Bloodborne First Impressions

This article is more of a stream of consciousness look at my thoughts as I played through the first few hours of the game. I’m planning to post a more in depth examination of the game’s mechanics and aesthetic based on my first few hours soon.

Bloodborne wasn’t really on my radar. I had seen it discussed on news sites some, but I didn’t know a lot about it. Then, out of nowhere, the floodgates opened and it was all over the Internet. I think it’s the only thing Polygon is reporting on right now. I didn’t have any experience with From Software titles. I only knew that they were hard, according to the chatter here and there. I had no plans to play Bloodborne. However, after reading several articles and watching a few let’s play videos on the early parts of the game, I was intrigued. I tried to resist for a while, but last Saturday I strolled into GameStop and slammed my sixty bucks on the counter, requesting a copy of Bloodborne.

Since then I have probably played three or four hours. I managed to reach the first boss, but it proved too challenging for my unskilled self. I’ve practiced, explored, and leveled up a bit, though, and I feel ready to take it on again soon. What follows are my impressions of the game from the opening cutscene to the first boss.

The game begins with an unkempt fellow talking about palebloods and transfusions. My character appears to be strapped to a table, and the guy gives me the opportunity to build my hunter. The character creation tool has myriad options of customization. Some of the sliders seem to have no visible effects, and others can cause the model’s face to contort in grotesque, inhuman shapes when assigned extreme values. The options are mostly intuitive, however, and I manage to create the character I want: a tall, slim fellow with a brooding, bookish face.

Kurt Escher, my hunter.
Kurt Escher, my hunter.

After creating my character, these nightmarish glowing pale things surround my guy on the table, and he passes out. When he awakens, I’m given the opportunity to explore the clinic. I find an angry wolf who kills me pretty quickly. When I awaken I’m in a hazy area called the Hunter’s Dream. The pale things are huddled up on the ground in a few places, and when I approach them, they offer notes with some gameplay info. A couple of them offer even more: a choice of weapons. I go with the threaded cane for my right hand weapon and a blunderbuss (a type of olde fashioned shotgun) for my left hand. Then I return to the clinic through a gravestone that acts as a warp.

The wolf that killed me is still there, but I manage to kill it in return. I exit the clinic into Central Yharnam, the first area of the game. Yharnam is a Victorian Gothic styled town with cobblestone roads, gas lamps, pointy iron fences, and lots of angry villagers. I wander through the streets fighting the occasional enemy wielding an ax, pitchfork, or torch. I find several gates that won’t open, and eventually I come to a lamp that serves as a checkpoint.

The trek from the clinic to the lamp didn’t present too many challenges. Most enemies were alone, and none of them caught me by surprise. I used this area to familiarize myself with the controls and the general layout of the land. The roads after the lamp, however, didn’t go as smoothly.

The lamp presents a crossroads: a closed gate to the left and a narrow street to the right. The gate won’t open, so I journey right. I come across a few enemies including one that tries to ambush me and another wielding a shield. Then the trouble begins. As I descend the stairs into the street below the shield enemy, I see a gang of villagers patrolling by. There are four or five of them, the most I’d seen together to this point. I wait for them to pass and attempt to catch them from behind. They notice as I approach, unfortunately, and I have to take them on.

I transform my cane to a whip using L1 (all weapons include a standard and a trick version). Its damage is weaker now, but it offers me better range and a wider area of attack. I swing, hitting three of them at once, and swing again. A few charge forward with their torches and pitchforks, and I dodge backward to avoid their blows. I dash forward again to press the attack and take a few hits. I stagger back, flick my whip, and all that’s left is a guy with a shield and a torch. My whip just bounces off his shield. I wait until he charges and lowers his guard, and I land the final blow. I take a moment to catch my breath before pressing on. Further down the street I get ambushed and die.

You Died Screen
I see this screen a lot.

I start back at the lamp and take out the first few enemies again. I handle the patrolling gang a bit easier this time, and I’m ready for the ambushes ahead. Now a large mob of enemies armed to the teeth lie ahead surrounding a large bonfire. I try many times to take them out and die. And die. And die again. I didn’t count how many deaths I suffered here, but I’d be surprised if it were fewer than twenty. I manage a lucky break through the mob once, and a burly enemy wielding a cinder block beats me to death in the next area.

After many attempts I break the mob street battle down to a science. I take out this group as they patrol, weed out a couple of ambushes, take out another group of patrollers, sneak attack this guy, lure the next patrol off to the side, sneak attack the guy with the gun, grab the attention of the other patrol, kill them and the hound, take out the other gunman, and finally eliminate the stragglers around the bonfire. After more trial and error, I learn that the big guy in the next area is pretty easy to handle as well: wait on him to rear back with his block, hit him with the blunderbuss, and move in with a powerful visceral attack while he’s staggered. This method is important for many combat encounters, I’ve come to learn.

Even though I can (mostly) get through the mob every time at this point, it’s still a laborious process. Worse, I have to do it every time I fail since the checkpoint lamp is just before the bonfire. Several times I clear the mob, progress just a little further than before, and die. All the time I’m learning more of the nuances of Bloodborne’s combat.

I also learned more about how the levels are laid out. I cautiously explored before, but I skipped over several doors and windows where I could talk to the saner villagers. I eventually realized that I should pay attention to the lamps outside. If a door or window has a lamp lit, it most likely has a villager willing to spare some wisdom or ask for help. Additionally, I learned not to neglect breaking down the destructible parts of the environment. At first I didn’t bother since they never seemed to offer pickups, but they do, in fact, often hide secret passages.

In the area just past the bonfire mob, even before the big guy with the cinder block, I found a dropoff to a lower area hidden by some breakable boxes. I passed it ten or twenty times without noticing, but an online hint led me to it. Since then I’ve been breaking everything in sight. The new area had some hounds and cinder block guys, but I made short work of them. Then, gloriously, I found  a gate that I could open. The lantern from earlier was on the other side. Now I had a way to bypass the bonfire! Hallelujah!

Since then I have explored the first area in the game pretty thoroughly (at least, I think so). I also gained the ability to level up once I found the first boss. I explored a hidden sewer area and found some cool stuff, including better armor and a new weapon. At this point I had a better handle on the game, and I managed to get through a lot of enemies and back to the lamp without dying. Using the blood echos retrieved from enemies, I leveled up a few times back in the Hunter’s Dream.

The initial frustrations at the bonfire served to make my later successes much more satisfying. There’s always a sense of tension going through a new area, especially when I have a lot of blood echos on the line (you lose them all when you die), but the feeling of relief and triumph that comes with playing well is delicious. I’m eager to play more. Next time, that boss is going down.