Nothing crystallizes the appeal of the Souls games and their spinoffs quite like a boss battle. That was the case for me last week when I managed to defeat the Cleric Beast, Bloodborne's first boss.
He was huge and unbelievably quick, a towering mass of fur that could leap into the air and land with a crash that would take off half my health. One swipe from his claws would send me sprawling. And this was the first boss. After a couple deaths, though, I found that the trick was to get in close and start hacking away at his legs. It was a harrowing final battle in which I nearly died at least two or three times, but I eventually emerged victorious. When it went down, I sat there motionless for a moment as the adrenaline and endorphines coursed through my body. Then I tweeted the following.
I remember why I love the Souls games/Bloodborne now. They make me feel alive. They make me remember why I like games.— Kat Bailey (@The_Katbot) July 28, 2015
So yeah, I'm really enjoying Bloodborne. After months of looking at it on my shelf, I'm putting in a real effort to try and polish it off before the fall review season hits. It might be tricky - I've got Galak-Z on my PS4 now, and Madden is coming out in a couple weeks - but I'm determined to make it happen. It helps that I'm really enjoying what I'm playing.
I spent some quality time with Bloodborne over the weekend, successfully knocking off both the Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne and delving into the Cathedral Ward and Old Yharnam. Right now my goal is to build around Ludwig's Holy Blade - a nifty longsword with excellent reach that plays well with my particular playstyle. My progress has been steady so far; but of course, that never lasts.
Bob provides a much more nuanced analysis of Bloodborne in his review; but at the risk of oversimplifying, I like how much smoother and faster Bloodborne feels. Without a shield to cower behind, I've had to be much more aggressive with my backstabs and gun attacks; and to my surprise, I've mostly thrived.
Of course, this isn't my first foray into this style of game. I reviewed Dark Souls back when I was working for GamePro, and it was one of the most intense and stressful reviews I've ever done. Since then, I've made it a point to avoid reviewing the Souls games if possible since it isn't really an optimal way to experience the series. The downside is that I ended up missing out on Dark Souls 2 and waiting way too long to start in on Bloodborne. I'll admit, I've been a little unnerved by the commitment. These aren't the kind of games that you play for 20 minutes before dinner.
The flipside of that intense commitment, though, is an emotional reward that goes behind the typical triple-A funhouse. When I was playing last night, it occurred to me that Bloodborne is one of the few games where I will see a ladder descending into a dark pit and be genuinely apprehensive about where it might go. There's a real sense of danger that often leaves me holding my breath without even knowing it, only to expel in a giant gasp when my foe either goes down or I get hammered into a bloody pulp.
Interestingly, Bloodborne has felt much more forgiving than both Dark Souls and Demon's Souls thus far, both of which kicked my butt almost from the beginning. For whatever reason, I've had a great deal more luck plowing through large crowds of enemies in this game, even ones that contain giants wielding really nasty bricks (how I hate giants and their bricks). And I've been able to dispense with the Clerick Beast and the Father Gascoigne with relative ease, though I'll cop to calling in reinforcements with the Beckoning Bell for the latter. That's the nice thing about the Souls games - there's always the Beckoning Bell or the White Sign Soapstone if you're feeling particularly overhwhelmed.
There's a lot to parse with Bloodborne, and I fear that I've barely scraped the surface in terms of the overall experience; but as usual, what I've played has left me feeling both deeply impressed and uniquely energized. There really isn't anything like it. Now we'll see how far I can get before the month is over.