Underneath my yellow skin

Bloodborne: A Deeper Look

I’ve been playing Bloodborne for a week now. I wrote about my first impressions in this post here. Going in, I was concerned about a few things. I’d like to address how I feel about them now. One, the fact that I’ve seen so many playthroughs. I was worried it would ruin the game for me, but it hasn’t. I will admit it’s hard to go into a situation knowing what’s going to happen because I don’t get the wow factor, but I’ve still jumped a few times, and it’s much different actually playing the game than it is to watch a Let’s Play. One of the things about a Miyazaki game is that the worlds are densely woven, and it’s difficult to get a sense of what goes where and how everything connects. The best thing about a Miyazaki game is seeing a closed gate and knowing that at some point, you’ll be able to open it from the other side. There is one notable exception–a door that never opens. The theory in ‘the community’ is that it was a shortcut, but left unused because it would make the game too easy.

My other big concern was running without a shield. I’m such a turtle when it comes to Souls games, even when I’m a caster. I’m wedded to my shield, and you’ll pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Although, I’m now curious to try DS III as a dual wielder, but that’s neither here nor there. I had heard in one of the Let’s Plays I’ve watched for Bloodborne that the die-hard sword-and-board users were having a difficult time with Bloodborne, which concerned me. Was I going to be frustrated with being so open? I’m old, so my reflexes aren’t great. Would I be constantly taking hits? I’m roughly halfway through the game, and I’m not having a problem without having a shield. I’m dodging and quick-stepping with the best of them, and I’ll say that I’m actually more concerned with not being able to roll when I’m locked on than not having shield. The quick-step is amazing, but it’s frustrating to try to quick-step past a boss, only to get smacked.

Not having a shield, though, isn’t that big a deal because the combat is much quicker and more fluid. I love dashing around, feeling unweighted. I’m delighted that encumbrance is not a thing in this game. The armor isn’t that important except for the resistance stats, and I’m still repping the Yharnam Hunter Set, which is the coolest of all. I wore Henryk’s set for the Darkbeast Paarl fight because it has high bolt defense and because it’s so fly-looking, but then returned to the Yharnam Hunter Set. Fashion Borne is real, yo. I love Souls combat, obviously, but there’s something about Bloodborne’s combat that really sings. Because of the rally system, it encourages me to be aggressive. Still don’t want to get greedy, but being greedy means something different in this game, and the way to remedy it is attack again if possible rather than retreat.

I’ve been having a weird pattern in that I’m acing it in one session, only to feel like I’m falling behind in the next. One day, I feel as shit can’t stick to me, and the next, I feel as if I’ll never kill another boss again. I killed the Witch of Hemwick, Blood-Starved Beast, and Vicar Amelia in one session. I felt like a god, and I was like, “I got this.” Then, I hit a wall and kept getting killed, and I ran out of blood vials in the next session. My biggest gripe about Bloodborne is that the blood vials don’t replenish at a lamp. Let me correct myself. They will replenish if you have any in storage, but if you don’t, you’re SOL.  I hate grinding under duress, and more so when all I want to do is beat my head against a boss. In Souls game, when I came up against a boss I had a hard time against (looking at you, Nameless King and Slave Knight Gael!), my MO was to keep beating my head against the boss until I finally beat it. I gave up on the Nameless King until I was in NG+ with my pyromancer/caster, and I was able to beat him with all the strongest miracles/pyromancies and without using my melee weapon once, but with Slave Knight Gael, I beat him after sixty or seventy tries with my melee character in NG+. Solo, I mean. I beat the Nameless King with co-op twice before beating him solo (finally!).

In Bloodborne, I’m not good enough to stock up on blood vials past ten or so in my storage. If I do a dedicate blood vial run, then I might be able to salt away thirty or so. Those can go quickly while battling a boss, and I resent having to make a blood vial run while I’m fighting a boss. In the Forbidden Woods, I lost fifty thousand souls, er, echoes in quick succession (twenty in one run, thirty in the next), and I actually tossed my controller (on a pillow) in frustration after the second time because I felt I was so close to a lamp. I wasn’t, but it didn’t make me feel any better. Then, I battled the Shadow of Yharnam, and I got really close to beating them on my second try. Then, true to my nature, I didn’t get close at all on the next few tries. The fucking flame-breathing guy kept getting me, and I was really frustrated. I ended the session because I was reaching that point where my skills were deteriorating. It’s one thing you have to learn when playing Souls games–when to keep going and when to stop.

