I hate Bloodborne. The dying, the fleeing, and the constant push back are terrifyingly stressful. But, I also think it’s one of the best games ever made. My patience is continuously worn thin. Yet, Bloodborne lures me into carrying on. Playing it can feel like a punishment. However, as I progress it can also feel incredibly rewarding.
I bought Bloodborne about a year and a half ago. It spends most of its time gathering dust on a tabletop. The image is certainly a contrast to the fierce determination I had to beat the game back then. Every time I return to the game, I end up fleeing with my tail between my legs. It’s like banging your head against a brick wall; the chances are you’ll hurt yourself before you break it down.
Recently, I picked it back up again. Why am I doing this? Surely the game isn’t for me! Am I insane? Honestly, Bloodborne hangs over me, like a shadow I can’t shake. It sits in my pile of PS4 games and whispers to me: “You’ve beaten all those other games. You should finish me…” So, I gave into its calls and decided to approach it at a slower pace, hacking through the dense material that surrounds me.
Unfortunately, I can’t promise I will see it to the end. Being twenty-one and becoming an adult leaves me in the dilemma of either playing shorter games often or spending half a year on one big game. Either way, something keeps bringing me back to Bloodborne. But what makes me return when I know what’s in store? Well, let’s take a look at the allure of Bloodborne.
Bloodborne: The Perfection of the Abstract
What is Bloodborne? That’s a question I’ve pondered since I started the game. Yet, I’m still no closer to having a real answer. From the little I have played through so far, there seems to be no clear purpose. Aside from knowing that you must traverse through the city of Yharnam in order to escape this world, little else of the plot is clearly defined to the player.
There is a deliberate ambiguity to Bloodborne. We are left to interpret the story and plot elements as we wish. Maybe that is the real purpose of the game? To let us find our own story within the labyrinth of half told tales. There are the occasional NPCs who will share slithers of lore with you, allowing for a slightly clearer picture of Yharnam, but what we are told leaves us with more questions than before. Ultimately, it’s up to you to create a picture out of the puzzle pieces.
This thick layer of mystery that becomes one with the experience is the first reason I keep returning to Bloodborne. I feel like an addict, curiosity being my drug, as I’m fed little pieces of the truth. However, it only leaves me craving for more. What is Yharnam? What happened at Cainhurst Castle? Why am I here? I have to know!
Environments and Their Purpose
This abstract way of telling the story also embeds itself within the environments as well. As we look off into the distance, we see buildings, streets, all bathed in a hazy glow. As expected from director Hidetaka Miyazaki, the architecture is used to elicit an emotional response from us and help us understand the themes of Bloodborne.
It’s as if the environments are the main characters in the game. We must explore the areas, get to know them. We see their hidden secrets and explore what’s on the surface. Ultimately, we get to know Yharnam better than any of the living characters in Bloodborne. But what does that mean to us? Perhaps it’s a way of sharing with the player an understanding of our place in the world. A way for us to learn how to utilize what’s in front of us when we step away from the screen.
These two elements combine together, tugging on your sleeve, and lead you, naively, into the horrors that await you.
Bloodborne: The Art of Getting Your Butt Handed to You
Bloodborne is frickin hard. Perhaps it’s my poor reaction times, but I’ve found it much harder than the quick go I had on Dark Souls. You must dodge at the exact moment, keep moving at all times and know when to retreat. However, I do wonder if the guys at FromSoftware are just mean.
What do I mean? Bloodborne lures you into a false sense of security. Progression makes you feel like you’re just starting to get a handle on the game. It’s a delusion that the developer kindly shatters a couple of hours later when you take on the next boss. You take down the minor enemies, level up and get new gear. But, once again, you eventually get your arse handed to you. It’s like the developer is telling me to know my place. However, I am a stubborn man. I see it as a challenge, give them the middle finger and start hacking away.
I am not one who is quick to anger, but the game stirs up the beast residing within me. Firstly, I get frustrated after four or five failed attempts. Then, I start to get twitchy. And finally, after ten to fifteen deaths, the beast is unleashed and I hurl insults at the game. Insults that I shall not repeat here. As mentioned earlier, my head keeps bouncing off that brick wall.
Yet, even after all the rage, the feeling of finally winning is incredibly liberating. The sense of rising above the struggle is a feeling no other game has given me. You feel as if you finally understand. Like you are scaling a mountain and have reached the next rest point. You are ready to carry on.
The Joy in Pain
As you play, you fall and rise and fall again. But, the whole time, you are wondering: what if I just give it one more go?
And, so, that is what brings me back to Bloodborne. There are many other elements, but the mystery and mastery over gameplay tease you the whole time.
Sometimes, Bloodborne feels like a self-inflicted punishment. Yet, others can be one of the most enriching experiences in all of video games. It makes the hell I put myself through worth it.
So, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m off to play more Bloodborne!
Bloodborne fan? Love FromSoftware? Let us know in the comments!