Dispelling the myths of Bloodborne
Rejoice! Bloodborne, a nailed-on cert for one of the games of the generation, is now available to everyone with a PlayStation Plus subscription, and it is soooooo goddamn good; From Software's finest, if you ask me, a razor-edged, blood-soaked distillation of the Souls formula into something that's headily unique. It's a work of exquisite art, basically, yet there are still some put off by it all. There are still those who haven't sampled its delights.
Why's that? Maybe it's just not for them - and that's fine, the tasteless heathens - or maybe they've been put off by one of the erroneous preconceptions around Bloodborne, or around From Software's games. Well, that's why I'm here to make a final plea, and to try and bust some of the myths around Bloodborne.
It's too hard
Bollocks is it. Here's a thing: I'm terrible at video games. I've stumbled over gaming's simplest hurdles, been humiliated by the lowliest of enemies and will often go for an easy mode if one's available, and yet I've run through Bloodborne twice without ever really breaking much of a sweat. The myth about From Software games and the challenge they hold was one started with Demon's Souls and was happily played upon by the marketing surrounding the Dark Souls trilogy, but like a lot of marketing fluff it's a little wide of the truth. Even worse, it runs the risk of putting off more people than it attracts.
Tough but fair is closer to the mark, but even then Bloodborne - for all its serrated edges and gothic nastiness - is perhaps the most eminently approachable of From Software's games. It's definitely the most streamlined, forgoing the breadth of builds of the Souls series and instead doubling down on melee attacks. It's perfectly possible to muddle your way through even the most brutal of encounters, and if it's all getting too much then ring that bell fellow hunter. There's no shame in summoning in other players and letting them lighten the load. Well, not if you're shameless like me, at least.
It's just mindless hack and slashing
No no no no. Okay, given the focus on melee in Bloodborne there's a lot more hacking and slashing going on here than there might be in other Souls games, but really it's all a subtle repositioning of that trusted formula into more of an action game. Rather than the more measured pace of Dark Souls, Bloodborne's about hot, hard aggression, all tied up by the excellent rallying system that's at the heart of its combat. Lose a little health and there's a few seconds in which you'll be able to win it back by ragging on an enemy.
It's a wonderful trick, and it gives Bloodborne an extra special edge. If an enemy's got the better of you, don't go in with a more conservative approach - go in angrier, faster, more rabid. Hacking and slashing? Alright, maybe it is, but it's anything but mindless. In all that aggression, there's a wonderful rhythm to be found too; rather than being an extended exercise in tension and frustration, I find it all quite soothing. Get lost in the bloodletting as you grind away some XP to make your progression that much smoother and there's a real inner peace to be found. Maybe I'm the real monster, but then again maybe that's the point.
There's no real story
An odd one that was new to me, but having spoken to a few Bloodborne non-believers there's a perception that it doesn't have a story as such. Admittedly, it doesn't have one that's easily deliverable in a single soundbite, nor one that's readily summarised in a snippy cutscene or two; Bloodborne's tale comes alive in its telling, a slow dawning that's all the more powerful when you get to experience it unfurl for yourself.
So I'm afraid I'm not going to spoil any of it for you, Bloodborne newcomers, suffice to say that there is a story and it's a pretty fine one, too. Thematically deep, richly told and with just the right amount of ambiguity for you to make your own interpretations and take ownership of it all, it's the kind of story that underlines how powerful video games can be for narrative experiences when they're done with this kind of thought and care. It's a story told in the stones of Yharnam itself, and beyond.
It's too confusing
You might have stumbled upon discussions of Bloodborne's lore - there are plenty of discussions about Bloodborne's lore - which can be more than a little dense and, to the outsider, off-putting. Yes, Bloodborne's world runs deep, but you're also free to race through it all without giving it a second thought. If you really want it to be, Bloodborne can be a slick and straightforward action game set in one of the most intricate gothic playgrounds ever conceived; a Devil May Cry where the real devil's in the details.
If you want, though, you can go spiralling off into Bloodborne's deep lore until you send yourself positively mad - which, again, might just be the point - with its rich Lovecraftian tale just begging to be unpicked until you've got it into a fresh tangle that's entirely your own. This is the kind of game that invites discussion and reflection that's near endless - a rich text that can sustain study for years to come, as I'm sure it will.
But really, it's just too hard, isn't it?
Alright, let's go over this again, because it really bears repeating. Bloodborne is not a difficult game. There are bumps along the way, which admittedly you should steel yourself for: Father Gascoigne is a right bastard and the first stumbling block for many, and this particular Gazza doesn't come in a dressing gown bearing gifts of cooked chicken and lager. Rom's another fight, later on, where some people call it quits, but as ever in From Software it's all mind games - strip away the sneering teeth and flailing guns and there's not that much in the base game that's a match for a little conviction and an awful lot of aggression. And failing that? Ring that summoning bell and call on some help, because Bloodborne is a game that demands to be shared. It really is as good as it gets, and if you've never played it before I kind of envy you. What I'd give to experience this game's majesty for the first time all over again.