Up until this point Bloodborne has been a fairly straightforward monster hunting tale. Possible vampires and werewolves have fallen to our swords. We have banished witches and snakes from world of Yharnam. As we make our way from the Forbidden Woods where we killed the Shadow of Yharnam to the shores of a lake where a deserted observatory sits a remarkable shift in tone occurs. Suddenly we’ve gone from slaying werebeasts in cathedrals to exterminating mystical spiders trapped in a lake. Where did this come from? Why are we doing this? And who is that lady in white?
After the jump, is Bloodborne the best eldritch horror game ever made?
While some players I have talked to don’t enjoy the sudden tonal shift that Bloodborne shows after you slay Rom the Vacuous Spider, I think it might have been one of the best changes in tone I have seen in video games. Bloodborne creeps along with a greasy unease for the first half, a mystery concealed just below the surface until suddenly a full on Lovecraftian tale of Old Ones and the helplessness of man bursts forth from the vile cocoon in full and terrible glory. That’s right, when you kill Rom, you unleash the Great Ones lose upon the world and begin to see the nightmare creatures around you in the world that have truly been there all along (I’m looking at you giant bug creatures who carry you off to nightmare realms).
Up until this point in the game, the insight system seemed like a way to adjust the difficulty (above 15 insight enemies change and areas become more difficult) and as a tool for summoning co-op partners. When the game removes the scales from your eyes and introduces the frenzy status effect (which inflicts a devastating amount of damage), you find out that the more insight you have lowers your resistance to frenzy, a status effect primarily inflicted upon you by the eldritch horrors that surround you. That’s right, Bloodborne has a sanity meter. Bloodborne is no longer about hunting down your traditional evils, it is about preventing a great and terrible evil from entering the world, the true nature of which would drive you mad if you truly tried to comprehend it.
As if the strange beings inhabiting the streets weren’t enough, you are ushered into a courtyard where you witness the birthing of a terrible cosmic entity by the moon. When you succeed in slaying this beast, you find that many of the scholars of the world had become obsessed with contacting these great ones and went to great lengths to try to force the advancement of human evolution in order achieve this goal. What remains of the society and world are the lucky survivors who witnessed the consequences of the foolishness of man tinkering with forces he cannot possibly hope to contend with, control, or comprehend. This level of story is what drew me so deep into the Dark Souls lore when I played it, and it is what is now making me scavenge across the internet to find the deep hidden connections of characters and to try to figure out what really happened in Yharnam to start all of this. I know I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up.
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.