This won’t be a critique. This will be a celebration about Bloodborne and some of my favourite elements of the combat. I’m too far gone to criticise Bloodborne in any real way. I am on record as saying Bloodborne is “one of the finest works of art I’ve ever engaged with”. I really can’t remember falling for a video game like this. The closest thing would be when Shovel Knight reignited my love of gaming. Right now I’m in the midst of a fifth play through, and there will probably be a sixth one in NG+ when this NG run is done.
Well, let’s get to it shall we. My love affair with Bloodborne’s combat.
There’s just something about the visceral attack. Something primal. Honestly, at some point it should get old. The animation doesn’t change, and you really only see different reactions to it when it’s done to bosses or larger foes. Even then, each enemy set has its standard reaction. And yet I’ve never had such a brilliantly cathartic game mechanic at my disposal.
Depending on the foe the set up differs. For the vast majority of enemies, timing a gunshot right when they bring their weapon down will result in a stagger. For bigger enemies, breaking body parts will bring about a stagger. That will trigger a noise, which at this point produces a pavlovian response in me and I automatically slam down the R1 trigger.
It’s glorious. The hunter just slams a fist through bone and sinew, burying their hand deep within the foes chest. And then there’s the ripping and tearing and then, the sweet release. Blood flies everywhere as the victim hurtles backward, slamming into the ground. And if it’s the final blow (normally is) there’s the knowledge their last view of this world was a hunter, bathed in their blood.
I can’t get enough of it. I must parry and visceral. I think it has a lot to do with the fact it took me ages to acquire the skill to do it. I’m just making up for lost time.
This is a small detail, but one I feel works wonders. Before we embark on a hunt our clothes are clean, beautifully so. As an aside, all of Bloodborne’s outfits are beautiful. Just wear what takes your fancy.
Expeditions outside of the Hunter’s Dream vary in length. Sometimes it’s just a short cut opening run, or maybe a quick item gathering trip. But there is no mistaking a hunter who has been on the hunt. We are bathed in blood. It covers our face. It’s seeping into our clothes. The weapons we carry are just caked in the stuff.
Like I said, it’s a small detail, but it goes along way. There’s a sense of weight and consequence to the combat in Bloodborne’s world that would not be there if the hunters clothes remained clean even after eviscerating the streets of Yharnam.
Bloodborne has a lot of great weapons, far too many to write about here. So I would like to highlight three of my favourite weapons from my time in Yharnam. As for the basics, every weapon in Bloodborne is a trick weapon. They can transform into different forms, and can switch between forms in an offensive capacity (a transition attack if you will). This gives each weapon depth as well, and it can take a while to see everything a weapon can offer. There are sixteen weapons in total (Main game + DLC) and at least in PVE, every one of them is viable. It’s very possible to finish the game with any of the starting weapons. But with each weapon being so much fun to use it’s easy to feel compelled to use them.
Ludwig’s Holy Blade will always be special to me. While not the most exciting weapon in the game, it is the one with which I learned to play the game. It took me some time to settle on a weapon during my first few forays into Yharnam, but I eventually decided on the Holy Blade. It went on to assist me in killing every boss. The Blade has nice clean wide arcs, and is rather versatile being able to deliver both blunt and thrust damage. The Blade also scales well both in strength and skill and can also run an arcane set, doing either bolt or fire damage. There’s very little it doesn’t do well. It may lack the flair of other weapons, but it makes up for that in function. And it functions so very well.
It also has the distinction of being a sword that goes into a bigger sword. It’s a single handed short sword (that means parries and glorious viscerals) that uses its sheath to form a two handed great blade. And that’s pretty great right there.
My second character went the Bloodtinge route and thus came to wield the Chikage. Its base form is that of a sabre which is thoroughly okay. But it is one handed, which does allow for parrying. The two handed version of this weapon is where it truly blossoms. By placing the blade into its sheath, the Chikage becomes a blade of blood, capable of immense, graceful damage. The downside of this is the blood drains your health. But, it leads to beautiful fights of rhythm, where one gets used to the ebb and flow of switching between states.
Also, the transition attack, a quick swing of the sheathed blade is quite possibly my favourite attack in the entire game. It’s just beautiful to execute, beautiful to look at.
Last but not to be the least is the Beast Hunter Saif. It appears to be a simple construction at first, a nice sharp blade that transforms from a long blade to a short one. But in the short form, the basic attack is lovely little dashing slice which covers ground alarmingly quickly. When I found out you could combine it with the transformation to back dodge with damage, and then transform again to nip back in, I discovered the sheer joy of the in and out combo. So good against so many enemies.
And the long form staggers winter lanterns. That alone gives it something special. I’m not going to spoil winter lanterns here, but if you find a weapon that staggers them without launching a charge attack, it’s something special.
Speaking of the charge attack, it pancakes things. Much fun.
As of completing this piece, I have finished the fifth play through, and I have started NG+. I’m thinking about a seventh play through. Bloodborne’s good. Too damn good.
May the good blood guide your way.
All gifs made by me from my own gameplay footage.
All images taken by me from my own gameplay.