Underneath my yellow skin

It’s All in My Head (and Bloodborne)

I’m sick. Again. I’m also depressed about it because it seems to be a yearly thing. I got sick around this time last year, and it lasted on and off for the next four or so months. Rightly or wrongly, I blamed going to the doctor on my further illnesses as I went twice and got sick again immediately after. This time, however, I have not been to the doctor, and I feel like shit. I’m alternating hot and cold, and I’m exhausted no matter how much or how little I sleep. I had to skip Master Choi’s seminar this weekend because I didn’t want to get anyone else sick, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through the two hours (plus half an hour driving either way). Shadow has been my little nurse, lying on my legs to keep them warm. The trade-off is that he gets in my face (literally) as I’m waking up because I’ve been a bit remiss in getting him his breakfast on time.

It’s stressful to get tired over every little thing. I have pared down my morning taiji routine because I’m sick, and I’m still spent by the time I’m done with it. Driving to the grocery store and picking up a few items exhausts me beyond my resources, and it’s hard not to feel resentful by the time I get home because I feel as if my body is betraying me. Going to the grocery store shouldn’t be any big deal, and yet, in my current state, it’s such a production. I’m lying on the couch with Shadow on my legs, thinking I need to go to the store, but having no energy or motivation. It takes me about a half hour just to drag myself off the couch, then fifteen minutes to actually make it out the door. By the time I get home, I’m ready to drop. Things that normally take such little thought now take every last bit of reserve I have.

Right now, I’m sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee and Shadow on my legs. I’m so freaking hot, it’s uncomfortable. But, if I take off my sweatshirt, I’ll be chilled in a minute. I’m someone who rarely gets cold, so getting the chills is really uncomfortable for me. I will say the older I get, the less I’m able to tolerate intense cold. I used to drive with my windows down well into the sub-zero degrees range. Now, I shut the windows around zero degrees and feel sheepish about it. It’s hard to adjust to aging, and I’m not doing it very gracefully. I have freckles and moles that suddenly appeared after I turned forty, and whoever said acne is only a teenager thing was lying through their teeth.

Shadow has now hopped up on the top of the couch in his usual spot because he’s decided he’s done enough administering to me. He might also not want to be too close to the germs, for which I don’t blame him. This is me right now:

All I want to do is sleep and watch mindless entertainment. I’m keeping up with my writing, but it’s been a struggle, especially after I’ve been up for a while. I have a piercing pain in my right thigh every now and then, which I think is from me just sitting a lot. I’ve had it in the past, and it’s as fleeting as it’s frustrating. It feels like a burn, but the pain rarely lingers. It’s not debilitating–mostly just annoying. It’s like wasabi in that it’s a clean burn, leaving nothing behind.

I’ve played a bit of Bloodborne, but not much as it tires me. I’m trying to work up my Bloodtinge to 18 on my arcane build so I can use the Madaras Whistle. I have five more levels to go, and it’s going to average a hundred thousand souls, er, echoes per level. I can grind it out by doing the Central Yharnam loop seven or eight more times (it’ll take roughly 1.5 loops per level), which is fine, but so boring at this point. I did a ton of grinding during my first playthrough to beef up my Arcane stat to 50, and this feels even more excruciating. It doesn’t help that I’m still bitter over the fact that the Madaras Whistle is based on Bloodtinge (and has the highest requirement) rather than Arcane. I’ll get there, and I want to get my Vit to 40 (I think I’m at 38), and that’s my end of how I’m targeting my stats.

Oh, shit. I think I can use the Chikage now. It costs 50,000 monies, which is quite expensive. That’s another thing. I did the grind several times for different weapons and armor sets. I don’t mind, but some of this shit is outrageously expensive. The pyramid head gold helmet (Gold Ardeo) was 60,000 monies! It’s pretty cool, but I don’t wear it. I’m still maining the Bone Ash Set, which was fairly inexpensive in the insight shop. There are less weapons and armor sets in this game, but I don’t mind because each is so distinct. In Souls games, I spent a lot of time comparing the armor sets, and they were a bit more muddled as to which is better for what. In this game, it’s pretty clear-cut that one set is best for, say, arcane, even if you have to sacrifice physical defense for it.

Let’s address the elephant in the room–Chalice Dungeons. They’re both set dungeons and RNG dungeons that you run through, gather loot (and souls), and kill bosses. They’re meant to be co-oped, and there are new NPCs (at least one), armors, and weapons in them. They’re also meant as a way to grind if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the vanilla game and want to beef up. They’re level appropriate and don’t scale, and I left them until late, so I’m still in the first Chalice Dungeon in NG+. I did a bit earlier, but I have to tell you, I’m pretty underwhelmed by them. For one thing, I have no sense of direction, so I’m getting lost on a regular basis. It’s frustrating as I’m trying to zip through them, and I keep going around in circles. In addition, and I say this provisionally, they’re boring. They all feel the samey, but to be fair, I’m doing the set dungeons.

