I’ve never played Dark Souls. I’ve heard its praise sung on pretty much every major news outlet (not to mention tons of podcasts and blogs) but I’ve always kept my distance. This is due largely to the warnings reviewers gave when each new game in the series came out: don’t play this if you’re not a hardcore gamer cause it’s really hard.
I don’t really like hard games. I mean, I DO like to be challenged, but some games have always seemed hard for the sake of being hard (or maybe “obtuse” is a better word). The Souls games–by which I mean Demon Souls to Dark Souls II–appeared to be one of those series that I was just doomed to hear about but never actually enjoy. Until Bloodborne.
So what made me jump into Bloodborne? A lot of dumb extraneous things probably, like the fact that it came out on PS4 or that I just happened to have the money at the time or because pretty much every review I read said it was either as good or better than Dark Souls II (the game that made reviewers weep with joy when it came out). Largely though, it was curiosity.
“I had been so braced for how hard the game was, I thought you were SUPPOSED to take this long to kill the first minion.”
Whatever the reason, I’m glad I bought Bloodborne because it opened me up to an experience that I hadn’t had in a long time: figuring out what makes a game go without having it shoved down my throat with tutorials. While the game does have a liberal amount of “tips”, the way that they’re presented really threw me off, enough to actually completely ruin my first hour or two of gameplay.
For those of you who haven’t played the game, you start off with essentially nothing, no weapons and only basic attire. You can attack but you just swing around wildly with your skinny little arms doing half-hearted judo chops. Needless to say, these aren’t very effective. Which makes me wonder why I spent about two hours trying to kill the first enemy in the game using only these flaccid slaps.
The truth is, I had been so braced for how hard the game was, I thought you were SUPPOSED to take this long to kill the first minion you encounter in the game. So I gritted me teeth and chopped away, dying over and over and over again at the first freaking baddie. But the game’s going to reward me eventually, right? RIGHT?
Turns out I’m an idiot and the means to defeating that enemy was right in front of me: in Hunter’s Dream (basically a glorified menu system), you’re gifted your first weapons, thereby increasing your damage output by about a thousand percent. I won’t lie, it was pretty satisfying cleaving through that enemy in three hits after whittling away at him for hours with my poor bruised hands.
“So I guess this game isn’t that hard” was my first thought after blazing through the first three or four enemies. Then I made the mistake every reviewer warned me against: I got cocky. When I realized that I could tear down the infected townspeople with a few hits, I started taking on bigger and bigger crowds. Bad idea.
One of the great things about this game is how it never really gets SIMPLE. Even now, after about ten or twelve hours of gameplay and a handful of bosses under my belt, I still have to be careful when approaching those same enemies I first encountered. Sure, I have more health and stronger weapons, but the ungodly amount of damage one enemy can do makes it impossible to let your guard down. One misstep and those three rake-wielding zombies will take you out in a matter of seconds.
I do understand the warnings a little better now if only because, had I not read countless reviews praising this game, I probably would have put it down for being too confusing and difficult. Even now I’m having trouble understanding what everything means in the game or where to go next and that’s something I would normally balk at. Games like Wolfenstein: The New Order or Gears of War are incredibly fun largely because, in a way, you’re being babysat by the linearity of it. Being pulled out of that linearity is very disconcerting.
Ultimately, I am thoroughly enjoying the game. The satisfaction of stumbling across a boss, dying about fifteen times as you try to figure out his patterns, then finally ripping his head off is pretty much unparalleled by any games I’ve played in the last few years. I caught myself literally pumping my fist and verbally congratulating myself every time I beat a boss. That feeling, if nothing else, is what makes Bloodborne worth playing,