Longtime readers know I’m a HUGE FromSoft fangrrl. More to the point, I’m loyal to Hidetaka Miyazaki. I will buy whatever he creates, no questions asked. Except, it has to be on PC because I don’t have a PS4. Or, rather, I didn’t. More on that in a bit. In case you don’t know, Miyazaki is the brilliant mind behind the Dark Souls series, starting with Demon’s Souls, and Bloodborne. I beat the first Souls games (Dark, not Demon’s), and I hated it by the end. I was so done with it, and I never wanted to see it again. No more Souls for me, no way, no how. Then, Dark Souls II was coming out, and I thought, OK, maybe I’ll give it another shot. It had been long enough since my trudge through the original game, and my feelings towards it had softened. I decided to play the original as a way to gin up for the second one, and it was much more enjoyable, to my surprise. Because I had learned the basics of the game, I was able to make my way through it more smoothly, and because I didn’t care about summoning, I had a less difficult time with certain bosses (*cough* looking at you, Biggie & Small *cough cough cough*). I still had to beat all the DLC bosses solo because there are no NPC summons, but I did it. By end of my second playthrough, I was a converted Souls fan, and I was eager to play Dark Souls II. Since I got it well after its release, I got the Sins of the First Scholar edition, which is harder and includes all the DLC.
It’s not as brilliant as the original, but it’s still a good game. I have played it several times as I have the original, and, of course, Dark Souls III. The third game is comfort food for hardcore fans, while still being the most accessible of the trilogy. I’ve played it the most times by far, and it’s my relaxation game, except now because I’m doing a dex build, which is not my jam at all. I’ve beaten it a dozen times at least, and it’s still enjoyable to run through as a pyro or a melee character. In addition, I started a SL1 run, which is fucking brutal. That’s a Soul Level 1 run, for those not in the know. Or a onebro run, which is, whatever. The point is that you don’t level up your character throughout the game, which severely limits, well, everything. Much respect to the people who have made it through a whole game this way, but it’s not how I want to play Dark Souls. I think I made it to the Cathedral of the Deep before I decided to tap out. It’s way above my pay grade.
One of my lasting sorrows as a Miyazaki fangrrl was that I couldn’t play Demon’s Souls or Bloodborne because I didn’t have a PS anything. I’m not a console grrl at all, and I resigned myself to watching countless Let’s Plays of Bloodborne, which looked fucking amazing. There was a time when that was all I watched because I was obsessed with it. I loved the Gothic horror vibe, and I was fascinated with the no shields concept, even though I felt I would be terrible at it because I’m so wedded to the sword-(or wand/talisman/pyro glove) and-board mentality. The idea of having no shield scared the hell out of me.
Fast-forward two and a half years to now. Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to buy a PS4 at a very good price. I agonized over it because was I really considering buying a PS4 just to play Bloodborne? Why, yes, I was. I tried to talk myself out of it, but it stayed in the back of my mind. I wasn’t even sure if I should play the game because it’s so aggressive and fast. And yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I don’t think I can overstate my adoration for Miyazaki and his Soulsborne games*, and the temptation to play a Souls game which has the same core ethos, but is completely different was too much to pass up.
Long story somewhat short, and I bought the PS4. I bought Bloodborne, and I was ridiculously excited/nervous to play it. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? What if I hated it because I couldn’t handle the no-shield thing? What if the magic was gone because I have seen to many Let’s Plays? Which, by the way, I regret now that I have the game. I’m trying to play as if I’ve never seen a Let’s Play of it, but let’s be real. I have seen several playthroughs, which takes away the ‘holy shit! I can’t believe that happened’ factor. Still. I felt a tingle of electricity run up and down my spine as I fired up the game. I was smiling like a fool as I created my character. That’s partly because the character creator is almost exactly the same as the DS III one with a few tweaks. I didn’t take nearly as long as I normally would because I knew my character’s face would be covered most of the time. By my third or fourth character in DS III, I made my characters in less than five minutes.
Soon, mulan rogue was ready to hunt some beasts. I awoke from the dream and attacked the werewolf with my fists. I almost killed it, but I made the cardinal sin of getting greedy and going for the fourth hit, and it killed me as it was supposed to. I went to the Hunter’s Dream to get my weapons, and I was off to the hunt in a proper fashion.
Five minutes into the game, and all my fears were put to rest. This game is fucking amazing. I love the setting with its gloomy castles and dapper clothing (I’m rocking the Yharnam Hunter Set, which is the quintessential Bloodborne look. I’ve tried on each new set I’ve gotten, but I always return to this one), and I’ve taken several moments just to stop and take in the breathtaking vistas. The combat is fast, fluid, and aggressive. There is no benefit to turtling in this game, and you are rewarded with the rally system for going hard on the offense. I had my doubts as to going without a shield, but I’m loving it so far. I will admit it’s still weird to have a quickstep if you’re locked on to the enemy rather than a roll, but I’m getting used to it.
