Let me be clear from the start – I may have played Bloodborne, but I did not play Bloodborne. Let me explain. What happened was that, a couple weekends ago, I had a moment after watching a number of Elden Ring videos in which I thought I could totally do that. I really don’t know what came over me, as I’ve long steered clear of all FromSoftware titles. I’ve been mildly following all the Elden Ring hype since it came out, but it remained a game that I felt “wasn’t for me,” so I was happy just watching. I’m still happy just watching, but in that moment, I truly thought that I could be a player. But, I didn’t want to purchase the game only to be disappointed, so instead I….downloaded Bloodborne from the PS Plus Collection.
Going into the creepy, gothic nightmare called Yharnam, this was about all I knew – that Bloodborne took place in a creepy, gothic place called Yharnam. I took a second to watch one introductory video about the game, and then I dove straight into the deep end like a maniac. Doing so came with a rush of adrenaline and a stomach filled with butterflies, but I was ready! Or rather, “ready?” Things went, well…not that poorly and a little better than I expected.
According to my PS5, I’ve so far put two hours into the game, which seems quite meaningless. In those two hours, the farthest I got was to a bridge in Central Yharnam that had two werewolf-like creatures in the way of further progression. At the time, merely getting that far was pure triumph, and it felt like I had traversed countless miles before it. Regardless, I did not play Bloodborne, I simply survived a few streets worth of enemies within a dour, scary city before calling it a day.
Yet, those two hours were really interesting and informative to me personally as a player of video games. In them I learned, or re-learned, a number of lessons that I’ll admit I’d taken from granted in and among all the “comfort” gaming I’ve preferred of late. Let’s discuss!
I’m not as bad at strategizing in games as I think I am.
I have long been an impatient gamer, one who prefers to muscle her way through any given scenario despite occasionally trying to be more diplomatic. Well, would you believe that, of all games, Fallout 76 actually helped me change that? Indeed, in my latest FO76 adventure, for the first time ever in any game, I devoted myself to learning the ways of stealth, and it changed my perspective on my approach to combat in games. The short version is that I (re)learned how to be patient and plan out strategies before going in guns blazing. This approach seemed to be of the utmost importance in Bloodborne – the controls simply didn’t lend themselves to spamming, and trying to force that method didn’t help. Simply put, if I was to succeed at all, I had to take my time, plan out how to best combat each opponent individually (or in small groups), and learn enemy movements. I spent quite a bit of time just watching enemies move and how they reacted to me. This was an important part of the process, and it made me think that I should try the same in other games, even the most familiar ones.
Difficulty is sometimes a matter of perspective.
Bloodborne is hard at times, there’s no denying it. But, it’s also fair, and the game includes a combat mechanic to actually help players survive. As most game players know, it’s common for enemies in some games to feel as if they have superhuman advantages over us very human players. In all the times I died in Bloodborne, never once did I blame the enemies. I blamed myself and knew I could do better next time. Sure, the enemies always respawned, and sure, I felt frustrated, but I also really felt as if I could succeed if only I tried, tried again. The game instilled a sense of confidence that grew each time I was able to progress just a little farther than the last time. At a certain point, I no longer thought of the game as hard, but rather, it was challenging, and it dared me to learn and want to build my knowledge. While there did come a point where my patience ran out, it was only because I felt as if I wasn’t up to the challenge, not because the game was overtly hard.
Losing is bad, but it’s not that bad.
One of the key elements of Bloodborne is that dying means losing all of one’s Blood Echoes, the game’s main currency that’s used in a variety of ways. As it goes, one can re-obtain lost Blood Echoes by gathering them directly from the previous point of death or by defeating an enemy that’s absorbed them. I never got to a point where I was overflowing with Blood Echoes, but even so, losing them all and ended up with zero, while disappointing, was never overwhelmingly terrible. Not only did I know I could get them back if I tried, but I knew I could obtain more by defeating more enemies. I’ve played plenty of games where even just starting from a previous save point felt supremely deflating, and that was without having lost anything important. Starting from scratch in Bloodborne was simply that, starting from scratch and trying again. It was only the Blood Echoes that were lost upon death (and not always all of them); other things gathered were always retained, which was very helpful and never made it seems as if I had truly lost much ground.
Though I’m not itching to go back to Bloodborne after a mere two hours of play, I don’t think I’m fully done with it. I understand better the appeal of it and games like it. They instill a very strong sense of “sticktoitiveness,” that with time, patience, and enough tenacity, success is possible, and it will be intensely gratifying. I felt rather amazing after getting as far as I did in Bloodborne, like I had achieved something I thought was impossible. That’s not a feeling I get from many games these days. Truly, a small part of me wants to try Bloodborne again, just to see if I can get past those two creatures on that bridge. I really do think I could.
All images, including lede, and video were captured by author during PS5 gameplay of Bloodborne (© FromSoftware).