From Software’s PS4 exclusive Bloodborne has taken gamers by storm and perhaps has divided them into two camps. On one hand you have legions of gamers not versed in the difficulties of games like Demon Souls, Dark Souls 1 and 2 (also developed by From Software) and on the other those familiar with how the “Souls” games are administered. Naturally some gamers are going to overlap or sit in the middle somewhere, but there’s a resounding sentiment that compared to most modern games which seem tailored towards the masses, Bloodborne is bloody difficult to begin until the proverbial penny drops and players become shrouded in some revelatory shard of light – cue angelic music. However, until that point the game takes no prisoners (on purpose) and throws players into a hellish but gorgeous looking Gothic environment to explore – think Van Helsing on steroids.
With the chime of a distant bell, the game’s unforgiving nature will see even the most seasoned players get killed plenty of times before mistakes are countered with knowledge and there’s a sense of accomplishment that’s juxtaposed with an unnerving fear of death which could strike at any time regardless. Death is handled somewhat differently to many other games where there’s often a long hike required to reach the same point of departure – again where death can suddenly rear its ugly head – but is this really difficulty or a unorthodox approach to game design and respawning back into the game – something we all perhaps take for granted nowadays. It’s far removed from an actual ‘Game Over’ screen where players have to start over from scratch like a number of rogue-like indie games we see, so is death actually the game’s neat way of tutorial?
The game’s first boss, the Cleric has been talked about by a number of dedicated souls who found him quite tough at such an early point in the game and having heard all about the challenge prior to my meeting I was somewhat taken aback when I defeated the bastard on my first attempt and without looking at any external sources for playing tips. I immediately hit the “Share” button to capture my showdown and as you can see in the video it was a messy battle but one that still meant a neat victory for me – a win is a win no matter how bad the execution.
I wouldn’t class myself in the league of top tier gamers with godly skills across the “Souls” games but in this instance spending a bit of time pre-boss battle understanding the game’s core mechanics (and dying quite a bit) helped greatly. I wasn’t aware of when I would meet the fabled Cleric and before I could get my bearings it was game-on. However for one, it was a natural progression through general play leading up to that point to stock up on blood vials, so much so I had too many of them and was constantly sending them back to storage. Secondly the dodge manoeuvre was paramount to success and of course parrying attacks with the ranged weapon became handy for getting in some extra hits (although the timing is hit and miss pun intended). This mindset of understanding carried across most of the game’s battles preceding my encounter with the Cleric and is something I was well versed in early on. I have to ask then, is the game really that hard with these easy to learn mechanics well practised?
Bloodborne doesn’t provide much in the way of tutorial aside from outstretched skeletal hands from the ground, but it does give players many clues as to what you should be doing. Take the masses of enemies huddled around the fire at the start. Wade in like a trooper and you’re going to get overwhelmed quite quickly. Yet prior to this rocks are given to the player as a hint of luring enemies and breaking the pack into smaller groups; something that becomes the most effective way of dealing with them. The same for those annoying fast moving pair of wolves who take massive damage from Molotov cocktails. Perhaps Bloodborne’s greatest difficulty comes from the willingness to pick up on the clues provided and learn how and when to use them. The only way this can be accomplished is by practice and of course those untold deaths. It’s possible we’re looking at death in Bloodborne the wrong way, pigeon holing it in the same realms of other games when the reality is death is merely one of the many chapters of progression in this style of game. This is the way the game’s designed and so in a way, death becomes the tutorial.
Since beating the Cleric I’ve not had much time to progress with Bloodborne due to other gaming commitments, but I have taken down the rather cool hunter Gascoigne rather easily too – although that required a three attempts. I am eager to jump in again and experience more of what death can teach me though. In many ways, it’s quite refreshing to look at death in a video game in such a contrasting light to how I’ve been pre-programmed to view it before, and perhaps is the main reason why Bloodborne is so appealing.