Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Ranking the Bloodborne Areas From Worst To Best


Good to finally get some Bloodborne content on here that isn't me hating on the game. While Elden Ring is Fromsoft's magnum opus, Bloodborne might be pound for pound their most interesting game. It's the only other one that sometimes challenges ER's supremacy for me, depending on the phase of the moon when you ask.

Honorable Mention: Chalice Dungeons

There are just too many of these to include, and they all follow similar layouts and room patterns anyway. Ranked as a whole, the Chalice Dungeons would actually probably be at or near the bottom of the list, and strike me as a dumping ground for all of the game's unused foes/bosses/items. That said, their expansiveness and depth (no pun intended) are pretty impressive and it's cool that the game has all of this extra stuff to do.

#18. Byrgenwerth Academy/Lecture Building

An interesting, kind of horrifying place in its own way, a college filled with the melted souls of its students. Shambling around, leaving trails of goo everywhere, there isn't much left to identify them besides their graduation caps. They're mindless automatons who get themselves all angry and chase you around in mobs. It's like visiting Harvard. This is one of the many parts of this game that stands out as a metaphor. As an area, though, it's very short and there isn't really a lot to see here. If it were a bit more expansive and had a boss fight, it would be much higher on the list because I like what they were going for here. It seems like just an empty filler zone that could have been a lot more.

#17. Forbidden Woods (Shadows of Yharnam)

Bloodborne is an incredibly solid game with no real weak points. They managed to resist their usual urge to include a poison swamp zone, and none of the areas are outright "bad". However, the closest this game gets to being annoying is probably the Forbidden Woods. One of the longest areas in the game, as well as one of the most confusing, this dark forest goes on and on well beyond when you're sick of it. It's also a very dark zone and doesn't have any of the usual gorgeousness that characterizes the game's environments. The one part of the game that I don't enjoy.

#16. Nightmare Frontier (Amygdala)

One of the three fully-optional areas in the base game, this one never really floated my boat. The boss is a chore to fight because of the camera, and the area itself is the debut of those walking brain things that inflict frenzy status, easily the worst thing in this game from a design standpoint. It also has some swamp-esque bogs, never a welcome thing in these games. So why isn't it ranked lower? Well, it's got a great design and is very otherworldly from a visual standpoint.

#15. Old Yharnam

That sniper in the tower with the gatling gun. That guy ruins what could otherwise be a pretty interesting area to explore. He's also quite OP, with a ton of hit points and high defense. You're probably not supposed to actually fight him until later, and at the early stage when you first cross this area, the intention is likely to just move from cover to cover and scurry for your life. However, in the interest of liberating the area from his tyranny, I usually try to get up there and knock him off the tower early.

#14. Yahar'gul, Unseen Village (The One Reborn)

An interesting area because you can get here much earlier than you're "supposed to" and explore it early, then do it again later and find some new stuff. The boss is simultaneously both a reference to the Tower Knight from Demon's Souls AND The Thing from John Carpenter's The Thing. More I think about it, the more Bloodborne really is more of a sequel to Demon's Souls than anything else. I think of Demon's Souls as "Dark Souls Zero" but maybe I should see it as "Bloodborne Zero". Regardless, this area is spine-tingling and dangerous and a joy to run around in.

#13. Research Hall (DLC - Maria of the Astral Clocktower)

The best boss in the game is in one of the worst areas. This zone isn't fun at all, with its giant spiral staircase and numerous obnoxious enemies that bumrush you at every turn. It's also a very confusing zone that takes a number of design cues from the Tower of Latria in Demon's Souls, but not the good design cues. A lot of people really like this zone because of how creepy it is and would rate it a lot higher. After just recently replaying the game I found this to be the weakest area in an otherwise very strong DLC.

#12. Upper Cathedral Ward (Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos)

One of the big three optional areas, this one has the Ebrietas fight (one of the best fights in the game). However it's fairly short, and has some really obnoxious enemies like a number of those brain-sucker guys. It gets some points for its general mystique, and having Actual Aliens in it for some reason. Also feels like a place you're not supposed to be in, which scores it some more points. I like the areas where the lights go out and you're forced to listen for the sounds of approaching beasts (or just turn on the Hand Lantern, if you bought it).

#11. Nightmare of Mensis

Those frenzy-casting brain enemies show up again here and they're as obnoxious as ever. Add in a good amount of large beasts and hunters, and this zone really is a nightmare. However, the mood here is second to none and it's one of the more memorable areas in the game. It also leads directly into the final area of the game, Mergo's Loft, which I'm counting as its own location here.

