Underneath my yellow skin

Bloodborne: Praise the Moon

This is the third post on my final thoughts (ha!) on Bloodborne. You can read part two here. What  was I thinking as I watched the credits roll? Not much, honestly. I was so emotionally spent from the journey, I just had to take a few minutes to absorb it all. This is how I am after beating any Souls game–tired, contemplative, slightly stunned, and relieved. I want to emphasize that this is normal for me, and that I consider it a part of the Souls loop. About two-thirds of the way into the game, I’m tired of it. I’m so sick of it. I want nothing more than for it to be over, and yet, I can’t stop playing. Even at the end of a frustrating session, all I wanted to do was continue playing (though I was sick of it), and I thought about the game when I wasn’t playing it. I thought about how I could have done this better or that better, and I reminded myself that I had to go back and do this or that. When I play a Souls game, I become obsessed with it. I immerse myself in it so thoroughly, I’m drenched in the good blood. Er. Come to think of it, it’s how I play games in general (probably because of my OCD tendencies). I try out several games until I find one I like, then I play the shit out of it. I did this with Torchlight (the first ‘hardcore’ game I played, plus its sequel); Diablo III; Borderlands (and the sequel); Nuclear Throne; Cook, Serve, Delicious! (and the sequel!); The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth; Assault Android Cactus; Salt and Sanctuary, to name a few. But, none of them have gotten under my skin the way Souls games have, and I’d like to talk about this a bit more.

First, though, NG+ is ferreals*. Running through the opening section with my beloved Hunter Axe +10, it takes me three weak hits to kill an enemy, instead of one. The Executioner in Central Yharnam barely feels my Augur to the face instead of being killed by it. Apparently, from what I’ve read, the increase to health is greatest in the earliest areas, which makes zero sense, but whatever. The only way I can make it make sense is because you’re scaling up much less over time, but still–the leap is noticeable. That being said, because I don’t have any compulsions against summoning for bosses I’ve already beaten solo AND I have something like 75 insight right now (you need to spend one insight to summon a phantom), I’m anticipating summoning liberally during NG+. However, the fact that I’m playing it so late and I’m over-leveled *may* lead to difficulties summoning. I summoned Father Gascoigne for the Cleric Beast fight (also did the same in my tank playthrough), and we made short work of him. However, there are no NPC summons for Father Gascoigne, and I couldn’t get a human summon (how I figured out you get your insight back if you die before you get a phantom), so I fought him solo. Now, I beat him on my first try in NG by just smacking the shit out of him, but I was anticipating him to be much more difficult in NG+. I decided to get fancy and try to use Molotovs/Accursed Brew in his third stage, and I died several times to him with only a fraction of his health bar left. I did it by running around and jumping off the platform fruitlessly, trying to set up the perfect opportunity for me to Accursed Brew him from the rooftop where Viola’s body is with him below me. Late in the session, I decided to cut it out and just take it to him like I had the first time I fought him. I got him down to one hit left, and he caught me in a combo and finished me off.

I was so enraged, I quit for the night and decided to take him on the next day. I thought about what I should and shouldn’t do. I learned from my futile-but-almost-beat-him attempts that when he attacks you, you should run TOWARDS him, not away. Also, strafe to the left (your left, his right, which is very common in Souls games) as you’re dodging his attacks. I did this, and I effectively missed getting hit by the vast majority of his attacks. Believe me, it’s not easy standing your ground with a raging werewolf screaming in your face, but you have to do it. I killed him rather handily on my first attempt in the second session, and it reinforced the idea that you really have to be aggressive in this game. I was killed many times by being a scaredy-cat, and it felt amazing to polish off ol’ Gas Can (one of his nicknames) in NG+ by myself.

Let me say something about playing as a tank character in these games. I’m actually worse at the games in the beginning because the strength (ha!) of being a tank doesn’t really show up until about a third of the way into the game. I started with a better Strength stat, of course, but I had about the comparable amount of Vitality (health) and Endurance (stamina). I’ve been pumping those three stats, and only now (just killed the Witches on my first try, yo) feel that I’m considerably stronger than my arcane build character was at this point. I’m rocking the Kirkhammer +5 (just upgraded it twice) and the Saw Spear +3, and I’m slowly warming up to the Kirkhammer. I know everyone is in love with Ludwig’s Holy Blade, but I’m just not a big sword gal in Souls game (which is funny considering how much I love them in real life). I’m an axe gal, and it’s probably because as a pyromancer, I started with a Hand Axe in Dark Souls (the original) and mained a Battle Axe +15 for most of the game. I like cleaving things and blamming things, so the Kirkhammer is right up my alley. I’m used to sloooooooow weapons, so I’m OK on that front. I’m looking forward to trying out the Cannon and the Church Cannon, both which take quite a bit of strength. I’m probably going to be maining the Kirkhammer for the rest of the game, but I’m not averse to picking up the Hunter Axe at the local Bath Messengers shop in the Hunter’s Dream for a backup. I love my Hunter Axe, have I mentioned that already?

One of the things I love so much about these games is you can min-max as much or as little as you want. I’m not a huge min-maxer as far as figuring out the exact way scaling works or DPM or anything like that, but I do like to think about generally how weapons compare with  each other. I can also get weirdly nerdy about how much damage spells can do in different circumstances. In DS III, I had two pyromancies that I relied on heavily (Great Chaos Fire Orb and Chaos Bed Vestiges, both of which take two slots), and I spent an embarrassing amount of time comparing damage output for the two of them (I only used one at a time) slotting out different rings and other enhancements. I never thought I would end up there, but so be it.