I also worried about the controller because I’m wedded to my Xbone controller. I’ve never played with a Dual Shock, and I was concerned that it would be a steep learning curve. I adapted to it without much problem except I keep hitting Y (square I think?) to transform my weapon, but that’s more a, “What the fuck, FromSoft?” than a problem with the controller. In Souls games, Y is the button to two-hand your weapon, so it’s hard to get used to that it’s the heal button in Bloodborne. I laughed at Youtubers for making this mistake, but I still do it myself, even a third of the way into the game. The Dual Shock itself, though, was easy to adjust to. It feels good in my hand, and even though I’m still loyal to my Xboner, I’m good with the Dual Shock as well.
In the first few hours of the game, I beat the Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne in one try each. I cruised through Central Yharnam like it was no big thang. I was, admittedly, feeling a bit big for my britches as I strolled into Old Yharnam and paid for the item to open the gate to Cathedral Ward. I got my ass promptly handed to me, and I was reminded that this was a Souls game at heart. It was going to beat me down, and I better get used to it. I spent several hours feeling like I was shit, including five or six futile attempts against Vicar Amelia. I died to two hunters, and I was running out of blood vials.
Side note: This is my biggest complaint about the game–the blood vials not replenishing after each death. To be clear, I’m not complaining about the vials themselves because I like how quick it is to inject yourself, and I understand that to restore all 20 vials would be overkill. However, it’s disheartening to bash your head against a boss several times, only to realize you’re running out of vials. I ended one session dying to the Witch of Hemwick despite knowing the trick (don’t @ me about how much a noob I am. I know), and I had zero blood vials left. That means I had to go farming, and that’s the last thing I want to do after being defeated by a boss. How about starting each run with 5 vials? I think that’s a fair compromise.
Running into a wall against Vicar Amelia was hard. That whole session felt like a failure, and I’m sure I muttered something about hating the game as I played it. I ended the session feeling like an utter failure, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep on playing. I managed to farm some vials, but I hated being made to grind. Grinding is a viable part of any Souls game, and I’ve done it many times, but I don’t like being forced to grind. Still, I sucked it up and did it, and I leveled up a bit on my vitality and endurance, and I added two levels to my strength (my axe scales with strength). I’m trying to do an arcane build, but magic really isn’t viable until later, so I’m also working on getting the Kirkhammer right now.
Anyhoo, the day after my extremely futile session, I picked up my Dual Shock with reluctance. I felt beaten down, but I was determined to continue. I knew if I had enough blood, I could take on the Witches. Also, the few levels I added meant I could get grabbed once and not get completely annihilated. Beating them on the first try was a good way to start the session. I also took on the hunter (the friend of the Tonitrus-wielding hunter who I beat in one go) in the Cathedral Ward who had given me trouble before and beat him in three tries. I went through Old Yharnam because I wanted to clean things up before taking on Vicar Amelia again, and I took down the Blood-Starved Beast in one try.
I also wanted to find Eileen the Crow because I missed her in her first place. Even with all the Let’s Plays I’ve seen, I missed the entrance to her first appearance. I was worried I had locked her out of my game, so I looked it up how to find her. I had done what I was supposed to do, but she wasn’t in the second location. I ran around some more, but I couldn’t find her. I gave up, then decided to try one more time. I attempted to use the Tomb of Oedon’s lamp and couldn’t (even though I could use it before after doing all the things I was supposed to do to make Eileen appear), so I went to where Eileen was supposed to be, and lo and behold, there she was. When I read up on her questline earlier, it was stated that her questline is the most frustrating because you simply don’t know when or if she’s going to reappear.
I was so happy to see her and that I hadn’t fucked up her questline. I helped her defeat Henryk, and I got his cool gear to boot. I also beat the hunter in Old Yharnam. You know, the asshole who tries to draw you up towards Djura so he can kill you with his Gatling gun. So, just to recap, I took out three hunters, the Witches, and the BSB in one day. I was feeling so good, I decided to take on Vicar Amelia just to see if I would fare any better. I was able to take her down to a small sliver of her life before she killed me with a two-hit combo in which she laid me flat with the first hit. Even so, I knew I had her, and it only took me two more tries to take out the vicar. I went from thinking I would never beat her to taking her out in fairly short order. It was a good day, and it reinforced my love for Bloodborne and Miyazaki.
*I know this is a contentious term in ‘the community’. Deal with it.