Bloodborne Confessions: Day 1

Into the Breach

I will freely admit that before deciding to give Bloodborne a try, I watched gameplay footage & did some general research.  I’ve always liked the idea of the Souls games, but don’t want to put down money on something that I think I’ll just give up on.  So after deciding to give the game a try myself, I looked over some starter tips.  For example, a breakdown of what the stats meant.  Most of them are pretty obvious (endurance, strength, skill) but I would’ve never guessed from the name that “bloodtinge” referred to aptitude with firearms.

After this introduction, I jumped into the creation of my avatar.  Coming from someone who enjoys character creation almost more than actual gameplay, the options for customizing the Hunter are fairly limited.  Often the differences between options are so minuscule as to be unnoticeable.  Just barely a flicker on the screen to indicate something changed.  However, as most of the armor you pick up will cover everything, this isn’t a major issue.  And some of the unique options were nice.  For example, I chose to make my Hunter a bit thicker on the bottom & have a blind eye.

More crucial than appearance, however, is picking an origin or background.  This serves not only the role-playing element, allowing the player to imagine what brought the Hunter to Yharnam in the first place, but creates a template for their abilities.  After my research, I settled on the Professional origin.  Born specialist, fit for sleuthing or academia.  The Professional has one of the lower starting Vitality stats, but the highest Skill & second highest Endurance.  All other stats are mid-range.  This fits my preferred play style.  In nearly every game where I have the choice, I tend to favor faster, more agile builds, willing to sacrifice strength or health for being better able to dodge attacks.  What good is it to be super-strong if you’re too slow to hit anything?

Thus why, when presented with the option later, I chose the Threaded Cane & Hunter Pistol as my starting weapons.

Lastly came my Hunter’s name, which I consider to be an important but not game-changing decision.  Taking inspiration from the heroine of my favorite book trilogy, I gave her the same ill-fated, cursed moniker.  And thus, Phedre the Hunter was born.

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So after a creepy little intro where some ghoulies wanted to get a little too personal, Bloodborne swiftly taught me its first lesson.

Lesson 1: Sometimes you just have to die.

Death is an inevitable part of any Souls game, & I at least appreciate how Bloodborne doesn’t beat around the bush with this aspect.  The very first thing I came across sent me to the Hunter’s Dream with little fuss.  Yes, I know technically you can kill the werewolf, but without weapons, it’s no easy task.

This lesson was later reiterated when I decided to go after the Cleric Beast in what amounted to a suicide run.  I knew Phedre wasn’t prepared, but I also knew that I had to gain some Insight before I could begin using Blood Echoes (basically experience points) to upgrade myself.  And just encountering a boss will grant 1 Insight, regardless of if you’re victorious.

I have to say, I really love the aesthetic design of Yharnam.  I’m a sucker for good Gothic/Victorian design.  The city is a vast, sprawling maze.  And it’s one of the wettest games I’ve never seen.  Seriously, everything’s shiny.  The clothes, the ground, the people… though I’m not sure if it’s from water or gore.

Lesson 2: Always be aware of your surroundings.

This game loves to throw ambushes your way.  But, they’re always in the same place.  So once I’ve learned where they are, I’m not taken off guard.  Although I do have to complain that it’s unfair I can’t target an enemy that I clearly know is an ambush in waiting until it makes a move first.  It’s like, I can see that guy with the flaming torch hiding behind the crates.  Or this guy pretending to be dead, sitting next to the carriage.  But I have to wait for them to get around to attacking.  I wish I could be preemptive.

I’ve also learned this applies to the environment in general.  One particularly salty death came when I backed myself into a corner & got trapped between a carriage & a very angry patrol that had completed their round faster than I anticipated, literally sandwiching me in between two very angry dudes.  I had only myself to blame that I couldn’t get out.

Which led me to several lessons.

Lesson 3: Watch your stamina.

Lessons 4: Know your enemy.

Lesson 5: Divide & conquer.

Lesson 6: Running away is sometimes a valid option.

Stamina is the most precious resource in the game, as you need it both to fight & survive.  I’ve quickly learned to always leave enough stamina to dodge out of the way at least once.  When that green bar starts getting low, I back off from my attack to let it regenerate.  It would also be nice if Phedre could learn to multitask, but that’s apparently too much to ask.  I can’t dodge & heal at the same time.  So if I’m too low on health, I have to dodge, then use a blood vial as I’m backing up.

As I mentioned in my First Impression, Bloodborne is punishing… but fair.  When I really pay attention, I learn how enemies behave.  I’ve started learning some of their attacks & movement patterns.  For instance, I know the dudes with the torches will try to burn me immediately after I successfully attack, & that the ones with pitchforks have massive range.  Thankfully my Threaded Cane’s whip form has pretty good range & crowd control capabilities.

