In my life, I have only played two games from the Soulsborne genre. The first is Dark Souls, and the other was Bloodborne. It was really one or the other for this weeks particular adventure, because both of them I played for a similar amount of time and had similar end results with.
The game begins, I make my character, and I set off. I love the sort of grim London-esque aesthetic, sort of modern but dingy, familiar but crawling with the foreign. I think that’s why a lot of the games aesthetic really works as a starting point, it does so well in making the familiar feel unfamiliar and a little frightening, in that classic eldritch horror sort of way.
The character creator, I found, was rather robust. I made a nice but hilarious old man looking character and set off. The player in this case has journeyed to this Gothic hellhole of a town called Yharnam. This is a town known far and wide for its medical advancements using blood as a tool. So like, right off the top, this is going to go very poorly very quickly for everyone that lives here. And as luck would have it, the player just happens to arrive at the exact moment everything is going downhill faster and more severely than usual, to the point where every towns person on the streets is now wielding weapons and trying to kill you, also, there are monsters and mutated things and just. It’s pretty bad!
And so, now you’re tasked with navigating this place, trying to find the source of all this weird Lovecraftian nonsense and, one would hope, putting a stop to it. Other than that, similar to the other games in the Soulsborne series, the story is there but the player has to go hunting for it. Lore is scattered around and to make sense of things, you have to want to seek it out. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of fun rolling around and trying not to die.
Or, fun to a point.
I want to make it very clear straight up I was horrible at this game. After passing the initial opening area and being unleashed into the town, I had no idea which way to go. I chose one way, beat a few angry villagers, ran into some monsters that were very powerful and died. I reloaded, went the other way, and the same thing happened. I expected this to a point, this is the genre, this is what it’s famous for.
So I kept trying. I kept going different ways, eventually found a plot point and an indication of the next way to go, went that way, died, reloaded, tried again, died, reloaded, tried a different way out of curiosity, died, reloaded, etc. This went on for a while. It did give me plenty of time to try different weapons and different styles of play (I found the whip, which let me stand very far away and still hit things, was great!), but being as slow and unable to read cues as I was, I still died a lot.
It’s frustrating because the combat is fluid and beautiful to play, the enemies react so well to each attack and different kind of movement, they have their own unique styles to learn and I’m sure for someone who is good at this game, it would be a lot of fun.
I was not good at this game.
In the end, I think I played about 2 hours of Bloodborne before, lost and confused, I gave up. Call me a casual if you want, but I know what video games I like and unfortunately, this is not it! I play for fun, not to be frustrated. Which in itself is frustrating because I can recognize how good it is, I’m just not good at it, personally.
The game is amazing at setting a scene, making the player feel tense and uncomfortable at all times, and making sure the player never gets too comfortable in any way. The combat, when I could actually manage to kill things, was fun and smooth. So is it good? Yes. Is it good for me, personally? No.
But, alas, I am just a simple person who is not good at hard games. Or, at least, this specific hard game.
At the very least I can just go back to the character creator and the first half hour or so and pretend it’s a Gothic doll maker.