Bloodborne is FromSoftware’s infamous PS4 exclusive, Victorian era, action RPG that follows players as they embark on a blood-filled quest throughout the city of Yharnam as a new, and unknown hunter. In game, players face off against everything from crazed-mutated townsfolk, to menacing blood-spewing creatures. As with any FromSoftware game, Bloodborne is unapologetically challenging.
Like its previously inspired games, Dark Souls I & II, and Demon Souls, Bloodborne is a game that tests the shear limit of a player’s resolve, patience, and skill. In an era where many big-budget games can seem unchallenging and overall unmotivating to play aside from the online multiplayer, FromSoftware’s Bloodborne not only drives players mad with one hit deaths, and overwhelming areas, and jump scares, but it also inspires players to somehow keep coming back for more because Bloodborne was ingeniously crafted with elements to make a game with an unceasing amount of punishment feel accomplishing.
The best examples of this feeling of accomplishment can be seen in the most challenging parts of the game, the boss battles. To explain, during the first portion of the game the player embarks on their journey, exploring Central Yharnam, while getting killed innumerable times along the way. If a player has the grit to make it through the initial grueling journey of mutated townsfolk and rabid demon dogs, chances are players will find themselves at the Central Yharnam’s Bridge. As the player continues, they unexpectedly meet their first true challenge, The Cleric Beast.
With little time to react, Cleric Beast emerges before the hunter as the tension immediately rises. It is at this moment the innate game design genius of Bloodborne immediately begins to shine. Unless one is playing the game on mute due to the downright creepiness of the game, the boss music is utterly unforgettable. The intense choir progression is reminiscent more so of a final boss battle in most games rather than the first. Every minute of eerie background vocals raises the level of intensity.
In addition, the bridge itself was designed as the meeting place for a specific purpose. Although it is a large area with plenty of longitudinal space to move about, the narrow and tight quarters makes the player feel claustrophobic as they are forced in extremely close proximity with Cleric Beast itself. Although fighting the beast is a daunting task at the hunter’s current level, it is possible to defeat. These specific elements bring a player’s heart rate through the ceiling and ultimately lead to one of the most epic boss battles in the game. When the player finally defeats the beast they are met with their first “Prey Slaughtered” screen along with a short rain of the beast’s blood. Making the player feel as if their hard-work and hours of grinding had not been wasted. Additionally, as a reward, the player is awarded a healthy sum of Blood Echoes, enemy drops that are used to level up throughout the game, along with a new lantern to port to-and-from the HUB world, Hunter’s Dream.
Interestingly, it’s in the finer details the game does not overtly display where the most innovative elements of accomplishment are often placed. While fighting the Cleric Beast itself, Bloodborne teaches you through its game play that every foe, even the seemingly unbeatable ones have their weaknesses. In the case of the Cleric Beast, that would be its glaring smaller and weaker arm, along with its tendency to drop its head to which the player can inflict more damage. The epicness of challenging a boss in Bloodborne is greatly increased with a thunderous soundtrack and tight areas that are difficult to evade the enemy.
Another detail used to ramp up the urgency of a boss battle comes later in the game when a boss will either mutate, which increase their strength and speed exponentially, or acquire acquire a new ability that can further harm the player in a new way. These things do not simply increase the difficulty, but they make the eventual defeat of the boss much more satisfying and rewarding. Interesting, possibly one of the smallest details of the game not only bring about a sense of accomplishment, but makes the player crave for more blood; the seconds immediately following the battle. In many cases, immediately after conquering a specific boss, one can notice the epic music that once played silences, and the room stills as a lantern appears. As if there is still more to accomplish and although the player may have defeated a grueling boss, their journey is far from over.
In a game designed to punish a player and force them to think critically about situations, react almost instantly, and become skilled in combating different kinds of enemies, Bloodborne ensures to make the hardest moments, some of the most rewarding. These elements are always present within Bloodborne in some form which ultimately bring more experienced and newer players back to the punishing action RPG and make each player feel a sense of accomplishment after each small victory.