#10. Yharnam Undercity (Blood-Starved Beast, Darkbeast Paarl)

I consider this a separate area from Old Yharnam, sort of "part two" of the second area. The area with the Blood-Starved Beast and Darkbeast Paarl, both of which are intense and well-designed boss fights. The whole area has a mood to it, being a dark undercity, overlooked by the gothic towers of the main city high above. This was probably the point in time when I started to actually get into this game, after struggling with the first area.

#9. Hemwick Charnel Lane (Witches of Hemwick)

Also fond of this area because it's the point in the game where you really feel like you're progressing and moving it along. You're finally out of the city and able to see some wilderness environments, which of course this game is also good at. It's the 3rd (or 4th) area you reach and one of the easier zones, with an outstanding level-grinding area by the shoreline at the end. There's a mysterious carriage down by the sea, an enigmatic tower, and a general Halloween vibe that can't be beat.

#8. Hunter's Nightmare (DLC - Ludwig the Holy Blade, Lawrence the First Vicar)

The first area of the DLC is also easily the largest area in the DLC, and it's a pretty interesting locale. The only real strike against it is that it's basically a palette-swap of the Cathedral Ward area. And a step down from the Ward, for that matter, due to having blocked passages and swampy bogs strewn about. All of that said, it's a good zone, full of secrets and a couple of very memorable optional fights. It's like an apocalyptic version of the Cathedral Ward from another timeline, or something.

#7. Cathedral Ward (Vicar Amelia)

Mostly used as the hub zone to reach several early-game zones, the Cathedral Ward itself functions as a very well-designed area. There are some noteworthy side-areas with secrets in them, some legitimately-frightening stave-wielding pontiffs out for your soul, and one of the most visually-impressive bosses on the PS4 at the end. How they rendered all of the tattered clothing strips of Vicar Amelia as they float on the wind, I don't know. Gets high marks for its secrets and the overall effort put into everything here.

#6. Byrgenwerth/Moonside Lake (Rom the Vacuous Spider)

A short area, but one of the most gorgeous locations in any Fromsoft game. You've got the observatory, followed by the lake, with all of it lit by the giant full moon. Some of the enemies here are inscrutable, like the giant glowing magic centipede that looks like something created by a Final Fantasy X sinspawn. Rom is an extremely memorable fight that transpires in a vast, limbo-like expanse, and triggers the arrival of the red moon to the game world from here on out. This was the moment I really began to question if this game had a lot more to say than what I was reading on the surface.

#5. Mergo's Loft (Mergo's Wet Nurse)

The final zone of the game is probably the most treacherous, with multiple levels of ascending danger that bring you further into what is already a trip to the dark side. In a good way. The boss of the zone is one of the best fights in the game, a Thanatosian nightmare that stalks around the battlefield like a prowling menace.

#4. Fishing Hamlet (DLC - Orphan of Kos)

Probably the most atmospheric location I've ever seen in a video game. This rainy, damp town is brimming with Lovecraftian creepiness, and I could lurk around here for hours. The Sahagin finally get to be a threat in a video game, overrunning the town and attacking from rooftops with their spears. At the end you have what is essentially the game's optional superboss, Orphan. This place is so moody and eerie that it's hard to not rank it at #1. Which means the top 3 must be pretty rad.

#3. Hunter's Dream (Hub Zone)

Not a lot of ground to cover here, but it's a nice simple hub zone with everything you need in a compact space. The game functions a lot like Demon's Souls with stones to teleport you to the various levels. It's also very very pretty, and features the game's final battle in a large field of flowers. As far as hub zones go, it isn't as iconic as Majula, but it's more user-friendly than Firelink Shrine and has less wasted space than The Nexus, so it goes high on the list.

#2. Cainhurst Castle (Martyr Logarius)

The last of the big three optional areas and IMO they finally scored a win with this one. This is an absolutely glorious zone in terms of art direction, with an abundance of statues and light snowfall to set the mood. The boss fight with Logarius on the rooftop of the castle is one of the two big optional bosses (the other being Ebrietas) of the regular game, and it's a similar high level of quality. What's with From saving most of their best zones and bosses for the optional content?

Honorable mention goes to the castle interior and how incredibly stunning it is.

Another honorable mention goes to the statues. Ah yes, the statues.

#1. Central Yharnam (Cleric Beast, Father Gascoigne)

The very first area of the game is your jarring introduction to the world of Bloodborne, and right away it sets the parameters that it expects you to play by. Lure foes away from other foes, find ways to employ crowd control, don't rush into dangerous situations. Once the game gets you acclimated to how it works, this area goes from jarring to extremely fun. The art direction here is incredible, the cityscape is breathtaking, and the game really makes you feel the level of danger exuded by the packs of beast men roaming the streets. That danger and menace around every corner is what moves the game from good to great, makes every move count, and makes you look around wondering: "What happened here?"

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