Remembering Bloodborne Ahead of the Blood Moon Halloween Event

As the community prepares to return to Yharnam from October 26 to November 1, we look back at one of this generation’s most haunting games.

Bloodborne is burning the pages of H.P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu and drinking down the ashes mixed in a chalice of blood. It is staring at Francis Bacon's Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X until you enter a frenzy. It is replacing your internal monologue with György Ligeti's Atmosphères and living to see the Sun consume the Earth.

It is is hysteria, mania, paranoia.

It is a nightmare, and one of the most frightening games I can recall.

Earlier this year, the Bloodborne community organized their second Return To Yharnam, an event that encouraged veteran players to create new characters and participate in as much co-op and PvP play as possible.

The Blood Moon, taking place from October 26 to November 1, has a similar goal in mind.

"October is here, and the hunt shall begin once more," a post on Reddit states, "and it is our duty as Hunters to gather and rise against the beasts."

Instructions for participating in The Blood Moon are simple and included in the thread:

- Create a new character
- Co-op at least 3 times before defeating the boss of each area.
- Invade at least 3 times before defeating the boss of each area.
- Always carry your torch to demonstrate you're part of the hunt.

But why is Bloodborne's loyal fan-base so adamant about continually returning to Yharnam?

Let us take a look at what makes this game such a delight.

FromSoftware, the developers of this fantastic game, are known for giving player's fits. As with their Souls series, Bloodborne's gameplay is dementedly challenging and endlessly replayable.

At times, death can feel as commonplace as swinging your Kirkhammer (a sword jammed into a boulder, etched with indecipherable runes), and it is hard to fathom someone who is not heavily vested in video games ever completing it.

In Souls, the difficulty seems to focus especially around boss battles, and it is not uncommon to fight the same one for hours before the demon has been felled. Bloodborne too has some hair-pulling boss battles, but the difficulty of clearing between these bosses is much higher. The beasts are more challenging, their arrangements are more overwhelming, and the environment is more punishing.

This increased and persistent difficulty has the effect of creating a pervasive sense of unease and fear for almost the entirety of a play-through. Not a moment passes where you feel safe in Bloodborne, and my heart is racing every time I play it.

Bloodborne puts you in fight-or-flight mode, but it does not reward indulgence of these primal instincts. To advance in this game, precise execution and wits are required, and that can only come with some stillness.

This push-pull fosters an unnerving discord, priming your psyche for the truly terrifying and exceptional aspects of this game; the elements that keep players coming back to Yharnam over and over: the world FromSoft has created and how they choose to tell their story within it.

Bloodborne's world is an orgy of paranormal horror and gothic grandiosity. The areas are distinct and moody, and you find yourself dying in ruined towns, haunted forests, and beautifully frightening castles.

Not enough good can be said about Bloodborne's level design -- intertwining mazes that continually fold back on themselves as you go deeper and deeper -- and the enemies that populate it are continually surprising.

Mindflayers with tentacled-heads; eldritch horrors with uncountable eyes, fanged mouths, and spectral songs; hideously deformed trolls and giants; mangled humanoids, naked, rolling with huge hammers.

Every element feels in perfect harmony and in service of terror, and, more impressively, everything you encounter is drenched in lore. To become truly intimate with Yharnam is the path to understanding Bloodborne's story.

In Bloodborne, very few narrative points are made exceptionally clear, and, as with the gameplay, FromSoft is not holding anyone's hand when it comes to understanding more.

The game's cinematics are captivating but pose more questions than answers, and its dialogue is often so cryptic that it approaches nonsensical. You know that something horrifying is happening all around you, you just do not not know precisely what.

However, the game's story is not illogical or impenetrable, just buried beneath the surface -- in the descriptions of items or the set pieces themselves. FromSoft lets the game's world tell its story, and full comprehension is possible through scouring every inch of it.

The stories that can be extracted from the subtlest of Bloodborne's details are simply astounding and leave me in awe of what FromSoft has built. There is a real world in Yharnam, with a history that goes way back.

The difference between this world and the others that many games so meticulously craft is that Bloodborne does not seem to care if you are aware of its depth or not.

No endless exposition or recapitulation indicates that this world was created for you or your character, and you can float (incessantly die) right through it happily (with a great deal of pain and tears) without giving the game's narrative a second thought.

Yharnam feels as though it exists independently of, and without any interest in, your presence in it.

And herein lies what is so special about Bloodborne: you choose your level of interest, and the game delivers an exceptional experience regardless of your choice.

If you choose to focus your play-through only on game mechanics -- the wonderful combat, weapons, and character progression -- it will be wonderfully rewarding. And if you choose to invest more, Bloodborne will continue to open and reveal itself to you.

It is safe to say that many that will be returning for The Blood Moon have pulled back the curtain and seen the true evil at the center Yharnam.

And perhaps once you have seen it, you can no longer look away.

Contributor

A stay-at-home-dad with a passion for meditation and video games.

Published Oct. 15th 2018

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