Passing Through Yharnam

It was 3.00 in the morning. I had spent the better part of 20 minutes rolling around the hunters dream. Now, the controller was resting on the carpet and there I was, in the fetal position simply muttering “I can’t do this” over and over…and over again.

From Software games can be difficult. They can be more difficult when coming from two dimensions. I didn’t arrive in Yharnam from the distant realms of Lordran, Drangleic and Boletaria. My last port of call was the pale island (I can’t find an official name) from Salt and Sanctuary. And Bloodborne’s extra plane did take some getting used to. It was disconcerting to find myself swinging a weapon with glee only to see the boss had not been hit, and then proceeded to smear me across Yharnam’s fabulous gothic architecture.

I came back the next day. That same attack whiffed as I rolled through it, the beast claiming nothing but a handful of Yharnam’s blood choked air. And if that boss got locked into a combo well I snuck in a few free hits. Even broke a leg if I remember correctly. Then the next boss had new attack patterns and I figured those out as well. And as I went out I found more of those glorious moments. Moments of overcoming challenge, moments of self improvement however incremental they were. And looking back, I think of one weapon that helped me more than any other. One weapon that mirrored my journey through Bloodborne’s looping, labyrinthine pathways.

I formed an early attachment to the Hunter’s Axe. Its immense range when wielded with two hands was a great help when coming from Salt and Sanctuary’s two dimensions. With it equipped both Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne fell before me. The latter without parrying so little did I trust my skills outside of the two handed mode. In retrospect that encounter could have been easier. Later on the Blood Starved Beast was slain as well but with the help of a summon (I was very green back then). But I grew to depend on those wide arcs of the axe so much so they became a crutch. I was attacking from too far away passing up so many chances for damage.

Two times. Two times I had run away from Vicar Amelia. She was an intimidating. Once human, she was now an angry mass of claws and fur. Panic and fear make for a powerful but unfortunate combination.  The battle takes place in the Grand Cathedral, which looks down on the sprawl that is Yharnam. And in turn I felt Vicar Amelia looking down on me.

After climbing to the top of the Church Workshop and locating the Radiant Hunter Badge Ludwig’s Holy Blade is available for purchase from the messengers. 20,000 echoes allowed me to purchase it. In its tricked form the sword is placed within its sheath to form a two handed great blade. It has good range, but below that of the axe. Otherwise it is a whippy little long sword. I retired the axe. My main for the foreseeable future would be Ludwig’s.

It is a brave new world when exploring Yharnam with a different weapon. New combo’s to learn, new stamina usage to get acquainted with. It was not too dissimilar to starting over again, and becoming familiar with the “you died” screen all over again was a frustrating experience. But I elected to stick with it, and eventually, enemies began to fall once more with consistency.

Very clearly I recall the final blow. Wrapped in fire paper, Ludwig’s Holy Blade burned brightly. Amelia was carrying a broken leg. The great blade slammed into her side. She let out a solitary, lonely howl before lowering her head, and dissipating into a shower of blood. Silence descended on the cathedral punctuated by the cackle of the fire paper. The great blade had claimed its first boss.

The Shadows of Yharnham stood before Byrgenworth. After five or six attempts, still they stood.

One shadow had been slain. A second was now hemmed in against two grave stones. Two great swings of Ludwig’s Holy Blade had left their mark. A third, over arcing swing was coming down and escape was impossible owing to the stun lock of the first two blows. Gazing upon the shadow I remembered how it had pushed me around; put me in corners like this and heaped feelings of helpless upon me. The reversal felt good. That is how it feels Shadow of Yharnam. That is how it feels to live in fear. It wasn’t long before I advanced on Byrgenworth.

My confidence in Ludwig’s had clearly risen. I was now acutely aware of endurance consumption; being able to gauge how many swings I could manage before backing off with consistency, as opposed to hoping. Knowing which enemy needed a two handed approach, which a one handed approach. Who gets fire paper, gets bolt paper. When I needed to go full bore, and when I needed to show patience. Boss battles were no longer feared, but sought out. And short cuts found with equal relish, so upon death I could throw myself into the breach once more. It is a nice shift from when just surviving was my priority.

It is impossible now for me to separate my main character from the Holy Blade. It is him. He is the Holy Blade Hunter. It is the weapon where I learned to play the game properly, the weapon that allowed to me to see how great Bloodborne truly is.

NG+ has just come to an end. After finding the Cleric Beast on NG++ Ludwig’s Holy Blade is now stained with the blood of every boss in the main game, and countless Chalice Dungeon bosses. And there are moments that stand out from the sound and the fury. A final swing that crippled Ludwig the Accursed front leg, leaving him opened up to a final, immolating visceral attack. With almost no health and no vials, Lady Maria’s guard breaking, condemning her to defeat.  The Watchdog of the Old Lord’s in the defiled chalice receiving a great gash on its neck, before Ludwig’s Holy Blade broke its leg and its spirit. The overhead arc that went through Dark Beast Paarl’s face and then ripped along its under carriage. There will be plenty more of those moments. All of those have one thing in common.

I’d say there is not much more for the Holy Blade Hunter to do now but he has rolled on into Cathedral Ward and slain Vicar Amelia. Again.


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