* This Article was originally featured on Pause Your Game, and while it was still written by me, it is an article from a different era, and thus, some things may be broken within the article but are kept that way for posterity.
First off let me state, I love Bloodborne, but, it took me four times starting the game over until I really understood how the game worked. Even then, there were still aspects of the game I hadn’t tried or didn’t understand due to the game design choices made. That is what this article is about.
Bloodborne begins with you waking up in an abandoned triage center after receiving a blood infusion (turning you into a hunter). The immediate area around you has but only two things for you to do, head down the steps or see what these “things on the ground” (Messengers) do. You quickly learn these little guys give you information about the world around you, some placed by the game designers, the majority placed by players. Running down the hall leads you to a handful of more messengers informing you of basic combat techniques (i.e., how to attack) and presents you with your first foe, literally, throwing you to the wolves (wolf). At this point, the game expects you to die; you have no weapons, you’re not really sure how this game works, and you know nothing of the Hunter’s Dream. So….
You awake within this new area known as the Hunter’s Dream and find several more messengers on the floor. You’re already aware they provide information so you go over to them, and you are presented with your first uninformed choice. Which weapon do you choose?
You can pick an axe, saw cleaver, or the threaded cane. You might be wondering what they each do—good question! You (the player) have no idea at this stage what any of them do, you have no idea what the stats shown mean, nor how they handle. You are making a choice purely based off of a feeling and no information, and you can’t even swap the weapon out after making a choice. You are stuck with it… for now.
But before that, you are asked to make another uninformed decision, which firearm to take?
Once again, you are met with the same circumstance within the timeframe of five seconds. These are weapons you will be using for a decent portion of the start of the game—the part of the game that decides if you are going to keep with it or put it down and you have no idea what you are doing. I personally chose the saw cleaver originally but found out through starting the game over again that I much prefer the play-style of the axe, and in a game of this difficulty, these choices are important.
The Good Blood does Not Teach
Part of all the “blood speak” is to enforce the idea that in Bloodborne, you will need to learn the hard way to defeat a boss, but that shouldn’t apply the same way when trying to learn how to play the game. Basic mechanics and how things work should be presented to the player either by setting it up for the player to experience or shown to them. Forcing the player to learn the basic fundamentals by accident breeds frustration and confusion. Let me give an example:
When I started this game for the first time, I was using my pistol as a way to pull mobs safely away from packs. Experienced hunters would know this is a complete waste of bullets that should be used instead to riposte enemies and open them up to a visceral attack. The problem was, I had no idea any of that was even possible and yet, it is actually quite a fundamental part of the game. Why did I not know? The information about this extremely important fact was in a nice little very easy to miss area and is only provided by messengers on that path.
Important information like this should be right in the players face and unavoidable so you can be assured that the player has been made aware of it and know what is possible within the game world.
Blunt Weapon is Effective
Bloodborne suffers from one final issue when it comes to new players: weapon types and their unavailability. Only a handful of weapons are available at the start of the game; as you progress further and find badges, more weapons become unlocked for purchase. Some weapons only become available through the story at the penultimate boss and, for all you know, those weapons could be your strength, yet they are locked away in the far reaches of the story. This is a problem; it means playstyles are locked behind progress. I think if a game like Monster Hunter restricted access to weapon types based off of story progress, this would be quite problematic; there are a fair amount of weapons I don’t enjoy nor are good with. If that was all that was available to me, I doubt I would be playing much longer.
Bloodborne exacerbates this issue by having a system to upgrade weapons, with newly acquired weapons starting out at the lowest level. You have already committed resources to upgrade your current weapon, bringing a new weapon into the mix means you need to not only drop resources into the new weapon to purchase it, you also need to drop resources into upgrading it so that it is even viable with the content you are facing. Even then you may not care for the weapon, but the only true way to test if it’s to your liking is to see how it feels when it’s actually at the level its supposed to be. This pigeonholes you into sticking with your starter weapon as it will remain the most upgraded weapon of your arsenal for a majority of the game, effectively removing choice from the player (a bad thing 90% of the time).
Bloodborne at the end of the day is an amazing game that is both challenging and enjoyable thrown together in a Lovecraftian setting. But for a new player, it can be utterly terrible and a complete flop with its many introductory moments requiring blind commitments and missing information. Lucky for us that we are not reliant on the blood to guide us, for we have the Internet…