Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bloodborne Redux

This is the quintessential Halloween game. It'd also probably be Negan's favorite video game.

So originally I wasn't a big fan of Bloodborne and unlikely to do more with the game after my initial playing. I moved on to other games, like Axiom Verge. For whatever reason though, I ended up tooling around with Bloodborne again a few weeks later. Probably due to all the people touting it as super-awesome and saying that if you don't like it, it's because you need to Git Gud. Turns out that they had a IS super-awesome. You just need to have the patience to fix your own mistakes and progress will happen.

Here's the extent of NPC interaction for 99% of the game: People talking to you from behind doors. They don't take kindly to my type.

(Editor's Note: Redheads?)

Restarted and took the Threaded Cane, since the Hunter's Axe wasn't doing me any favors. In retrospect, the axe is a better weapon throughout the game when you know what you're doing, but the cane does some really good AOE damage early on that helps keep enemy groups from surrounding you.

After losing to the first boss a few times I decided to look into finding a potent weapon in the sewers, the Saw Spear. This thing not only looks cool, it does a lot of damage and has a good range. It quickly became my go-to weapon for like the first third of the game, and I probably could have used it waaaay past that point if I hadn't found snazzier-looking stuff.

The first boss is the notorious Cleric Beast. Stat-wise it's pretty weak compared to the rest of the bosses, but for a new player who doesn't know what they're doing, it's the end of the line. Once I got the Saw Spear and some levels, I was able to take this guy down.

Now to draw the first of many metaphors that I detected while playing this game: The Cleric Beast is a fallen cleric who transformed into a beast after fooling with powers he didn't understand. One of his arms is much bigger and more muscular than the other. Now, I'm no scientist, but I think the metaphor here is that he turned into a beast because he broke his clerical code and masturbated.

We get a close-up of the dude. As you spend more time fighting without returning to the hub zone, your outfit gets increasingly tattered and blood-covered. It's impressive, if pretty gross in general.

This game has some very impressive vistas, utilizing the sun and moon to epic potential. I can't wait to fire this up on the Playstation Pro for my next playthrough and see if it looks even better.

Since my first go with the game, they fixed the loading screens up. They take substantially less time, and now they have fun facts about items and other things within the game world. Did you know? Pebble-throwing is quite thrilling.

I made sure to stay a bit over-leveled for my entire jaunt through the game. Building up the right stats is crucial, because there are no take-backs. You pretty much need to know in advance what you're going to be using for weapons later. I concentrated on Str and Skill to raise my attack power, thinking I could defeat enemies quickly to avoid taking damage. I ignored HP and stamina for quite a while as a result. In retrospect I'm not sure how wise that is, but it did work for me; I became a damage-dealing machine and could take large amounts of health off of bosses with my strikes. Later I went back and raised stamina and HP.

Now my favorite weapons are the Blades of Mercy, so I tend to build up Skill and ignore Str. Add some stamina and you can stunlock a lot of foes with the twin blades.

Vicar Amelia is one early fight that I had a huge amount of trouble with. It's the second mandatory boss and the fourth that I fought. Some say it's an easy fight, some say it's horrible. Not sure what makes the difference. I built up my funds for Ludwig's Holy Sword before this, and it was good to have a more traditional weapon. The sword classed things up after hours of murdering things with a spear-saw. Note: The video is from a later playthrough with the Blades of Mercy. Turns out that throwing Numbing Mist at Vicar Amelia stops her incredibly annoying healing.

The Witch of Hemwick is possibly the easiest boss in the game. She teleports around and summons creepy lycan walkers, but the whole fight is nothing compared to the other stuff I've been dealing with. At this point I think the worst was behind me and I was ready to get rolling through the rest of the game.

So, where can I find these Sweaty Clothes?

"I'm so happy, I can hardly contain myself!"

Eventually the day gives way to night, and our hero traverses a very scary forest. This place is a significant jump in danger, which was hard to believe given how bad some of the earlier areas seemed. The woods are the first place where I spent more time running from everything than stopping to fight. The game is all about unlocking shortcuts, and once you've unlocked a good path from the safe-lamp to the boss, that's when you stop and do some fighting. Or go right to the boss if you've got nothing to lose.

