I finished Bloodborne yesterday in one marathon session. I had one section and the final boss of the DLC plus the last two bosses (well, technically, the end boss and the secret end boss) of the main game to do, and I had only planned on finishing the last section of the DLC. Since I had watched umpteen playthroughs of the game, I knew what I had left to do (and boy, do I really wish I hadn’t watched them now. One of the best parts of a FromSoft game is to experience everything for yourself, but I truly never thought I’d buy a PS4 just to play BB. Funnily enough, I got Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain for free last month and just bought Until Dawn and Last of Us (remastered) plus the DLC for LoU at a steep discount, so I guess I’ll have more uses for my PS4 once I’m done with BB). I also knew that the last boss of the DLC was considered by many to be the hardest Souls boss ever up until that point, so I was not looking forward to it.
See, it always happens to me at the end of FromSoft games. I get sick of the game during the last third or so, and I can’t wait to finish it. It’s harder when I play the DLC as I’m playing the main game because that’s just so much game. I did all the sideline quests and all the optional content, so we’re talking a Bloodborne immersion. By the time I started the DLC, I was ready for the whole thing to be done. That’s not a good attitude because the DLC is notoriously difficult. The DLC has always been harder than the main games in the Souls series, and this was no exception. My theory is that it’s to reward the dedicated hardcore 1%ers, the onebros who do Waste of Skin/Deprived runs using nothing but their bare hands to rip apart the enemies, which is great for them, but frustrating for the rest of us who love Souls games, but aren’t terribly good at them. I’ve mentioned that The Ringed City (final DLC for DS III) made my cry when I first played it, and I HATED it, even though I love Slave Knight Gael as the final boss. I’m neutral about the DLC now, but I don’t love it.
The problem is, the DLCs are too deliberately difficult. I don’t play Souls games because they’re difficult; I play them to explore the environments, to marvel at the grotesque settings/enemies/stories, and to feel a sense of accomplishment after finally beating an area, certain enemies, and the bosses. I feel the main games (except II (SotFS) in a several places) are well-balanced, and the difficulty stems out of the desire to make the player better. It’s not about brutalizing the player, but that gets thrown out the window in the DLCs. It’s as if FromSoft has started to believe its own hype and the tagline Prepare to Die (from the original game, PC edition). I can say that The Old Hunters (Bloodborne DLC) is objectively more difficult than the main game by exponential factors. I can also say that it’s objectively well made and the level design is terrific. But, I can also say that I did not enjoy playing it, and I summoned for three of the five bosses.
I did it for Ludwig only because I wasn’t even getting a hit in on him. I summoned Valtr so I could see Ludwig’s moves without getting smashed. I did it three or four times, expecting to die each time. The last time, though, we made it to the cutscene, and Valtr had only used one or two vials. Valtr is a beast, yo! Maybe my favorite NPC summon ever. Ludwig’s second phase is easier than the first, and we wrecked him in no time flat. I felt bad for summoning, but not that bad. With Laurence, I tried him several times solo and got him down to his broken legs stage two or three times. I could have gotten him if I faced him dozens of times more, but I just didn’t care at that point. I did allow myself to be summoned for the fight just to get a better handle on him, and my host was another arcane build, which was so much fun! We Accursed Brew’ed his ass, and I used A Call Beyond twice. We wrecked Laurence easily, and I got a Vermin for my troubles!
Side note: I finished Valtr’s questline, killed the Younger Madaras Twin, and got the Madaras Whistle that summons a huge snake from the ground. Imagine my dismay when I realized it takes 18 bloodtinge in order to use it. I started with 6 bloodtinge and never touched it once. 12 levels at this point will take some time. I may just have to wait to use it on my tank build, but I don’t understand why it’s not based on arcane like the rest of the Hunter Tools.
Side note II: The arcane build is a hindrance in the second half of the game. Since it’s suggested you have 50 arcane to make the most of the arcane Hunter Tools, that’s half my levels. Well, a little under half. Of course, I want to beef up Vitality and Endurance, and since I was using the Hunter Axe +10 (which I mained throughout the game), I tried to put points into Strength as well. I will say that only having six stats to level is an improvement over other Souls games, but doing any kind of build means neglecting certain stats. In my melee build, I’m pumping Strength and Bloodtinge along with Vit and End.
In the main game, I was cruising along with minimal difficulty until I hit Forgotten Cainhurst Castle, which is an optional area. The area itself isn’t terrible, though the Bloodlickers are INSANE. Seriously. They are WAY too tough for that area at that time. I ran by them after trying to kill one and getting my ass firmly handed to me. I don’t like the invisible ghost ladies and that there are so many of them, but they’re not that bad. The boss of the area, though, Martyr Logarius, he was a nightmare. This is the point when my arcane build started to feel like a detriment, and I regretted starting with it. I’m a caster/magic user at heart, though, so I *had* to start with an arcane build. I know it’s silly of me to handicap myself on my first playthrough, but I’m stubborn, and I wanted to play the game MY way. I will say that I’m having more problems with my melee build in the beginning, probably because I’m not using the Hunter Axe, which is really my jam. I’m currently rocking the Kirkhammer, which is fun to blam things with, but it’s not easy to get used to.
