Despite countless amounts of rage quits, some games are worth retrying and trying again. Rory Galvin looks at one of the finest examples: FromSoftware’s ‘Bloodborne’
I’m back in Central Yharnam killing enemies in one fell swoop, when only a few hours before they could have done the same thing to me. Bloodborne is a game consisting of equal parts skill and patience. Within the first minute of starting, a great bloody werewolf is likely to tear you apart while your measly fists do little to no damage. You wake up in the Hunter’s Dream and are told to get back in there, without dying this time. Choose a weapon, spawn back in, and slay some beasts (or, you know, attempt to at least).
What makes Bloodborne worth playing in the first place is its extremely fluid combat. This entry, unlike other Souls-like games, is very fast and rewards aggression. You can’t really hide behind a shield, and instead have to face your enemies head-on and dodge their attacks. When it works, you feel like the ultimate badass, rolling under the swings of a saw or shooting someone at the exact right time to trigger a visceral execution.
When it works, you feel like the ultimate badass, rolling under the swings of a saw or shooting someone at the exact right time to trigger a visceral execution... But when it doesn’t? Nothing is more infuriating.
That’s when it works. But when it doesn’t? Nothing is more infuriating. Your timing could be off by nanoseconds: a missed dodge or one attack too many means death. Whenever you’re slain the massive ‘YOU DIED’ that appears on the screen is a brutal reminder to do better.
You might even go through some stages of denial as you sit on the loading screen in silence - mumbling to yourself about some BS hitboxes, or swearing your weapon did more damage than that.
Starting out in Bloodborne is what’s going to cause you to switch off your PlayStation in anger. You’re quite weak, you don’t have a lot of stamina and you haven’t learned the full level layout and what creatures are lurking behind each corner. The icing on the cake is that the first boss you encounter will be one of the toughest challenges in the entire game considering your early loadout. What’s worse is that the camera (infamous in most FromSoftware games) is terrible: hooking onto walls, clipping into characters when something is in your way and constantly moving to keep you disoriented. The bridge you fight the boss on is so narrow that the lousy camera only adds to the difficulty and frustration.
After more than five attempts, a quick rest mode and possibly too much patience, I only then learned that the Cleric Beast was completely optional. By the time I did beat the hulking monster, I checked the trophy I earned to see that only half of the people who owned the game also got it. That’s 50% of the player base that never got past the first area. How many of them rage-quitted too?
Any piece of progress in the game is wholly satisfying, but balanced with that comes the crushing defeat of being on the cusp of moving forward, only to fall back to where you began. The lamps you light to establish a new spawn point are few and far between, so the relief you have when you find one soon turns to despair when you realise how long it will take to find the next respite. Shortcuts can be unlocked, weapons can be upgraded, and your soul feels slightly less dark - until you reach the next roadblock.
One annoying thing about the game is how items work. You refill your health with blood vials you pick off enemies, but keeping an inventory of them is entirely up to you. Unlike Dark Souls where you can run back to a bonfire to reinstate your life points, the onus is to build a collection of these blood vials so they’ll be waiting for you next time you inevitably die. The same situation stands with the silver bullets: ammunition for your gun necessary to parry and stun enemies. When you run out of these things making any kind of progress in later areas is an issue, and you’ll usually have to resort to grinding away at weak enemies from previously visited places for the chance of sweet pickups. It’s not exactly “fun” when the challenge is taken out of a challenging game.
Bloodborne is a weird one. Yes, it’s incredibly difficult, and will guarantee you a few rage-quits, but, for some reason, I keep coming back. Maybe it’s the incredible gameplay held back by an infuriating camera, the mesmerising world with confusing, maze-like level design, or the exhilaration of progress with the mundaneness of rolling back. A game with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but definitely something you will brag about once you reach the peak.
If you’re looking for a real challenge, Bloodborne is the way to go. It’s on the PlayStation Plus Collection for PS5 owners, so there’s no better time to jump in. Just try not to break too many controllers along the way.