This may be sacriligious to say, but on my very first playthrough of Bloodborne, I hated it. Like, I really, really didn’t like it. I knew there was so much praise for the game, and I dabbled in a bit of Dark Souls previously, so I had a slight idea of what I was getting into. I knew the story enraptured so many people so I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. So I borrowed the game from my friend, fired it up, died, probably 200 times, rage quit so many times until I got to “YAHAR’GUL (comma) THE UNSEEN VILLAGE”, and that’s what killed it for me. There were these bell ladies that could infinitely regenerate enemies, there was a huge difficulty spike because every enemy did so much more damage, and nothing there gave much experience so I was stuck in a frustrating rut that just caused me to give up because it wasn’t fun anymore.
So I mulled it over for 6 months, took a break, and noticed that the game of the year edition was on sale for 20 dollars, I decided “hey, maybe I can do it this time. I have a fresh outlook on Bloodborne, my mind is clear, I know how to deal with the frustrating parts now, I can deal.” So after watching some lore videos to find out what’s actually going on in this game, I purchased it, and it became my very first Platinum trophy on my PS4.
So, what made Bloodborne my first ever completion? What made me want to finish all of it, as opposed to my frustrating slog that sullied my view of this game? Well, this is incredibly petty, but I picked the Saw Cleaver instead of The Hunter’s Axe at the beginning of the game. Yes, a single weapon change allowed me to 100% an RPG and spend 50+ hours on it. It turns out, the Hunter Axe did not fit my playstyle at all. See, Bloodborne has phenomenal combat. It has delicately crafted animations for the player and enemies so any playstyle can be viable. The problem is the Hunter Axe was a slower, more zoning weapon. It could keep enemies at bay, and was only meant for one or two strikes before recuperating. It was meant to hit hard and infrequently. When it comes to combat in any action game, I am a complete offense lunatic. I have almost no patience, and I just go in on enemies. Now, in Bloodborne, this doesn’t quite work as well, unless you have a quick weapon to complement your playstyle. So I picked the Saw Cleaver, ran with it through the entire game, and I enjoyed it a lot more.
Hitting Things Well
But there’s obviously more to it than a weapon change. Bloodborne, is a phenomenal game, you just have to learn to embrace its oddities. The Dark Souls/Bloodborne series had combat that I was unfamiliar with. I was always of player of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, quick, responsive, stylish action games. Bloodborne’s combat is different than that. It’s more grittier, it’s more deliberate, and it has much higher risk and reward. I wouldn’t equate the combat to a game of chess, as chess requires you to read a human opponents thoughts, but Bloodborne puts a huge emphasis on understanding enemy movements, and reactions to your movements.
I’m going to try and illustrate a combat scenario to better enhance my point. You could walk in front of a boss, and they could swing at you. So you roll behind, and start swinging at the boss with your Saw Cleaver. However, the bosses in this game are smart, and have a swift retaliation to your swings from the back. So you take some damage from that, and you internalize that knowledge. Now, you can still roll behind and swing, however, you know when to limit yourself. You don’t push yourself too far, take a few swings, dodge the back swipe, and continue an assault on their front. It becomes a sort of ballet between you and your opponent. Unless you have the saw cleaver and then you can just stun lock your opponents without having to think seriously WHY IS THIS WEAPON SO GOOD FOR A STARTING WEAPON.
Another great thing about Bloodborne’s combat is the rally system. See, when you take damage, you don’t immediately lose your life. It becomes life that can be regenerated through attacks. So, to compliment my insanity with the saw cleaver, there was the rally system that encouraged offense. See, I wasn’t a huge fan of Dark Souls’ combat, which again, is probably sacreligious to say. I thought it could be kind of clunky, and it focused on defense too much. The problem isn’t with the game, it was with me. It didn’t suit me, so I didn’t enjoy it. It’s still a great game, just not my flavour. But Bloodborne let you go hard, and go hard frequently. With every swing, there is satisfying feedback. There is usually a large blood splatter, a gushing sound effect, and it makes you want to keep swinging. It makes you want to just hit, hit and hit more. And that is brilliant. Not because I just sounded like a serial killer and if my mom watches this she’ll probably think video game’s are evil, is because that feeling of wanting to keep attacking, and keep swinging at your opponents is relevant to the game’s story. I’ll go more in-depth with this later, but in Bloodborne, you play as a hunter. The biggest duty of a hunter, is to hunt beasts. Hunters become so addicted to killing monsters and beasts, that the line between them and other monsters are blurred. They become so infatuated with the hunt that they turn on their fellow humans. Everything to them is a target. Now this level of insanity doesn’t happen to YOUR character in the game, but the rally system is a fantastic gameplay mechanic that compliments offensive playstyles, but it also reflects the game’s narrative. The game doesn’t make it a point to shove it in your face how clever this system is. It’s very subtle, and it’s one of those things that, as you think about it more, makes the game better. And Bloodborne is full of moments like that. You’ll be walking around in real-life, thinking about whatever, and then Bloodborne crosses your mind. And you start thinking “man, that game is so gratifying and addicting!” But you think about it more. You think about some tiny detail in the game world, and it always enhances your appreciation of the game. Bloodborne is a game that gets better with thought, and I think that’s the mark of something truly special.
