Are you sadistic? Do you loathe the comfort of sanity? Have you scoured mountains using just a stick, some gloves and comfortable shoes but wish it were more difficult? Have you been stranded alone on a deserted island, surviving merely on your own cunning? Battling dehydration, sleep deprivation and starvation? Fashioning crude tools from your own dismembered leg bone, harvested of its enveloping flesh, which you carved off with your own elongated fingernails and cauterised in the midday sun? Finally escaping using your own body as a flotation device and swimming 400 miles against tides with crests 100’s of feet high and thinking “That was easier than I thought? Then you Sir/Madam are the ideal candidate to play Bloodborne! Yes you too can explain to your disgruntled neighbours why you’ve been embroiled in a 2 hour argument with your television, with an epitaph of profane language and engaging in a beleaguered fisticuffs with the air!
Available to download for free on PlayStation Plus this month, Bloodborne is, or at least “was” a game I intentionally avoided. Not because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, but because of the familiar connotations associated with “Dark Souls”, a series that gleefully promotes a distinct challenge to participants that can’t be mitigated by an interchangeable difficulty setting. Essentially I’m not particularly fond of games that mock my ability as a gamer. And considering that the only way I was capable of finishing the original “Devil May Cry” was on easy difficulty, Bloodborne would likely dedicate an entire episode of “Saturday Night Live” mocking my faux gaming capabilities. So with that in mind let’s delve into my initial reaction to Bloodborne. *gulp*
You don’t play Bloodborne, you endure it!
Bloodborne is the kind of game that demands sacrifice, patience, and a stubborn fortitude you either obtain through perseverance or is readily innate in you. It’s a game that relishes in your punishment, inciting you for repeating the same mistakes again and again. It’s perverted sensibilities and incessant cruelty harasses an inert retaliation that either provokes a defying resistance or a soul-destroying surrender. At present, I’m clinging to the former.
Bloodborne flaunts an anaemic city stunted by a hue of rancid decay, like a village afflicted by some devastating bubonic plague. The pallid tone and imposing, banal architecture looks as though it was constructed centuries ago from another decaying settlement looms over you, defiling your every cloistered step as if the environments themselves want to end you. This isolation can feel overwhelming, particularly when negotiating the densely narrow streets and overpasses.
Everything looks and feels distinct, almost hallucinatory, which also makes everything unfamiliar. The foreign utilities that litter the inventory possess very ubiquitous capabilities, such as rejuvenating health or burning aggressors to a crisp. But because of the uniquely aberrant depiction of these commonly used items it takes a little time to facilitate yourself with the lingual abnormalities. Even the melee weapon, the staple of any dungeon crawling adventure feels adapted to conform to the games distinct tone. There’s no fluidity to swinging your preferred implement of castration. Every sweeping flail of your scythe/axe is an effort, slow and cumbersome to respond. As if you’re wielding a weapon of significant weight, not some exalted gladius that can be brandished with little effort. And because of the weapons distinct lack of versatility, as well as your characters susceptibility to dying, every single strike has a profound impetus. You can’t miss and hope to follow-up with a flurry of expeditious slashes because you’ll more than likely already be dead.
I’m still in the preliminary stages of Bloodborne, hopelessly trying to understand this morbid and sadistic world. The game prods and snarls, harrying you into making a concerted effort to think before you act, which is a refreshing change to adjustable difficulty settings. There’s an unwieldy fervour about Bloodborne’s progression too, like stalling a Lamborghini every 5 minutes. At times your stupidity is arbiter of your demise, not the relentless bullying inflicted by the shambling villagers that assault you without provocation. There’s a genuine challenge here, one in which you will either embolden you with a purpose or expose you as a charlatan of gaming culture. The fact that you can’t even pause the game in the traditional sense just intensifies the fear!
The joy you leverage from Bloodborne will be largely dependent on the culmination of small victories that in other games would be considered negligible. Like that time you successfully evaded an enemies powerful attack or endured devastating defeat at the same formidable demon hound, only to finally succeed at the 16th time of asking. Bloodborne isn’t something you can play casually, nor really play at all. It’s something that you must survive, requiring dedicated resolve to overcome! I’ve no doubt that there will be infuriating challenges that will incite the same neighbour provoking concern mentioned in my opening digression. That a boss will pummel every ounce of fortitude from my broken and enraged spirit. But quite honestly I look forward to subjecting myself to this interminable torture!