Welcome to another edition of “The Casual Gaymer!” This is a weekly column from AiPT! Gaming in which I’ll share my thoughts, questions, and concerns about video games and the gaming industry as a queer person with limited free time. Missed last week’s edition where I ranked the Pokémon starters from most choose-able to easily losable? Reader, use Return!
This week I want to talk about one of my favorite games ever, even though I haven’t finished it. When will I finish lurking about the streets of Yharnam, carving my Beast Cutter into the sickly flesh of lycanthropes and celestial nightmares? When will I finally end the cycle of waking by a lantern, fending for my life as my sadly eyeless brain wrestles with knowledge too terrible for mortal minds, only to die and awaken by a lantern once more? Honestly, even if I finish Bloodborne one day, all that will mean is that it’s time for New Game Plus, or to start another character and begin the hunt anew.
No, I haven’t finished Bloodborne even though I got it only some months after its release. However, even after quitting the game a couple times, sure that I would never actually finish this game that offers no quarter and takes no prisoner, I always come back. It’s too hard to resist the towering spires of Yharnam and the horrors which lumber and creep around its labyrinthine corridors. Blending horrors both Victorian and cosmic, FromSoftware’s action-RPG has planted itself deep in my mind like one of Kos’s parasites. Even if I only make a little progress each time, I pick it up, I fully intend to finish it one day. It’s just not a game that lends itself to the “casual” gamer. It requires more patience than someone with limited free time might care to spend on one game and quite a bit of skill to boot.
Which brings me to my topic today: how to make your way through Bloodborne, even if only little by little. Have you become blood-drunk on the world of Yharnam but lean towards easier or more relaxing games like I do? Here are some of the ways I’ve gotten to enjoy the rich worldbuilding and delightfully macabre aesthetics without spending a week and a half on one boss.
1. That whole “get good,” thing? Throw it in the trash.
Yes, you’re going to have to be very familiar with the controls. Yes, that includes learning to parry enemy attacks from time to time and get in that sweet visceral attack. However, when it comes to the culture around FromSoft games which shames players looking for help with a curt, “Get good,” in lieu of saying anything actually helpful? Make like a brain-rotted Yharnamite and holler, “Away! Away!” Video games are here for you to enjoy how you want. Setting aside hacks or cheats, if it’s in the game, use it to your advantage! Even if that means cheesing the enemy into an animation loop that leaves them open to your attacks over and over. (Looking at you, Bloody Crow of Cainhurst.) Struggling to a boss and feel the need to look up strategies online? I can anecdotally report that for every rude “get good” elitist you’re likely to find someone as helpful as they were rude whose more than happy to talk boss animations. If you’re lucky, they’ll even be down to discuss the lore implications of fighting Henryk in the same graveyard as Father Gascoigne! Need even more help getting through a nasty area of the game? Read on.
2. If you have access to Playstation Plus, play online!
As exhilarating as it was to finish off the Cleric Beast with a Molotov to the face or dance under and around Paarl’s long legs to wail on his skeletal face, the most fun I’ve had with Bloodborne has been online. It’s no wonder that I eventually fell in love with Monster Hunter World, because my favorite thing to do in Bloodborne is hop into someone else’s game and help them clobber giant screaming dog-women and frozen, undead martyrs alike. Why stress over the same boss for a week? Why not roll up to a fog-shrouded swamp littered with towering grave markers alongside another hoonter or two looking fresh as hell in Victorian hunting gear, ready to kick some robed, ghostly ass? I love dodging around a boss arena with a small hunting party, hearing our trick weapons snap in and out of their killing modes as we work together to turn a sentient pile of corpses into a…regular pile of corpses.
One particularly memorable hunt in which I joined ended with my beckoner finishing off Vicar Amelia with an ostentatious deployment of the spell, “A Call Beyond.” I had my hoonter bow to their performance as I hooted and hollered in real life at their power, not even knowing I was fighting in someone’s New Game Plus game until the use of that spell. (Here’s a video of a couple hunters making good use of A Call Beyond against a nasty Amygdala.) Don’t mistake the extra set of hands for an easy win, though. I’ve had several hunts in my own playthrough in which I called for help and my backup died less than a minute into the fray, leaving me to deal with the boss alone. If nothing else, at least someone can help you take a tenth of the boss’s health before they die.
3. Don’t worry about being over leveled.
All that online play is going to net you enough Blood Echoes to buy that set of gear you’ve had your eye on and level up a few times. Don’t worry about the game becoming too easy as your level climbs, because it won’t. What those extra trips to the Doll will get you, however, is a bit more of a cushion when you’re hit and the power to rip your enemy’s cushion from out under their ass as it hits the blood-stained pavement. You might only need four hits to take down the giant pig whose laugh is a little too human instead of six while it may need to bite you a third time to take you out instead of twice. However, you still need to know how to dodge and parry, lest you’ll be overwhelmed by swarms of cackling witches or dogs covered in festering sores. This all goes for your weapons too! Once you’ve found a weapon you like, upgrade, upgrade, upgrade! Better yet, do a little research into what weapon sounds cool and try to get that one ASAP to learn it better. To get my precious Beast Cutter, I fully went into the DLC area way too early and ran like hell past everything I could to grab my weapon and go. Bosses also remain no joke but having a little more Boom in your Hammer will help make the couple of hours after work and before bed feel a bit more productive as you make your way steadily through the game.
At the end of the day, the point is a universal one. Worry less about what people might think of you and have fun. As you probably know from many other articles and discussions, Bloodborne is a very special game. I’m the type who will almost always tell someone who’s more #casual like me to avoid a game if I know it has a higher skill requirement, but this is my exception. I hope these tips might help you in your journey through Yharnam. And hey, if you get stuck on a boss, maybe we can group up for a hunt and take the beastie down together. That’s all I have for you this week! Fear the old blood, plant eyes on your brain, all that jazz.
P.S. Each March, the Bloodborne community celebrates a “Return to Yharnam” event! It runs from the 10th through the 24th, so check out this Reddit post if you want to join the hunt!