Here’s the thing. My favorite part about Souls games is exploring and uncovering the lore. There is exploring in the Chalice Dungeons (and hidden walls!), but it’s not connected to anything. And, the environments aren’t visually amazing the way they are in the main game. There are some enemies in the Chalice Dungeons that don’t show up anywhere else, but it’s not enough. In addition, I’ve one-shot all the bosses so far. Granted, I am WAY over-leveled, but still. The Chalice Dungeons aren’t any fun for me. I know they’re meant to be co-oped, but I’m too over-leveled for that. I’ll probably try to finish them for the loot, but I’m already done with them, and I’m only on Lower Pthumeru. Oh. I just looked at the fextralife wiki on the Chalice Dungeons, and this is a Depth 3 dungeon. No wonder it seemed much harder than the first dungeon I entered! Depth 5 is the hardest level, so I’m exactly halfway there. I know that there is a unique boss in the Chalice Dungeons that you can only meet by beating all the rest of the dungeons (including one set that halves your health throughout the whole dungeon. Yip-the-fuck-ee), and I’m resigned to never seeing her. I doubt I’ll finish the Chalice Dungeons, though I may try them again with my melee character.

I’m not mad they’re in the game, however. I know some people were miffed they were included, but they’re of the ‘I can ignore it if I don’t want to do it’ variety for me. It is a little annoying that one of the coolest bosses in the game is hidden away behind so many layers of Chalice Dungeons, but so be it. It’s also a bit frustrating that some of the gear is only found in the Chalice Dungeons (like my Bone Ash Set and the Beast Claw), but again, so be it. I haven’t tried the procedurally-generated dungeons yet, so maybe they’re more interesting, but I don’t really care. My OCD tendencies tell me I have to do them, but I’m ignoring them for now.

One thing I love about doing another playthrough of a Souls game is how much easier it is (duh) the second time through. I mentioned how I’ve had a harder time with bosses as a Strength player, but it’s become much easier now that I’ve beefed up the Kirkhammer and the Saw Spear. I’m still tempted to buy the Hunter Axe because I love it so much and would really like to see what it can do with a ton of Strength points behind it. It’s fairly cheap (1100 echoes), so there’s really no reason not to just buy it. It’s mostly my brain telling me that I shouldn’t main the same weapon, but it’s so goddamn good. I’m also thinking I probably should buy Ludwig’s Holy Blade (which is 20,000 souls, echoes, monies, whatever) because it’s another strength weapon, but it’s just not really my jam. The other thing I like about doing a second playthrough is that I don’t have to buy all the shit I bought in the first playthrough just for funsies.

When I first starting playing Bloodborne, I was really worried about transitioning from sword-and-board to no shield. My reflex are such shit, and my parry ability is poor. At least it was. The thing about Bloodborne is, the windows for parrying are much more generous than they are in Souls games. With my arcane build, I can use my Augur to stagger an enemy, bypassing the need to parry at all. Or, in the parlance of Bloodborne, visceral. With my melee character, however, I need to use my gun to stagger before I can do the visceral, and I manage to accomplish it every third time or so. Not bad, but not great.

The combat in general is so different than in the Souls games. It’s much more fluid and fast, and it really encourages an aggressive mindset, especially since you can rally some of your health back if you continue to attack the enemies. The dash is godlike, and I don’t even mind–much–that I can’t roll when I’m locked onto an enemy. I never thought I’d say it, but after the first few hours, I didn’t even miss the roll. After the same first few hours, I didn’t care about my loss of shield. I loved my two-handed Hunter Axe, and I could dodge quite skillfully away from attacks. Having mobs patrol and not be static is a welcome addition as well, and it’s one they added to Dark Souls III as well. I haven’t played a Souls game since I started playing Bloodborne, but I really want to try a no-shield run in DS III. I have a hunch it won’t go as well because the mechanics of the game are so different, but I have to give it a try.

Soulsborne community members are slavering for another Bloodborne game. I don’t think it’s going to happen, and more to the point, I’m not sure I want another Bloodborne or Souls game, especially if Miyazaki isn’t going to be at the helm. Bloodborne is an amazing game, and how I wish I had played it without knowing all the secrets–although, I have to say, I was watching someone else play it, and I noticed a ladder/shortcut that I hadn’t found for myself in Old Yharnam. It’s one thing I love about Soulsborne games–there are so many secrets, it takes several playthroughs to find them all if you’re not reading the wikis. In addition, there are more than one endings to most of the games, so it almost demands that you play more than once. Certain questlines can be handled in more than one way as well, which adds more layers to an already complex and dense game.

For people who are wondering whether they should buy this game–I have been so excited about it on Twitter, I’ve gotten questions about it–my answer would be, “It depends.” If you’re a Souls-lover and already have a PS4, then it’s a no-brainer. Buy it. You’ll probably like it once you get adjust to the different playstyle. If you’re a Souls-lover, but don’t have a PS4 (my past situation), I would say it’s worth it if you can buy a used PS4 for cheap. If you have a PS4, but aren’t a lover of the Souls series, well, let’s break that down a bit. Have you tried the Souls games and don’t like them because of their slow, plodding natures, but you like combat-oriented games in general? I’d say give it a shot. If you don’t like the Souls games because they’re too demanding, then I’d skip Bloodborne as well. It’s equally as difficult as the Souls game, if not more so in a different way. If you’re not the type to invest fifty-sixty hours in a game, belaboring over every corner and item found, and obsessing over the lore in the wikis in your free time, then it’s not for you. If you’re the type who gets easily frustrated and need tangible progress in every play session, skip this game. If you don’t like tough boss fights, walk right on by.

If, on the other hand, you like all that stuff plus exploring gorgeous and haunted environments that grow increasingly otherworldy as you go, then I would definitely recommend you buy Bloodborne. It’s a fantastic game with great replay value, and you’ll be cursing it for weeks if not months to come! I’ll be back tomorrow with one honest-to-god last post with all my final thoughts on Bloodborne. May the good blood guide your way.



Leave a reply