And because the baddies seem to believe there’s safety in numbers, I always try to either wait until they’re patrolling away from the bigger group or throw things at them.  Strangely, some enemies don’t seem that keen to take my bait.  Some are more than happy to run up a flight of stairs after me, but others just stand & stare at me after I beamed them in the face with a rock.  We can stand here all night, I’m not coming over there & getting my face blown off by two riflemen.

Of course, sometimes the best strategy is to run away if I come across something too dangerous or scary.  There’s this hooded ogre thing early in Central Yharnam wandering behind some crates.  I attempted to take him on, but decided he was a little too scary for un-upgraded Phedre, so I ran away.  Luckily, he didn’t chase me too far.

Other Highlights

  • Summoning Father Gascoigne.  While I know he’s a boss later, I didn’t know I could summon him to help me.  It was also a little unsettling because A) He’s so much taller than Phedre & B) I kept expecting him to go try to attack me.  And while he had the unfortunate habit of rushing in, agro-ing enemies I wasn’t ready for, he served a decent distraction.  Too bad I spent my single Insight point to summon him.
  • Gained three levels by increasing my Vitality, Endurance & Skill, as well as upgrading my cane & buying some new gear.  I’m not sure if I should focus on one specific attack stat or try to balance them out a bit, as some gear has multiple stat requirements.

Day 1 Conclusions

Few games have given me the same thrill as Bloodborne.  From the moment I even contemplate picking the game back up, my heart races.  It’s very intense but visceral experience.  I’m finding my jerky reflexes coming in handy, dodging the moment I hear an off-screen scream right before someone tries to attack me from behind.  Hopefully when I pick the game up tomorrow I’ll explore the aqueducts.  I’d at least like to get to the next lantern.

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-GamerDame

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First Impressions: Bloodborne

I’ve always felt a great appreciation for FromSoftware… even if I was never very good at their games.  This began all the way back during the original XBox era when I played a demo for Otogi.  Not only was it a beautifully atmospheric game, it was unique, boasting plenty of killing implements & spectacular creatures to try them out on.  What I most appreciate is that the company seems perfectly content to make whatever sort of game they want, regardless of whether it fits the current market trend.  Particularly with the Souls series, they’ve taken an approach to game design I wish more developers took: focus on your key market & make the best game you can for that purpose.  Too often AAA developers try to throw in a little bit of everything popular in their titles to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible, typically resulting in a mediocre mess because they didn’t have the resources to perfecting any of them.  If you try to please everyone, you please no one.

So even if I’m not entirely sure I can handle one of their games, I respect how hard they work to hone their craft in making games that fit a very specific niche.

So why, then, have I decided to try their latest “hardcore” franchise?

Well, for one, I love everything about the design of the game from what I’ve seen.  I followed the news about Bloodborne since it was first announced, even when I thought there was no way I could play it.  I love Lovecraftian horror & the Victorian theme of the game.  The visuals, from the design of enemies to the architecture to the weapons, is very appealing to me.  But what solidified me actually buying the game (or rather putting it on my Christmas list) were the changes to gameplay from the Souls series.  The more aggressive-focused, dodge-based mechanics of combat are more in line with the way I tend to play games.  I don’t want to say the combat seems less strategic, because there clearly is a strategy for how to approach this, but perhaps less ponderous.  In any game I’ve played, I always go more for dodging than blocking, so the twitchy, adrenaline-fueled combat in Bloodborne may actually be something I can grasp a little easier.

So far, I’ve made it to the Cleric Beast (& died) so that I could start spending blood echoes & leveling up.  And if I had to sum up my experience thus far in one word, it would be “stressful” followed closely by “punishing.”  I don’t know if it’s just my expectations going into it that sets me on edge, but my heart races the entire time I’m playing this beast.  I seriously can’t play it for very long because I’m pretty sure it’s not good for me.  It’s very tense… but I don’t know if calling it hard is the right word.  That’s not to say the game’s easy, but I think “punishing” is a better term.  It’s Bloodborne’s rules, whether you like it or not.  And by god, it’s going to beat you until you learn that.  And you’ll like it.  There is a method to its madness, & at least I can say that I’ve learned something with every death.

I want to chronicle my experiences with Bloodborne as I go.  Not every death, because that would be too tedious, I’m sure.  But highlights, & specifically my learning experiences.  I want to look at this from the Everyman’s perspective.  I don’t consider myself a hardcore gamer.  I don’t play games to be frustrated.  So can just your average gamer (someone who has plenty of experience with games but isn’t in it for the challenge necessarily) maintain their sanity in this mad, mad world?

I suppose if anyone’s up to the task, it’s someone who’s trained for years to deal with insanity in this world.  But can that prepare me for the cosmic, rage-inducing horror I’m about to witness?

-GamerDame

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