Another way you can min-max is with the transformation of weapons, similar to the different attacks of weapons in other Souls games. Some people are all about getting the most out of their weapons, chaining together impressive combo chains, but not me. I’m more, “Just hit the damn thing until it’s dead!” school of thought. I don’t care about combos or chaining attacks. With my Hunter Axe, I mostly two-hand it and use the weak attack (RT (or whatever it’s called on the PS4)) while occasionally throwing in a strong attack now and again. I rarely do the transformation attack, and I don’t use the small axe that often because I like the reach the two-handed attack gives me. I will do the charged attack when I can pull it off, but it takes some time to charge it up.

I would like to mention that I LOVE the fact that equipment burden is not a thing in this game. It’s in every Dark Souls game (and it’s different for each game), and I’ve always gritted my teeth and bore with it because I love the games. In Bloodborne, it’s fucking fantastic that I don’t have to think about what I’m carrying or wearing, and I can just use whatever I’m using to my heart’s content. I like that the armor as it were are mostly side-grades and better for specific situations rather than some being objectively better than others. As I’ve said, I’m mostly rocking the Bone Ash Set because the witch set is my fave in all the Souls games, and I swap out only when I need resistance to a certain effect. Also, there aren’t enough upgrade materials (boo!), so it’s a good thing that the armor isn’t upgradeable.

Now that I’ve had a few days to think about Bloodborne (while still playing it, but I’ve finished my first playthrough), what are my thoughts? First, the game is gorgeous. I’ve seen several playthroughs (man, I wish I hadn’t now), but it’s not the same as actually playing it. I had to stop and marvel many times over the elaborate environments and intricate level design. One thing that both Dark Souls II and III do is give you plenty of bonfires (though less so in III than in II). In Bloodborne, the lamps are very sparse, but the shortcuts are plentiful and joyful to find. There is nothing like the feeling of running through an area, thinking desperately how you would loooooooove a lamp, and then, is that a gate that will lead to the lamp you lit forty minutes ago? It is! Pushing open that gate or activating that elevator or opening that door that is locked from the other side is quite simply exhilarating. It’s a concrete marker of progress, and it’s especially welcome when there aren’t any other signs of progressions.

On the negative side, I’m still not a big fan of the Blood Vial system. Let me correct myself. I love the system of injecting yourself with blood because it’s so much faster than quaffing Estus (though it can still seem soooo slow at times), but I don’t like the fact that they’re consumables. Yes, if you’re good at the game and don’t die a lot, then you can build up enough of a storage that you never feel the pain. But for those of us who aren’t able to max out storage, it can be a pain in the ass, especially when fighting the bosses. I should amend that to it’s only a pain in the ass when I’m fighting a boss. Most of the time, running through the game, it’s not a big deal. I’m decent enough that I can pretty much keep my blood vials at 20+ (I have the rune equipped that allows me to have +4 on my max) because I pick up vials from some enemies as I kill them. During the boss fights, however, it’s not uncommon for me to use most if not all my vials for a fight, and it can be demoralizing to have no vials at the end of a fight. I remember a boss fight (the Witches. Yes, I died in my first attempt. Don’t @ me) in which I died with one vial left at the end of the fight. I didn’t have any vials in storage, so I didn’t want to do anything else after the fight. I knew I would have to grind for vials, and it was the last thing I wanted to do after a frustrating session.

When I fight a boss in a Souls game, I want to just keep on banging my head against him/her until I am triumphant. I may choose to do something else between the attempts, but it’s my CHOICE, not because I’m forced to go grind for more heals. I can’t tell you how many times I knocked my head against the Nameless King in a row until I decided I was done for the day. In Bloodborne, I was fighting Martyr Logarius and Ebrietas, Daughter of the  Cosmos alternately (and getting my ass kicked by both of them at the same time), and I hated having to stop and grind for blood vials. I understand not wanting to give back all 20 vials every time a player respawns once they’ve depleted their storage, but I think 5 is not too much to ask for.

Another small gripe–the frame drops. I bought a PS4 explicitly for this game, and I’ve only played on a PC before. I’m used to games running like butter as long as I have the requirements needed to play them. Having to deal with this kind of lag/frame rate stutter is new and not welcomed. That’s more a gripe against consoles, but I think it’s valid giving that this is an exclusive. In addition, I don’t like how the warping is done in this game in general. I don’t like that you have to warp back to the Hunter’s Dream in order to warp to another lamp or to restock your supplies and respawn enemies. Load times are better, and there are now descriptions to read on the load screens, but it still seems needlessly ineffective. In addition, the Plain Doll having to speak her whole spiel before you can level up is irritating. In Demon’s Souls, the Maiden in Black would speak her spiel as the player levels up. In Dark Souls, you leveled up at the bonfire (best level up mechanic in all the games). In every game to follow, you’re forced to listen to the same inane spiel before you’re allowed to level up. It’s fucking irritating, and I have no idea why they. keep. doing. it.

Once again, this is running long. I’ll end it here and see you in the next and definitely last post on Bloodborne.




*The second video is IGN playing in NG+ for the first time. They even joked about how hardy the villagers in Central Yharnam (the first section) are.

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