The release coincided with me being signed off from work for 4 weeks for a knee operation. It was delivered to an incorrect address so, one day post-operation, my partner had to drive me to collect it. Looking back, the anguish and screeches of pain that I experienced during that journey were synonymous with my feelings during the early stages of Bloodborne.
I fucking hated it.
I could barely get to the werewolf-topped bonfire, let alone past it. After days of trying I eventually made it to Cleric Beast, a huge, matted hair monstrosity. The first time I died to this beast, it was because I simply didn’t move. I just started at the screen in awe, and then his fist crashed down. You died.
No worries, I thought. There’s obviously a way to do this, it’s the first boss after all! So I fought my way back 10, 15, 20 times, and on each occasion my nemesis destroyed me. I wasn’t even getting close to killing it. Sod this. I’m going to trade it in. It’s only been out for just under a week, I’ll get a decent value.
I would peruse the Midlife Gamer Facebook page and see people raving about it. I was baffled by these people. How could they possibly enjoy such a brutal, uncompromising implement of torture? Sado-masochists, each one of them.
The day before my planned journey into town (I was able to shuffle along on crutches by this point) I decided to give it one last shot. For some reason, things started to click. I was dodging the pitchforks and swords that slashed at me. I had learnt the signs of an impending Scourge Beast attack, and managed to time my gun counter correctly or dodge to the side and land a few hits before retreating to a safe distance. I reached the Cleric Beast…and failed, again. This time I was not dissuaded though, I’d done a surprising amount of damage compared to my previous attempts. After another journey back, this time even easier than before, I took the Beast down.
Bloodborne gave me a sensation unlike any game I’ve played before or since; when I took down a boss it wasn’t celebratory, it was relief. My tension would grow and grow and grow as I progressed through a level, knowing that one single misstep would mean needing to do it all again. Every corner was checked as much as possible using the free cam before I dared to move onwards. Eventually, when I finally managed to take down the next boss and lit the lamp to activate a spawn point, it felt like I had taken a breath in for the first time in over an hour.
By now, the game had its claws into me. I didn’t find Bloodborne fun to play, I still don’t, but it was a challenge unlike anything I played before, and I just had to finish it. I ploughed onwards, sometimes staying up until obscene hours of the morning. Finally, after an unfathomable number of deaths, I defeated the final boss. Relieved, and admittedly feeling a little proud of myself, I jumped onto the internet to try to make sense of the end sequence.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “THERE’S MULTIPLE ENDINGS”?
Absolutely not, I said. Nope. Not going through that again. NG+ is harder too, right? How could this possibly be harder? Well, I suppose I could see how hard Cleric Beast is and go from there…
I’m now on NG++++, or something like that. I’m not a man who plays through games more than once, I just don’t have the attention span, but this, this Lovecraftian nightmare, kept me coming back again and again and again. I’ve done everything in the vanilla game bar one trophy, which I fully intend to get before moving onto the DLC.
As I write this, I’m trying to think of a negative aspect and I’m drawing a blank. The oppressive mood, the haunting setting, the doom-filled sounds, the look, it’s all perfect. Little touches such as how your character becomes progressively more bloodsoaked as they stay alive. The seemingly innocent objects (umbilical cords, anyone?) that open up whole new aspects of the game. The combat is so wonderful, it’s almost balletic in how everything needs to be timed to perfection. From the outside it may seem like a hack and slash, but it’s so much more than that. There’s a balance to it unlike anything I’ve played, the need to be aggressive whilst still not dropping your defence.
Mark my words, had Bloodborne been a multi format release it could have been our Game Of The Year. If you own a PlayStation 4 or intend to in the future, please don’t ignore it; Bloodborne is a genuine masterpiece.