(zoom in on health bar when taking hits at the start. Show the rally come back. When discussing combat in dark souls, show darksydephil gameplay of him getting bodied. When talking about hunter bloodlust, show the gascoigne cutscene at the beginning. then just show more gameplay of hitting a lot of stuff.)
You uh, you thought I was done talking about the combat, didn’t you? Nope. Not at all. Combat is Bloodborne’s meat and potatoes, so it gets the most gushing from me. Bloodborne has a lot of weapons, and they all have different movesets and properties. You can have generic swords and axes, but you can also have a sword that splits into two, and an arm of a god as a weapon. There are so many weapons to fit any playstyle, that it’s actually incredible. But what makes the combat so strong, is how simple, yet varied it can all be. Bloodborne doesn’t have the fancy combos of Bayonetta or inputs of Street Fighter. You have a light attack, a charge attack, a dash attack, a jump attack, a heavy attack, and a rolling attack. Most combat is done through hitting R1, R2, or L2. 3 attack buttons. Super simple. However, like Super Smash Bros., the actions of each weapon are different for each button. See, in smash bros., every character has the same inputs the PLAYER has to do, but the result on-screen is different. Bloodborne is just like that. One weapon’s R1 attack could be a horizontal swing, but another’s could be a stab. One prioritizes swing a group of enemies or body parts, while the other emphasizes safety and poking. Two very different necessities all on one button. Once you learn Bloodborne’s controls in an hour, you can use any weapon and use any playstyle. A problem I had with games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, is you get new weapons like halfway through the game, and they have properties and move sets that you need to upgrade and learn, and more often than not, it’s just not viable. You usually end up sticking with your tarting weapon because you feel the most comfortable with that. But Bloodborne’s experimentation is low-cost, because each weapon is viable. You just need to learn how to use it. However, I will say, that Bloodborne is guilty from that upgrading sink problem. If you fully upgrade the Saw Cleaver, you aren’t going to spend your rare upgrade points on something you might end up not using because it doesn’t scale with your stats.
There’s a bunch of other technicalities to gameplay, like builds surrounding specific weapons, stat scaling, but I won’t bore you with the statistics. I just wanted to emphasize how great the core of this game is, before going onto other aspects. So yeah, Bloodborne’s combat? Fantastic.
Bloodborne is probably the prettiest game I have ever seen. It isn’t just because of its graphical fidelity, but also because of its aesthetic. The Victorian gothic look isn’t something you see very often in games, and the usage of striking, beautiful skies, decrepit architecture, pointed-black fences, and ostentatious colours makes the game an absolute feast for the eyes. Everything is hand-crafted and beautifully put in place. There are visual cues everywhere, and each area is believably inter-connected. I like the choice to set the game in a single city. It makes exploring new areas believable because they are so close and small to one-another. In RPG’s like Final Fantasy 7, I find it hard to believe I can go around the entire world in 1 minute if I keep flying. Bloodborne avoids that problem by containing itself to locations that can be accessed by walking. Yharnam is an intricate city that has been plagued by the hunt. The pompous imagery shows decadence and hedonism, which is fitting for the literary aesthetic this game is going for, and the city of Yharnam itself. Yharnamites are suspicious of outsiders because they have pride. They have pride that their city carries a miracle cure, and that they are better than the rest of the world. So again, like the combat, all of the imagery is world-building and visually striking. It seamlessly hits both categories.
But the real kicker for the visuals, are the gravestones. Seriously, there are so many gravestones. Sometimes they stick into each other, and it’s really weird. Like how does anybody get anywhere in this world when there are gravestones everywhere. Carriages can’t go anywhere, there’s probably mad traffic, it would probably be a nightmare. Oh yeah there’s also a plague that turns people into beasts and makes this town inhabitable anyways so I guess that’s a bigger issue but like, whatever man. Anyways, visuals in Bloodborne are fantastic.