Speaking of bosses, Blood-Starved Beast is another tough early one. I've never had too much trouble winning this fight for some reason, though I've heard horror stories about it. This video features one of the better fights I've had in the game.

Cainhurst Castle is a very, VERY cool side-area that you can reach midway through the game. As far as I can tell, this zone is completely optional, and one could easily miss it on their way through the game. It's difficult, but it has unparalleled atmosphere and some fantastic items to find.

The castle is snowy and full of nude statues. It's also pretty amazing-looking in general; one of the best examples of a Gothic castle that I've ever seen in a game. Maybe the best.

The interior is full of statues and candles. This is bewilderingly atmospheric. You fight the boss, Martyr Logarius, on the rooftop of the castle. He's a wizard, and he pretty much schooled me every time I fought him until I finally managed to take him down near the end of the game.

The castle has a throne room, where you can swear fealty to a fallen queen who hates the church. Not sure what the benefits are as things stand.

Speaking of boss fights, this moonlit lake is home to a very tricky one.

Rom, The Vacuous Spider is more or less the halfway-point of the game. There's something very chilling about this fight, and it isn't just the unsettling nature of the spider army. I felt like this fight was a metaphor for something unpleasant or sad. Maybe a childhood shared with too many siblings, leading to a feeling of emptiness (or vacuous-ness).

Defeating Rom transforms the sky, giving it a much more malevolent (and much cooler) look.

Darkbeast Paarl is one of the bosses I liked, mainly for its appearance. It emits electricity, which makes for a very cool effect. Let's get a production shot...

Yeah, this boss is something else. The boss fights in general tend to be pretty damn impressive. As in, "I've never seen anything like this in a game" impressive.

It's getting late.

Occasionally you can find a high vantage point in the city and look out over the misty landscape. It occurs to me that the visual quality here is a lot like the old pre-rendered game backgrounds of the late 90's and early 00's. Difference is this is much higher-res and isn't pre-rendered at all. Wow.

Here's something unsettling. A spider with a human face. He doesn't seem to want any beef with me so I move on. Interesting how he's clearly much more terrified of the "hero" than vice versa.

One of the lategame areas is some sort of college lecture hall. Leaving the lecture hall takes you to the final stage of the game, the Nightmare.

Stick around here too long, and zombified college students slither to you en masse. They wear graduation gowns and graduation caps, and if this isn't a metaphor I don't know what is.

Thing is, my ideas on previous bosses being metaphors for masturbation and empty childhoods might just exist only in my brain. Who knows what the creators were going for. However, having a college lecture hall area, where the exits all seem to go into a void and take you to "The Nightmare", is pretty on the nose as far as metaphors go. Especially nowayears, post-college uncertainty and fear of the unknown, worry that you may not have much of a future to inherit anymore with the economy in tatters... it's something that looms overhead.

The Nightmare itself is made out of skulls. This must be the job market.

Again I wonder if the metaphors are in my head, but the stones in this area are stacked in a way that strongly resembles stacks of coins.

Another of the optional fights in the game is Amygdala, a creature that stalks you for a while and lurks overhead in the lategame. It doesn't DO anything, it just lurks above you and watches you. All the time. Is this another workplace metaphor? You're being watched at all times, and you never know when the boss is going to come down and kill you. Amygdala never launches any offense until you reach a certain point, but until just keeps an eye on you. It's stressful, and reflects the stress of a workplace with an overbearing boss.

I hope these metaphors are intentional. Foes that reflect our real-life fears are much scarier than any standard monsters can be.

Amygdala is a pretty disturbing foe when you finally confront it head-on, but after all of that overhead watching...

...I was glad to have this creep out of the way.

Regardless of all of that, one thing I know for sure is that the game does vistas very well.

Close-ups, however... blades of grass look particularly bad up-close. The PS4 can render grass really well from a distance, but on an individual basis they're still 2D, pixellated images.

The Nightmare gives way to a castle with a heavy "cage" theme. Cages are everywhere here; you use cages for transportation, the enemies have cages for helmets...

Maybe this is a metaphor for marriage in its most brutal form. The fact that this cage-themed area comes so soon after the possible college and work metaphors really makes me wonder.