I had been concerned about the Shadows because I’m awful at PvP, and it’s just three guys against one–me. You want to try to get them down equally because they transform when one of them reaches roughly one-third their health, but it’s not easy to do. Katana guy and flame-breath guy tend to chase you down with katana guy being relentless. Flame-breath guy hangs back a bit, then breathes fire on you as you attack katana guy. Pyro guy hangs waaaaay back and shoots of fire from afar. My strategy was to attack the flame-breath guy first, but that proved difficult. When I thought about what had worked the one time, it was when I simply attacked the one closest to me, never mind which one it was or how much health he had. I also realized that they don’t have any poise, which means I could attack them several time with my Tonitrus in succession. My Tonitrus, by the way, is my second-favorite weapon right behind my Hunter Axe. It’s a mace that zaps people with electricity, but you have to recharge it every couple seconds. The plus in this fight was that I could attack several times in rapid succession without stopping.

It’s weird. After dying to them six or seven times, I was afraid it would take me another thirty times to beat them. Ian said he thought I could do it in five with one really good run. I beat them in three more tries, which means he was right. I don’t mean to brag on myself, but it was a really good run. My dodges were true, and I barely escaped death more than once. I only used five or six blood vials, though, which is very little for me. I went all in, attacking the guy closest to me for as much damage as I could. I got a lot of rally regen, and then I would dip out to heal or just reset. The Shadows don’t have much health, and I think I crushed them in a few minutes. When a run goes well, I barely remember what I did because I’m so focused on the fight. As with any time I beat a boss, there’s a healthy portion of luck involved. There was a time when the snakes from the ground should have killed me, but I managed to escape with a sliver of health. Then, katana guy (last one standing) should have finished me off, but he inexplicably held back.

Another important factor is leveling up. I pumped a few in vit and endurance before the boss fight, and that helped me stay alive. I’m sticking to an arcane build, which I’ll get to in a minute. I was exhilarated in beating the Shadows until I realized it meant a new area. One of the best things about playing a Souls game is going through the same place over and over until I have it down cold. Then, the jubilation of beating a boss, only to be followed by despair in realizing that another brutal area is ready to beat your ass. The Shadows have been my hardest boss by far, and I’m pretty chuffed at the way I finally beat them. I feel as if I played it in a classic Bloodborne fashion, which means I’ve finally internalized being more aggressive than defensive.

After the Shadows, of course, was Byrgenwerth. Ah, Byrgenwerth. A surprisingly small area, but so important in the lore. By the way, there is no way I could have pieced together the lore just from the dribbles and drabs being given to me in game. It was the same with the Souls game–it’s only by reading up on the lore and watching Vaatividya videos that I have any comprehension of what’s up with the worlds of Lordran, Drangleic, and Lothric. The story is a bit more straightforward in Bloodborne, but it’s still obtuse. There are many things I would have missed if I was playing this without any prior knowledge. I wrote in my prior post that I’m trying to play as if I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’s impossible.

Yesterday was a good day. I slew Darkbeast Paarl and Rom, the Vacuous Spider in fairly quick succession. I had already killed the hostile hunter in Byrgenwerth the day before, and by the way, holy hell, was she a pain in the ass. I screamed something VERY unkind that involved ‘bitch’ when I finally killed her, but it’s a minor gripe of mine that the hunters have unlimited ammo, stamina, and spells. She also has a ridiculous amount of health, and I finally beat her by parrying her ass several times in the fight (followed by the visceral, of course). I love the sound when I perform a visceral correctly, and I’m pretty proud of my parrying abilities. Parrying is much easier in this game than in the Souls games, and I use my gun solely for that purpose.

I also was invaded for the first time, and I suck at PvP, so I resigned myself to having my ass beat. The invader was a good person, however, in s/he allowed me to kill the enemies in the area before we actually started fighting. To my surprise, I was able to make short work of the invader with the cunning use of TENTACLES TO THE FACE followed by a visceral. It’s a spell called the Augur of Ebrietas, and I’ve been using it extensively as a way to stagger enemies, followed by a visceral. Short digression: I’d seen many people complain that magic wasn’t viable in this game, but I would beg to differ. This spell is fucking amazing, and it killed the invader with little problem. No, it’s not great against bosses, but I’ve used it against common enemies with great effect. I love approaching an enemy and saying, “Excuse me. How would you like TENTACLES TO THE FACE???” before zapping them, and then giggling as I perform the visceral. It only takes one bullet, which is such a small price to pay for such an effective stun. True, it’s only one of two spells I’ve found so far (Beast Roar, and they’re technically Hunter Tools), but I rely quite heavily on it. I’m at 26 arcane, and it does a nice amount of damage.

I will say I’m pretty pleased about beating Rom in five or six tries. She’s notorious for being difficult, and I watched a YouTuber take three hours against her. She’s a sticking point for many a Bloodborne player, and I’m a wee bit smug because I found her fairly easy. I put in a rune that has arcane resist, picked up my Tonitrus, then simply dogged the laser crystals as I killed the baby spiders until there were only a few left. Then, I’d dip in and hit Rom once or twice, keeping an eye for her ground pound, dip out, rinse, lather, and repeat.

This game is amazing, but also frustrating as hell. It’s a Souls game at heart, but it feels so different and fresh. I cannot recommend it enough. Don’t sleep on this gem of a game.

Leave a reply