While I was getting destroyed by Martyr Logarius, I made my way through the Upper Cathedral Ward as well, which ain’t no joke, either. It’s also optional, btw, which is a recurring Souls thing, too–making the optional areas/bosses harder. I killed the Celestial Emissaries on my second try, then faced Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos (from where my Augur of Ebrietas (tentacle arm) came). She wrecked me, too, so I was facing two optional bosses who were destroying me. I thought Ebrietas was easier overall, but still frustrating because she could kill me in one hit. I really don’t like bosses who can one-shot me. I know that probably means I was under-leveled, but two-shotting isn’t much better. I summoned Mensis Scholar Damian (NPC) a few times, and we were able to get Ebrietas down to a quarter or so. He died every time, though, and then she would kill me.
I switched back and forth between the two, becoming more frustrated as I did. I kept changing my mind about who was harder (fuck you, Martyr Logarius. Seriously, fuck you, your arcane bullshit, and your hypershield), but it usually was whichever boss I was fighting at the time. I eventually gave up and moved on, deciding I’d go back to them later. Remember, my goal is to not summon my first time through the game. I like to solo the bosses as a matter of pride. I also didn’t know if I’d even get a phantom since I’m playing it so late, and I hate the idea of losing an insight for no reason. Although, it appears you get the insight back if you don’t get a summon and then die. That’s nice, but I’d still rather see my summoning options so I can choose a phantom with the build I want.
Side note III: I became a convert of co-oping during my second playthrough of DS III. I loved summoning phantoms and NPC before that, but it wasn’t until III that I put down my soapstone sign often in order to be summoned. I don’t want to be a hindrance if I’m summoned, and before that, I didn’t feel I was good enough to be much of a help to other players. However, I found DS III to be the least hard of the Souls game, and I was fairly good with most bosses by the time I was done. I really loved the little ritual of doing a dignified bow before the boss fight, then another plus a wave (and whatever other gesture I felt like) after we triumphed. Doing the same gesture simultaneously is the best! Anyway, I did ring my Small Resonant Bell several times outside Laurence’s arena after beating him (with the help of Valtr) so I could get my Vermin, and I was comforted to know that I wasn’t the worst Bloodborne player ever. I only died once as a summon, which is not bad at all. My hosts died several times, but I did get the last Vermin I needed with one successful kill.
I did the Nightmare Frontier with great reluctance–and offline. It’s a PvP area, and I hate PvP. It’s also very bullshitty with its frenzy bullshit, and I wasn’t having any fun at all. Micolash, Host of the Nightmare, was good in theory, but in reality, he was frustrating. A Call Beyond from him is lethal, whereas it does 1,000 – 2,000 damage for me (and costs seven bullets. To be fair, I had roughly 1,000 health at that point, but still). He killed me with it a few times, and I cussed him out roundly during my several attempts. I went on to beat him and then Mergo’s Wet Nurse, and she was fairly easy. I hated this section of the game with a passion, which is not unusual for me. There is at least one section in each game that I loathe, and this was it in the main game for me. The Research Hall and the Fishing Hamlet in the DLC were not fun. At all. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Once I beat Mergo’s Wet Nurse, I decided it was time to enter the DLC. I wasn’t looking forward to it because of its vaunted difficulty, but I knew I wanted to experience it. The first section wasn’t too bad, though it definitely was a skill check, but when I reached the Research Hall, I was done with it.
Side note IV: The other hunters are supposed to be the hardest part of the game. I will say, while some of them were very tough, I didn’t have excessive trouble with any of them. Tentacle to the face works really well as a stagger, and I have NO qualms about cheesing the hunters. Here is where an arcane build has an advantage, and I’ll take it. They have infinite ammo, stamina, and can heal themselves (though limited). I will use every advantage I can find.
I will say that I loved the Lady Maria of the Astral Clocktower boss fight the most out of the DLC bosses. Before playing the game, she was my favorite boss fight to watch, but I wondered if I would have difficulty with her because I suck at PvP (at least I did). I have problems with humanoids because they’re so fucking fast, and my reflexes are so bad. I love everything about her, however, from her looks to her weapon to her music to the blood and fire she shoots out in her third phase. I actually used my arcane weapons to the best of my ability and both of my weapons, which is unusual for me. I tweeted my method for beating her, which people really appreciated.
Pro-tip for beating Lady Maria with an arcane build. Phase 1: stagger with Augur of Ebrietas, visceral. Whale on her with Tonitrus…
— Mean-a bwahahaHong (@asiangrrlMN) October 20, 2017
Someone tweeted that he wished playthroughs were more like the way I tweeted how to beat a boss (in one, I included running around and swearing a lot) because that’s how he experienced them as well.
One of the best things about Souls games is that they teach you how to adapt. I tend to main a weapon in a game and not switch out during a boss fight. With Lady Maria, I was changing weapons like a champ. I switched up my arcane weapons (which is more akin to switching magic spells/miracles/pyromancies, which I’m used to), too, and I’m proud I started thinking outside the box in order to beat her. I have to say that an arcane build is viable, but you have to be really dedicated to the Arcane stat to do it, and you don’t get to use many of the Hunter Tools until later in the game. The Augur of Ebrietas is attainable fairly early in the game, and you only need 18 in Arcane to wield it. I started with the Cruel Fate background, which has 14 Arcane.
I have tons more to say about the game, obviously, but this is getting long, so I’ll end it for now. I do think it’s a worthwhile game to play, especially if you have a PS4. The digital code for the whole game is $35 (at least that’s what I paid for it). To me, it’s a no-brainer. If you love fast combat, gorgeous Gothic settings, intricate level design, and demanding boss fights, get this game.