It was fifteen hours into Bloodborne that I hit my first wall. The Cleric Beast, Papa G (I love the communities nicknames for Father Gascoigne), and the Blood Starved Beast had all fallen one after another, each with some element of challenge, but nothing close to inducing a controller-breaking rage. But as I made my way up the steps of the Grand Cathedral and watched the cutscene for Vicar Amelia, I had no idea that my idyllic stroll through Yharnam was about to be rudely cut short.
After the jump, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?
With the other Souls games I have played, I have come to them later in the life cycle; well after they have been figured out. I have always been jealous of players who have been a part of the process of working out the bosses, clearing areas for the first time, and sharing the journey into the unknown. You can try to play the games that way later in the life cycle, but few people are scouring message boards or working on wiki entries by a couple of months out. Everyone is already an expert, so you can either get all the answers or none of them. Since I am finally a part of the vanguard, part of that privilege is the incredibly frustration when you come up against a wall. Every Souls player can tell you what their wall was in previous games. Smough and Ornstein or the Capra Demon are the signature wall bosses in Dark Souls. For Bloodborne, my wall took the shape of Vicar Amelia.
The key to making it through a Souls type game is how you handle it when you hit that wall. It is very easy to get frustrated, spend all your resources, and dig yourself a hole. The first time I played Dark Souls I got so frustrated I put the game down for a month. Vicar Amelia took me back to those feelings. One of my friends who I am playing Bloodborne in parallel with killed Vicar Amelia on the first go. Several wikis and walkthrough refer to Vicar Amelia as one of the easiest bosses. So you can imagine how frustrating it is to be stuck for hours on her. After my initial attempts failed I decided to ring my small resonant bell which allows you to join another player for co-op. We charged through the area to the boss and entered through the fog gate. Working together we took Vicar Amelia down on the first go. The thing about co-op in Bloodborne is that killing a boss in another person’s world does not mean that you get credit in your own. Armed with confidence from the victory though, I summoned another player to attempt the boss in my own world and started the fight. Sadly we lost. And thus started my spiral for the next 3 hours in which I used all my blood vials and ran out of insight (the consumable that allows you to summon co-op partners). I was at the end of my rope. The PS4 got shut off for the night and Bloodborne even taunted me with failure in my dreams as I slept.
As I talked to my friend via text the next day, he suggested running with the Kirk Hammer and grinding a couple of levels for extra points in vitality. As it turned out, I had been severely under-leveled for the fight, and I had neglected to put many points into my vitality which meant that Amelia was able to nearly kill me in one blow on every single hit. After co-operating with a few more people I was able to accumulate the necessary blood echoes to level up a few times and farmed some blood vials. Steeling myself, I summoned my friend and one random kind stranger and faced Amelia yet again. Thankfully, the experience of the fights and the extra levels in vitality allowed me to come out victorious. One more boss down, and we managed to endure through. Bloodborne encourages the ability to adapt to situations varying the focus of skill point allocation and varying the items and weapons used in each engagement. Above all this, however, the ability to persevere is key. Keep trying and working to get one thing right this time that you didn’t get last time and eventually you will be wondering as I am why you were ever stuck in the first place. Hat’s off to the From Software again for coming up with these intense challenges which give such a feeling of accomplishment after you overcome them that you simply don’t find in any other game.
Andrew Kneller is a chemistry graduate student and avid gamer. When he isn’t busy kicking laser tables and trying to teach undergrads, he and his wife play videogames and watch movies together. You can find him on the Quarter to Three forums as TREOS. Check out his Rogue Legacy game diary here.