Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort
– Theodore Roosevelt
That quote may be popularly attributed to one of the Oval Office’s sharpest wits, but it might as well be scribbled under From Software’s logo in Latin as a motto of sorts, given how hard they make you work to get anything at all out of Bloodborne, or indeed, their equally infamous ‘Souls’ series.
In my last post on Bloodborne I described it as “obtuse”. While it’s certainly true that precious little in the game is freely given, as systems are explained in the vaguest possible terms and Yarhnam’s darkest secrets are jealously guarded by monolithic legions of merciless enemies, it turns out that’s actually part of what makes Bloodborne such an incomparable experience.
Yarhnam is so deliciously dark, vast and replete with mysteries and extras that it is easily one of the most compelling settings I’ve ever stepped into. A deft use of the unknown – a cornerstone narrative device in such Lovecraft-indebted horror – is key here. You feel tirelessly compelled to immerse yourself in Bloodborne’s world, joining the metaphorical dots and filling in the gaps in its lore with your own imagination as you go. It’s a million miles away from something like Mass Effect, in which everything is stated explicitly.
But none of this becomes apparent until a fair few hours in, and after scores of deaths. I wouldn’t blame anyone for giving in before then, as I stand by my initial assertion that up until that point, Bloodborne simply isn’t fun.
Indeed, my only real criticism of the game right now is how poor of a job it does of setting out its stall. The opening gambit feels more like a screening process designed to weed out the uncommitted rather than a legitimate introduction. I’m not asking for a reduction in difficulty as such, but a touch more explanation as to how the game actually works in that first little while.
On the subject difficulty, yes, Bloodborne is an absolute rollercoaster of punishing lows and dizzying, euphoric highs. But that makes it orders of magnitude more satisfying as a whole than the slow drip feed of progression and rewards to which most of us have become accustomed. See it through, and you’ll really feel like you’ve achieved something.
Bloodborne has captured my imagination in a way that no other game has for years. I simply cannot bring myself to play anything else, and my writing activities have pretty much ground to a halt. Right now, nothing else will do.
And you know what? As soon as I’m done I’m going to dive right back to the Souls games.