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Playing Bloodborne for the First Time in 2020

With the announcement of the PS5 coming soon, I couldn’t begin thinking of new games until I played the masterpieces of the current-gen cycle. And one of those games is the PS4 exclusive developed by FromSoftware, Bloodborne.

One of my favorite games of last year was Sekiro, and the two have often been pit against each other for which stands on top. I’ve tried playing the original Demon Souls game, but only got a few hours in and I haven’t played any of the Dark Soul games since I was planning on playing them in order.

The first few hours of Bloodborne reminds me of what I remember of Demon Souls, you create your character and thrown into a dark bleak world where everything is trying to kill you. Not everyone will enjoy the new player experience where you are given minimal guidance and even the first enemies you encounter are challenging. There were a lot of items, stats, and mechanics that you need to experiment on your own or look up online to figure out what they do. Based on the trophies only about half of the players who started playing the game killed the first boss, and less than a quarter beat the game.

Two examples of mechanics that the game does not guide you through are visceral attacks and counters. Unlike Sekiro you don’t have a parry ability or a jump for that matter, but you can counter enemies by shooting your ranged weapon during an enemy attack animation before their attack is about to land. I did this a few times by accident and rarely got it to work on bosses. Because not all attacks can be countered and I got used to dodging as one or two hits will cause you to die and lose all your Blood Echoes, which is the main currency in the game. Once you counter an enemy they will become staggered and getting close to the enemy and attacking with a light attack will cause you to do a visceral attack, dealing a great deal of damage. You can also stagger enemies by using a heavy attack from behind them, but I don’t think I’ve ever pulled this off as most enemies would turn around and attack me due to the long startup animation for heavy attacks. But once you practice this method of countering it opens ups a completely new way of playing that is much more versatile.

Another thing the game does not explain is leveling up or the insight you gather along the way for encountering and defeating bosses. You get Blood Echoes by killing enemies, and you can use to buy items or level up your character. Knowing things like investing points into health early, and which enemies are weak to what types of attacks can be really important. Insight can be used as a form of currency but it's suggested to keep it below 15, by spending it, or the game will become harder.

I also never really enjoyed the system of penalizing death, or in this case losing Blood Echoes when dying and having to go back to where you died to retrieve it. It always made me apprehensive about entering a new location where I could encounter a boss and lose all the Blood Echoes I had stored up. Or if I wanted to go a different path, but felt I needed to retread the same path through all the same monsters to get the large sum of Blood Echoes that I lost. If you die on your way to retrieve your essence it can be really frustrating because you can only retrieve Blood Echoes from your previous death. This had me constantly returning to the Hunter’s Dream, your home base, to spend my stored up Echoes.

While it does seem like I had many negative impressions of the early game, if you can make it past the first few hours and stick with it, it becomes one of the most rewarding experiences you can find in a game. It’s so thrilling when beating a boss on your first encounter, taking time to plan and look for opportunities to attack. Then exploring each of the areas that become accessible afterward had me addicted to the game, playing for hours on end.

The game has so many layers to it and just playing through the game once you would have missed a lot of details.

There are chalice dungeons that have their own unique bosses and feels more like an old school dungeon crawler that as you descend each level looking for loot. There are also unique NPCs within the story with their own arcs that are fascinating, scary, and tragic. The ending and the overall story can be hard to interpret on your own, but the notes scattered around and the description on each item tell a haunting and dark story of old gods and blood that is at the center of this story. Each playthrough ups the health and damage of the enemies, and I’ve read the game scales up to new game +9. Thats up to 9 playthroughs! That’s a hefty game considering your first playthrough will take a good 30-40 hours. Like other FromSoftware games, your choices often have you facing dark and unsettling consequences, that make this game so memorable.

When comparing Bloodborne and Sekiro, especially playing Bloodborne second, I feel Sekiro was significantly harder based on character progression. In Bloodborne, if you are stuck on a boss, you can explore other areas or revisit old areas to gather more Blood Echoes to level up. In Sekiro, because you needed to kill bosses to improve your health and damage, I didn’t find myself replaying bosses as much in Bloodborne or becoming frustrated playing some bosses dozens of times, like I did in Sekiro. While I enjoyed the color palette and style of Sekiro more, I feel Bloodborne had a better sense of exploration and discovery. Bloodborne is still beautiful and haunting, but it’s a dark game that I needed to play at night so there was no glare on my TV screen. In Bloodborne, I was impressed by how large some areas would be and you could get lost while exploring an area the first time around. There are even gold coins you can throw on the ground to show you where you’ve already been if needed.

There is an online component to the game should you choose to play with it on. You’ll read notes left by other players that could provide helpful hints about monsters hiding around corners, or nearby items. Other players can also invade your game, which had taken place once on my first playthrough toward the 2nd half of the game, so you don’t have to worry about other players griefing you if you choose to play online mode. You can also leave notes yourself, and I think you get a small number of Blood Echoes if other players rate your notes as being helpful.

I can see why Bloodborne is still played today, and recently was back in the news after a new update. Even Downward Thrust made a video about it, and he's known for making videos on trending topics. Nothing against his videos. If you’ve never played a Soul’s like game, Bloodborne is definitely the place to start, but my recommendation is not to hesitate to look up some information if needed. After completing the game I watched a lot of story explanations form this YouTube channel VaatiVidya, that dives into the lore that I was barely able to pick up on and gives me much more appreciation for the game. I guess I wasn’t keen enough to pick up on or connect the meaning of a lot of things.

I hope you all enjoyed the video, let me know what game by FromSoftware you enjoyed the most. I’ll probably be playing Dark Souls starting with 3 and working backward. I’m not sure if it's worth playing in order, or has a connected story, but if it's as good as Bloodborne I’m excited to play them all.

Thanks for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it, and see you all next time.

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