From Software’s brutal but brilliant action horror is an essential play for PS4 owners, but it doesn’t make life easy for newcomers. Bloodborne refuses to ease you in gently – it comes straight out of the block with its fangs bared and claws out. Not to worry though: we’ve got your back. For those experiencing the game for the first time courtesy of its inclusion in PS Plus this month, here’s what you need to know to survive your first few grueling hours exploring Yharnam’s deadly streets.
1. Don’t worry about dying – you’re supposed to
Almost immediately upon starting the game you’ll be trapped in a tiny room with a hulking werewolf. Armed with just your fists and the tiniest of health bars, odds seems stacked against you. Embrace death; the game uses it to introduce you to the Hunter’s Dream, the one safe spot in the game that you’ll return to to upgrade weapons and buy items over the course of your journey.
2. Look for shortcuts and Lanterns
Yharnam is huge, but fully exploring every area will reveal:
Tight passageways, ladders and doorways that once found and opened, will allow you to quickly travel between areas.
Stationed in every area, these allow you to return the Hunter’s Dream voluntarily to stock up on essential supplies, fortify weapons and replenish your health (and on exiting, let you return to any Lantern you’ve unlocked).
3. Choose your beginning weapons
You’ll have to choose one of three melee weapons, and one of two long-range weapons. Each melee weapon has two forms, giving you options for single encounters or crowd control
The unchosen weapons will be added to the Hunter’s Dream store later, but you’ll be stuck with your first choice for a while. Here’s what they do.
- Melee weapons
Hunter Axe is slow, but powerful (and will quickly drain your stamina). Its second form makes it a two-handed monster.
Threaded Cane is the reverse, a fast weapon that doesn’t deal much damage. As a cane you can stab or wield it like a rapier. In its second, whip-like form, it can strike multiple, close by enemies.
Saw Cleaver sits in the middle with average speed and damage. Its extends for its second form – like a giant flick knife -making it great for crowd control.
- Long-range weapons
The Hunter Blunderbuss is powerful at close-quarters
The Hunter Pistol isn’t as strong, but better for long range (mainly to attract enemies).
4. Learn to dodge, rally and parry
Unlike Dark Souls, where you can cower behind your shield and play defensively, Bloodborne demands that you get on the front foot and take the fight to your enemies. Here’s what’s important to know about combat:
- Respect your stamina
As you attack, dodge or run, you’ll eat into your on-screen stamina bar (the green one). Run out of stamina and you’re exposed to attack. Make sure your hits count, create distance when you need to recover and don’t get too greedy.
- Parrying and the powerful visceral riposte
You can also parry enemies using your long range weapon, but it’s tricky as it has to be timed perfectly. Wait for the enemies to initiate an attack – draw back an arm or raise a weapon above their head for example – and then, just as they’re about to strike, shoot them with your pistol.Get it right and you’ll interrupt their attack and leave them open to a ‘visceral’ riposte. It’s a little bit trickier to pull off, but if you do, it’ll deal massive damage to the opponent – best off all, many bosses can be parried as well.
- Recover lost HP with rallying
One unique mechanic to be aware of is ‘rallying’: whenever you take a hit in Bloodborne, you have a short window wherein, if you attack back quick enough, you’ll regain some – or even most – of your lost HP. It can save on healing items, so make sure you give as good as you get.
5. Use pebbles to lure enemies and pick them off separately
There are huge mobs of enemies roaming Yharnam’s streets. Wade in and you’ll quickly die.
You can pick up pebbles from downed enemies, or purchase them from the Bath Messengers in the Hunter’s Dream. Toss them at straggling enemies to draw them away from the group and deal with them one-on-one.
Divide and conquer is key: you can also use pistol shots, molotovs or even a cheeky slash in the back to lure off single enemies and break up groups.
6. Buy, loot and equip new weapons and gear
You’ll start the game empty-handed, wearing only frayed clothing. You’re exposed; your first objective should be to hunt down better gear.
You’ll be given a starting set of weapons on your first visit to the Hunter’s Dream, but make sure you search for proper hunter’s armour (either in the sewers below Yharnam or by speaking to the Bath Messengers in the Hunter’s Dream) and pick up additional gear like firepaper and molotovs to even the odds against tougher opponents.
