Some thoughts on Bloodborne, which Nicole and I finished last night.
Many of these thoughts are going to contradict each other, but that’s OK, because that’s the kind of thing Bloodborne makes you do.
It took us more than two months to finish
Seriously. More than two months. We are reasonably dedicated gamers, playing for hours every week, possessed with a reasonable amount of skill. We’re not world champions, but if you put controllers in our hands, we’re not going to embarass ourselves. And yet this damned game, with its incomprehensible lore, ridiculously difficult bosses and infuriating learning curve, took us two solid months to finish. I’ve had family dinners which didn’t take that long.
It is utterly infuriating
The game has rightly been praised for its fantastic combat, and unbelievable atmosphere. That doesn’t stop it from being one of the single most infuriating games I have ever played.
I’m normally a calm guy; it takes a lot to raise my blood pressure. This year, only two things have managed it: the Chicago Bulls basketball team, and the first boss of Bloodborne. I swore at the TV so much that I’m frankly astonished our neighbours didn’t lodge a complaint. I clenched the controller so hard that my nails left track marks in its surface.
If you have an even remotely fractious disposition, stay very, very far away from this game.
The story is a pile of bollocks
Every review I read for this game praised its storytelling technique, rhapsodising about how it drip-fed you information through item descriptions and let you discover things for yourself without any Michael-Bay-style force-feeding.
Horsepucky. The storytelling is abominable. For a game with such a wonderful world to explore, with so many twisted and gruesome enemies to kill, it’s unbelievable that I got to the end and still didn’t have the first clue about what was going on. I had to Google it. When I did, I discovered this:
When your game requires a half-hour explainer video on YouTube just to get the basic elements of the plot, something has gone terribly wrong somewhere.
I’m okay with not having things fed to me. I don’t mind unwrapping a story one layer at the time. But you actually have to have a story to unwrap. One of the most vexing things about this game was that I was killing all these wonderful bosses, each of which looked like it had a fascinating back story… and the game refused to tell me about any of them. I discovered their existence and was told to kill them in the same instant. Ditto for the game’s marvellous enemies. The only information we were given was that they were once human and are now beasts.
So what? If you’re going to make me plough through hordes of them, if you’re going to have such wonderful and creative enemy design, then make the effort to actually tell us a little bit about them. You cannot seriously tell me that this game would have suffered if there was a tiny little bit of information available on the dog-deer monster that was Vicar Amelia? Or the ultra-creepy Rom the Vacuous Spider, in his lair below the moonlit lake? Or Micolash, Host of the Nightmare — Jesus, with a title like that, the guy should have been haunting us from the start of the game. Instead, he appeared in a cut scene, and then we fought him, and then he died. I still know absolutely nothing about him, beyond the fact that he’s a dude with a massive lantern on his head for no discernible reason.
The last boss is horrendous
Don’t get me wrong. I like the fact that the final boss is one of the first characters you meet in the game. But Gehrman the First Hunter is super-cheap, and that makes him a real chore to fight.
Bloodborne’s bosses are all bullet-sponges – and that’s excusable, to a point, because they’re all fun to fight (well, maybe not fun…interesting would be a better word). Not so with Gehrman. He can take huge amounts of punishment and dish out even more. we had a fight where we had his moves perfectly dialled, where we were in the zone, where were matching him toe to toe and had brought him down to an eighth of his life bar. Then he jumped into the air and unleashed a cyclone attack that one-hit-killed us.
I don’t mean to sound bitter, but that’s bullshit. That’s terrible boss design. In the end, we had to call in online co-op to help us beat him. When we did, we didn’t feel triumph. Just relief.
(And yes, I know there’s a secret boss after Gehrman. I didn’t find the fecking Umbilical Cords, OK?)
It’s the most addictive game I’ve ever played
After the final boss died, after the cut scene rolled, Nicole and I looked at each other. We were drained. Completely and totally spent.
“Thank God for that,” I said. “I’m never playing that again.”
“Never,” said Nicole.
“You know there’s a New Game Plus, right?”
“Yeah — you start again with you existing equipment, and the bosses and monsters are even stronger.”
“Shut up. No way am I doing that. Never again.”
“Me neither, I — oh, hang on, the game’s started it up for us automatically.”
“Oh…OK. Can you go kill the first enemy? I just want to see how powerful we are.”
Twenty minutes later we’d fought through the first level and killed the first boss and had to tear ourselves away to actually get some sleep.
That’s Bloodborne. The most infuriating, crazy, stupid, twisted, deeply brilliant game I’ve ever played. It is awful and terrible and I love it to pieces. I’ve never played anything like it.