just there for the sake of it. They’re very particular with the difficulty of their games, it’s a delicate and precise process, moulding the difficulty of their games to fit with the stories and narratives being told through them. To tie gameplay and story together thematically through challenge.
It may also be good to point out that any given run of Bloodborne, depending on your skill and patience could last anywhere from 30 to 70 hours. Even longer if you decide to go through optional Chalice Dungeons and New Game +, so be aware that this game is quite the commitment! Very worth the money though, you can pick it up super cheap these days
Step 2: Be Patient
This is a direct follow-up to the previous point, but it’s arguably the most important. The point of From Software games is not instant or easy satisfaction. You need to work in these games to feel good. Though, needless to say, when you do eventually get that satisfaction it is incredibly satisfying. However, to get this feeling, you need to understand you probably won’t pick these games up instantly. It takes time, and it takes practice.
The From Software style of game design did not click with me immediately. I didn’t particularly enjoy Demon’s Souls when it was new, it was only my second attempt at playing Dark Souls almost a year after it was released that the series clicked with me. I fell in love with it when I realised the best way to approach them is to be observant, to be patient and to give yourself time to get used to these systems.
Bloodborne is very difficult, punishing and brutal. It fits thematically with the narrative and the style of the game, hell even the genre. But if you give yourself a chance to improve, you may find yourself falling in love as I did.
Step 3: Read!
This is where we’ll start getting into actual gameplay tips. If you follow the tip of being patient, you should have a good enough time in any of From Software’s games. But these should just give your actual gameplay experience in Bloodborne specifically a little easier. The first of these is to read carefully! There are messages scattered around the floors of the first area and Hunter’s Dream (Hub area where you level up, collect upgrades and buy supplies) that take you through the controls and systems of the game. While it doesn’t tell you which of these systems are the most important, but it does give you a rundown on how the game works.
Reading item descriptions and notes scattered around will also be your main way of experiencing the truly excellent story of Bloodborne, as From Software games tend not to throw their stories in your face. You need to go looking for them.
Step 4: Your Weapon is an Extension of You
This may be a cheesy anime line of sorts. Or from those old samurai films I used to love. The sword is an extension of your arm and all that, but Bloodborne takes this to a whole new level. There are not very many different weapons in Bloodborne, but there’s a reason for this. Each weapon is incredibly in-depth. It’s a fact that you can choose a weapon at the beginning, one of three it gives you the option between, and take it to the end of the game. So it’s very important to test weapons out and decide which one is best for you.
So let’s chat a little about what makes weapons in Bloodborne so unique, by talking a little about one of those first weapons: The Saw Cleaver.
The Saw Cleaver is a brutal-looking toothed saw on a hinged handle, used to rip through the flesh, muscle and bones of beasts. It’s a very violent idea, and the style that goes along with it is equally vicious. The Saw Cleaver is quick, quite strong, and deals a very nice amount of damage. It has a basic 4-hit combo with R1, with a charged heavy attack used by holding R2 like all weapons. However, where the unique aspects of Bloodborne shine through, is in the weapon transformation mechanic.
By pushing the L1 button, any weapon in Bloodborne can enter a transformed state. Changing its move-set completely, and changing the heavy attack. It makes the Saw Cleaver in particular slightly slower but increases the range and power of the weapon substantially. This obviously adds depth immediately, but there’s even more to it than that.
See, the weapon transformation doesn’t to be used outside of combat, or even outside of a combo. It’s possible to use a transformation attack which transforms the weapon in the middle of a combo. Pulling this off deals a massive amount of damage and cripples the limbs of larger enemies much faster than with simple attacks. It’s one of the core elements of combat in Bloodborne, and mastering when to use these attacks can make bosses go down in the blink of an eye!
So, with that in mind, I’d like to now say that all that ^ above? That was just the Saw Cleaver. Each and every trick weapon in Bloodborne follows the same rules as the Saw Cleaver, but they all have unique combos, stats, charged heavy attacks, transformations and transformation attacks. All of this makes each weapon feel completely different from the last, and since all of them can be upgraded to the same extent, they are all equally viable as end-game weapons. Try them out! See which weapon fits you best, which one feels the best, and it’ll feel perfect before long!
Step 5: Parrying is Your Friend
Another very important game mechanic of From Software games, in general, is the idea of parrying enemy attacks. In the Souls games, this obviously works a little different. You’re given a shield or buckler with which to block or parry aside enemy attacks, following up with a brutal counter-attack. Even in Sekiro, this works differently. You have the ability to deflect enemy attacks with your katana. Bloodborne is very unique, however. In Bloodborne, even your method of parrying is an attack in itself.
You may have noticed that there are guns present in Bloodborne, to fit its gothic horror feel. Pistols, revolvers and the like. These aren’t used as primary attack methods, as guns don’t work as well on beasts as they would on humans. Instead, guns are used for interrupting enemy attacks. Leaving them completely open for a vicious riposte. The timing can be quite tight, but since it’s a gun you’re using for this, it’s much safer than a shield or a sword. Making it seem like more of a smart option. Not only that, but it deals damage as well as opening the enemy up, which lends it even more usefulness.
It can take some trial and error or observation to find which attacks from which enemies can be parried and when to fire the gun in order to interrupt, but when you slip into the rhythm of this, it becomes arguably your most used technique for dispatching enemies quickly. As well as it just feeling good.
Step 6: Be. Aggressive
Bloodborne is a game with a very quick pace. Enemies are relentless. They won’t let up in their assault, and so neither should you! Never back up, never give ground. This can be extremely daunting at first, as the monsters in Bloodborne can be terrifying, especially the amount of damage they deal with single attacks. But this is a ruse. One of the main themes of Bloodborne is breaking through your fear and confusion in your search for the truth. This is what you have to do in order to have the best experiences with the bosses especially!
Here are some tips to get you started with this. Don’t dodge backwards. If you aren’t used to parry timings, or if it’s a large beast that can’t be parried, always dodge to the side, and particularly, always to the left. You will rarely need to dodge to the right. This may feel strange at first, but your quickstep dodge actually has very generous invincibility frames. It makes for a neat half-second that you can’t take damage. This can be used to dodge through enemy attacks and escape unharmed around the enemy, responding with attacks of your own while getting used to their move-sets!
If you get used to running circles around the enemies in Bloodborne, you’ll have a much easier time. Building in the previous steps on top of this should get you through the game pretty nicely! But of course, never be afraid of experimentation, find out what’s best for you!
Step 7: You Will Die
This is the final and most Universal step in the process of getting good at this game. You’re going to die, it’ll probably happen a lot! But never be deterred! Every death in Bloodborne may be harsh, it may be punishing, but it’s always a learning experience! Every time you die, you have the knowledge of something you did wrong, or maybe that there’s an attack or something you just don’t have the hang of yet. Don’t panic! We’ve all been there! That’s just the kinda game Bloodborne is
I hope this little starters guide has been helpful for anyone wanting to get into Bloodborne! It truly is a magical experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone who has a PS4