Without these, the going will be much tougher, so if you feel like you’re really struggling, check your equipment and clothing to see if you can upgrade.
7. Retrieving Blood Echoes (don’t be afraid to run)
Each beast you slay in Bloodborne will reward you with a unique currency called ‘Blood Echoes’ which will accumulate as you fight through the game. You’ll use them for everything, from buying new gear and upgrading weapons to leveling your character. There’s one catch, though: if you die, those Blood Echoes will drop right where you fall and the only way to retrieve them is to return to that location without dying again (they’ll be gone for good if so).
If you’ve had a particularly gruelling run and were carrying a huge number of Blood Echoes, this can be truly heartbreaking. Sometimes the best course of action is to simply run. Keep one eye on your stamina and sprint past enemies to get back to where you were. Once you’ve collected your Blood Echoes, you can fight your way to the next shortcut or Lantern and cash-in your rewards.
8. Don’t fight Father Gascoigne first
Yharnam’s labyrinth paths mean your journey’s not linear. As a a result, your first ‘boss’ encounter may be in a gravestone-filled cemetery against the insanely fast Father Gascoigne. Back track for now. Instead, make the hulking Cleric Beast your first boss. It’s still a tough fight, but the giant is slightly slower, telegraphs its attacks earlier and, as the battle is on an empty bridge, the area layout isn’t going to cause you problems.
9. Invest in your character: leveling and fortification
If you’re finding your weapons really aren’t dealing enough damage or enemies are hitting back way too hard, it might mean you need to power up a little. Blood Stone Shards found scattered throughout Yharnam can be used, along with Blood Echoes, to increase the power of – or fortify – your weapons.
Blood Echoes can also be used to increase the power of your character. After stumbling upon your first boss (whether or not you beat them) you’ll be rewarded with a single point of ‘Insight’. This currency has many effects and uses in the game, but it’s first is to awaken the Plain Doll in the Hunter’s Dream. Once awake, she can ‘channel’ your Blood Echoes, allowing you to invest points in your character, increasing health, dexterity, strength and other attributes.
10. Use the summoning bells for multiplayer
A hunter is never alone… If you really struggle with a particular level or a boss, or if you’re simply the kind of person to think “the more the merrier” you can use your Beckoning Bell – picked up early into the game – to summon helpful hunters for the cost of one Insight.
Doing so will open your world and connect you to players who have offered to assist in the same area. Getting Insights to summon other players can be a little tricky early on, but you will get your first Insights by encountering bosses for the first time or consuming the item Madman’s Knowledge. If you prefer to play with a friend rather than a stranger, you can both decide on a common password in the settings under Network.
Of course, the bosses’ health will be slightly adjusted but cooperation is always a lot of fun in Bloodborne. Be wary however, opening your world to friendly hunters might also attract unwanted attention from blood-starved Hunters… If you get a notification that an adversary has invaded your world, prepare to fight it out (or hide).
11. Other players have left notes for you
If you play online, you will come across messages scattered on the floor and held by tiny skeletons. They are called the Messengers, and the notes they’re holding are messages left there for you by other players. These can often warn you of a trap or even give you tips on how to defeat a particular enemy, but always exercise caution. Some players might purposely lead you to traps just for the fun of it!
These messages can be rated Fine or Foul by using the DualShock 4’s touchpad. If you want to leave a message to other players, you can use the Notebook to do so. Other players will see your note in their world and if they rate it as Fine, you’ll instantly recover a bit of health no matter where you are.
On top of the Messengers, you will sometimes come across the ghosts of other players. These Sceptres can give you insight on how other players have met their cruel fate around where you’re currently standing. This can help you figure out the position of a trap or a hidden enemy, so checking them often can prove insightful.
12. Stick with it!
Bloodborne goes against gaming convention by making your initial forays on Yharnam’s streets one horrific death after another. Sometimes you’ll maybe only make a few more steps than in your previous attempt. This is part of the Bloodborne experience. The game’s built to hammer home that you can never be complacent, to always respect every enemy encounter and always be aware of your surroundings. The game doesn’t get any easier; but importantly, you get better. Before too long you’ll look back and laugh at your early struggles!