Like with all From Software games (Dark Souls and the like), this iconic PS4 action-RPG has earned a reputation for being brutally difficult. Death is inevitable, and learning from it is the only way to progress.
But who wants to learn from dying repeatedly? In an age of hand-holding and tutorials, who has time for such a grind? Well, you ought to make time, because this is a punishingly brilliant game that will provide endless amounts of satisfaction from overcoming defeat.
Near the beginning of the game, after dying to a hulking werewolf, you’ll be transported to the Hunter’s Dream. Here you’ll be given the choice between three starting weapons: an axe, a saw, and a whip. You’ll also get a gun. Like choosing your first Pokemon, picking which of these to take is an important reflection of your play style.
The axe, for instance, is a weighty beast that packs a considerable punch – but one that drains stamina fast and takes some time to swing. The whip, on the other hand, can eviscerate groups of enemies over time and is more suited for quick-footed hunters. The saw – or saw-cleaver, more accurately – is a middle ground between these. It’s not as quick as the whip, but gets the job done. Oh, and they all transform.
Yes, you technically get two weapons for the price of one. The whip, for example, becomes a nimble cane that stabs at Yharnam’s inhabitants with swiftness and precision. It’s absolutely crucial to learn when to use either mode, and how to swiftly change in the middle of combat.
ProTip: You can press L1 to change modes immediately after performing an evade to execute a brutal combo attack.
LEARN TO PARRY AND DO IT CONSTANTLY
Parrying saves lives.
This is going to be a tough one to approach, but learning to parry enemies’ attacks is an invaluable skill that will lead to far fewer ‘YOU DIED’ screens. You know that firearm you got alongside the melee weapon? Use it.
Put simply: press L2 to fire your weapon just as an attack is about to land, and you’ll stun the enemy. A visceral critical attack can then be performed, which will typically decimate their health bar.
It’s hard to know the exact timing on attacks, but a general rule is to fire your weapon just as an enemy’s attack is about to connect. You’ll know if you got it right, because a loud sound-cue will occur and the enemy will appear dazed for a moment. Now’s the time to charge in and finish them off before they can dish out more pain.
ProTip: At the start of your game, opt for the blunderbuss. The increased spread of the gun seems to make parrying easier, and you’ll rarely use your sidearm for anything else.
BE AGGRESSIVE (SOMETIMES)
It’s easy to become overly defensive when playing Bloodborne. Pressing circle makes your hunter dash to the side quickly, and this can often be used to retreat at speed.
But try not to rely on this as a form of defence. Some enemies will punish cowardice, and unleash game-ending combo attacks that ruin your health bar. Instead, try dashing to the side and even past a foe, to disorientate them and get in some blows of your own.
In fact, if you do go for a nimble weapon like the whip, you can often smack enemies around till death, before they even get the chance to retaliate. This is only the case with smaller monsters, but it means you won’t even let them get a chance at your precious health.
Also, Bloodborne’s healing mechanics reward offensive play. Every time you suffer damage, you’re given a small window of time to recoup health by literally tearing it from enemies through melee. So if you’re close to death, there’s literally no reason not to go mental with your chosen weapon.
ProTip: While aggressive play is often preferable, knowing when not to even engage an enemy can be equally successful. For novices especially, evading and exploring will sometimes be more beneficial than charging head-on.
A key part of Bloodborne’s gameplay loop is running through areas you’ve previously been to, in order to reach the location you died at to recover blood echoes (the in-game currency used to level up).
Because of this, it might sometimes seem daunting to run past that horrible enemy who keeps taking a swing at you. To minimise this, make sure to explore every crevice and alley the city of Yharnam has to offer. Sometimes, you’ll come across a locked door or elevator that, once activated, can be used as a short-cut between locations.
A good example of this early on is the route to the Cleric Beast – Bloodborne’s first (kind of) optional boss. If you die, you’ll have to run all the way around the streets to reach it again; passing by hoards of enemies who will whittle away your health before even reaching the boss.
If, however, you manage to pass the werewolves that lead to the Cleric Beast, you can take a right and find a small bookshop that eventually leads to the lantern – Bloodborne’s version of the Souls games’ bonfire. This cuts your travel time down considerably, and allows for a more prepared, fairer fight.
ProTip: Entire areas – and bosses – of Bloodborne are optional, and can only be found by avid explorers. If venturing to a haunted, snow-beaten castle sounds like fun, then make sure to double-check everywhere.
spend blood echoes wisely
As mentioned, blood echoes are the lifeblood (hah) of Bloodborne. They’re earned for killing bosses and regular enemies alike, and will allow you to improve your stats and, subsequently, weapons.
You don’t need to know exactly what kind of build you’re going for early on, but prioritising Strength or Skill will allow you to use high-level weapons as you come to them. There’s a greater offering of Strength-based weapons near the beginning of the game, but this shouldn’t dissuade you from choosing a Skill route; it can be equally beneficial, and arguably even more fun.
You’ll also sometimes need to buy key plot items from the Messengers back at the Hunter’s Dream – they’re the creepy grey guys sitting in the fountain. This means making sure to accrue as many echoes as possible, which can be done by returning to previously challenging areas and farming enemies. It sounds repetitious, but it will serve you well in the long run.
ProTip: DON’T waste your time buying blood vials or bullets with your echoes. You’ll pick up many of these throughout your adventures, so save the precious currency for something more valuable.
So there we go. There’s much more advice I could offer, but these are they key things you should know after learning the game’s precise controls.
I am genuinely envious of anybody who gets to play this game for the first time, as it’s easily one of the best PS4 exclusives around. Especially now it’s on Playstation Plus, there’s no reason not to give it a go.
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