So Bloodborne, like the rest of the Souls series, is intentionally vague with its story. You are often given very few direct answers from NPC’s on what exactly is going on, so you the player have to piece the story together through item descriptions, notes strewn around the world, and visual cues. But, again, most of this stuff is super ambiguous. I could be walking around, slicing people up, then I read a note that says:
“Madmen toil surreptitiously in rituals to beckon the moon. Uncover their secrets.”
and I just say to myself “al-alright yeah sure, you’re the boss game, whatever you say.” You can pretty much run through Bloodborne without talking to an NPC or understanding the story. And you might say, well, that sounds weird. Why would you play a game that you can’t even understand? To that I say, have you seen what NPC’s in this game say? When you run up to an NPC who is actually eager to exfoliate details about Yharnam, they’re just as bad as the notes! They say stuff like “AH, THE BLOOD OF THE UNDYING BLOOD HUNTERS SAPPED THE SOUL OF THE GODDESS YHARNAM. THE HAUNTED ASHEN BLOOD TOOK HER SANITY, AND LEFT BEHIND DECREPIT RUINS. HE HE HE HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” And again, to that I say, “alright”.
This ambiguity is another reason I just gave up on the game on my first go. I had no idea what was going on, and it felt like the game expected me to have it all figured out. I was confused and frustrated with the lack of answers, and I wanted a reason for all this hunting and killing…and THAT is what Bloodborne WANTS you to feel.
Bloodborne wants you to be confused about the world. I mean, why wouldn’t you be? You get thrown into this hunt as a hunter against your will, and now you have to kill a bunch of humans and monsters because the world tells you to? Who wouldn’t be confused by that? Couple that with the fact that, oh, spoilers by the way, there are apparently cosmic gods roaming and lurking in the world and nobody can notice them unless they are woke enough? Yeah, i’d be confused as well. But it’s only through player exploration and note reading that some answers become known. The player has to go out of their way to gain insight into the world. Knowing more doesn’t change the outcome of the game, but it does change your perspective on everything. Lines of dialogue gain new meaning, and the world looks more terrifying than it already did initially. The more woke you are, the more interesting, and terrifying your experience becomes. It heightens the game, but also makes you more crazy for thinking about it. Which leads me into the last point:
Usually action games aren’t scary. They employ scary looking creatures, but you can always crush them with some ridiculous weapon. They aren’t generally a threat. The monsters in Bloodborne are similar to this, but Bloodborne strikes a particular horror. Cosmic horror. The fear of the unknown. The fear of actually knowing the truth to the world. The phrase, ignorance is bliss, applies very heavily to Bloodborne. The more you know about these gods and their control over the world, and how ultimately futile your actions are to combat them ruining humanity, that’s scary. You can run through, chop enemies up, and then just beat the game and go “huh, that was alright I guess. I had fun and it was satisfying to crush all of those hard bosses”. But looking at Bloodborne with a critical eye, allowing yourself to become enveloped in its atmosphere and world are its greatest strengths. Bloodborne isn’t scary because of big spoopy monsters. Bloodborne is scary because of how powerless you are to truly stop anything. Despite your adventures, despite you uncovering so much of the world and progressing as a hunter, it’s ultimately meaningless. You’re a pawn in a bigger operation, and you can never be more than that. Unless you get the secret ending and become a god but that’s besides the point.
So Bloodborne went from one of my most frustrating experiences to one of the best i’ve had in years. I learned to take it slowly, and absorb every detail. I learned my playstyle, and found weapons that complimented it. I took in the imagery, and played more patiently and smart. I enjoyed it so much more. I haven’t had this big of a 180 on a game ever, and, if you haven’t seen the millions of other people recommending this game, it’s got my seal of approval. Because my seal of approval totally matters, right guys?
Thanks so much for watching this video guys, I hope I was able to show why this game is one of my favourite’s in recent memory and why it was my first platinum. If you enjoyed this review, please subscribe, I make content about video games that’s analysis, reviews, and editorials. My channel is centered solely on video games, and even though I’ve only gained 20 subscribers in 2 weeks, seeing that kind of growth and support on my content just warms my heart. To see this channel grow and become something large would be a dream come true. Thanks again so much, and you viewers mean the world to me. Have a fantastic day.