Hammering the life-metaphor timeline home is that the boss - the culmination - of the cage-fortress is a creature that makes baby noises during the fight and has a lullaby for a theme.

There's a surprising amount of optional stuff to do at the end. Cainhurst Castle, as difficult as it is, is a place that players might not be able to get through until the game is nearly over. Aside from that, the Nightmare zone is split into two, one required and one optional. Then there's the Upper Cathedral Ward, a somewhat hard-to-find optional zone that contains two bosses: Celestial Emissary (among the easiest in the game) and Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos (among the hardest).

During my first playthrough, my weapon of choice for the second half of the game was the lightning mace, Tonitrus. However, a close second is Ludwig's Holy Sword, which can be enchanted via an Empty Phantasm Shell to gain similar magic damage. Plus, the enchant just looks cool.

Later I became a Blades of Mercy guy, as I noted before, but I have fond memories of both Tonitrus and the Holy Sword.

Here's the Kirkhammer, another popular weapon. I never really used it, but it certainly looks interesting. It's basically Thor's Hammer on 'roids.

The final phase of the game consists of you collecting pieces of an umbilical cord. That's right. Some games send you on a lategame scavenger hunt to find Chozo artifacts or collect Triforce fragments. This one has you looking for umbilical cord pieces. Yeah.

Chikage is an interesting weapon. It's the one katana in the game, and it hits quite hard. Didn't find it as useful as the Ludwig's sword, though.

Ebrietas is a super-interesting creature. It sorta looks like a dragon from a distance, but it isn't...


But seriously, you can really see The Thing influence in a few of the boss designs in this game, as well as a lot of Lovecraft.

There are some optional dungeons in this game (referred to as Chalice Dungeons) that you can undertake once you find the right chalices to unlock them. They definitely add a huge amount of gameplay for people who want more. Unfortunately, they tend to all be bland caverns. Also, some farming is necessary to get the items you need to continue unlocking further depths of the Chalice Dungeons.

The final fight takes place in a field of flowers, not unlike Metal Gear Solid 3.

The fight lacks the gravity of Solid Snake having to kill his mentor at the end of MGS3, but the final boss did set my workshop on fire and that isn't cool.

The boss in question is Gehrman, a hunter who seems to reflect the end result of what your character is going to become.

In essence, it's like fighting an older, more powerful version of yourself who is at the end of his life. The fact that he wields a scythe during the whole fight drives home the death element.

Find the umbilical cords beforehand to continue onto the secret final boss, Moon Presence.

This thing is AMAZING looking and I continue to think the art design in this game is second to none.

That pretty much does it for this game. I kept this checklist handy as I went through it and crossed off fights as I did them, and I managed to get everything. There are still optional bosses in the Chalice Dungeons, and then there's a whole DLC expansion I still have to do. Kinda waiting for the Playstation Pro before I do all of that.

In closing, how do I feel about this game having finished it? It's interesting, for sure. I really got into it, and I liked that it fought me every step of the way. It's beautiful and atmospheric and very challenging.

At the same time, it's sorta grotesque. Time for me to fire up something a bit more colorful and happy...

...yeah, there we go.


  1. The snowy castle looks fantastic.


    Did killing that boss cause the moon to become white again?

    A lot of the stuff does look like various Playstation era FMV scenes but ramped up. Good call.

  2. I think your metaphor ideas are really interesting. Can't say if the game designers thought of all that though

  3. The boss designs are truly amazing, and manage to look really cool and creepy, yet there's something subtle about the designs that make them 10x more interesting that I can barely put my finger on. There's just something about Amygdala's skinny fingers and long, angular arms that sends a chill down the spine...not to mention its "face".

    1. There's something very otherworldly and unnerving about the boss designs in this game. I'd say Bloodborne has the most interesting bosses I've ever seen in a game, overall. It's definitely the strongest aspect of the game.

      I'm working on Dark Souls 2 now and the bosses are quite a letdown after Bloodborne. They're all giant armored knights and other traditional stuff.

  4. Looks like finishing it was rewarding; most of these interesting bosses came after where you quit the first time. Artistically it is a marvel so I'm glad you saw it. I also really like your interpretations of the bosses.