Hello, good hunter. I am a doll, here in this dream to look after you.
Honorable hunter, pursue the echoes of blood, and I will channel them into your strength.
You will hunt beasts… and I will be here for you, to embolden your sickly spirit.

This is the greeting received upon entering Hunter’s Dream after the first death. A place the player is bound to grow familiar with, as they face the many challenges of this game. From the mind of director Hidetaka Miyazaki, Bloodborne‘s gothic atmosphere made it stand out since its release in 2015. A title produced by FromSoftware for PS4 that managed yet again to raise the bar of the video game industry. By putting the player’s resolve, perseverance and intelligence to the test, Bloodborne results in a journey through a dark world that will be remembered.

The spiritual successor of the Souls series

The story takes place in the crumbling city of Yarnam during the night of the hunt. Wandering the infested roads of cobblestones is the Hunter, through the eyes of which the player experiences this universe and its dark inhabitants. Many foes will stand in its way: fellow hunters gone insane, horrifying monsters, and even forgotten Gods of old.

Defeating similar enemies is a complex feat, which becomes apparent from the first boss. As the Hunter approaches the main area of the game it meets the monstrous Cleric Beast, the slaying of which will push the player’s endurance to the limit. Each encounter is unrelenting in its brutality, each success hard-earned, just like in Cuphead‘s boss fights. Which makes the progression of the game all the more challenging, and therefore even more rewarding once finally achieved.

Such a high level of game difficulty is a staple of the Souls: a well-known series of action role-playing video games, that began in 2009 with Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. Along with other common themes such as dark settings, supernatural entities and enigmatic lore, it qualifies Bloodborne as a spiritual successor of the genre.

The haunting beauty of Bloodborne

While combat is one of the main mechanics of the game, so is exploration. And it is impossible to remain unfazed by the work that went into the design of this dark universe. In fact, the semi-open world structure is an invitation to take in each detail of the finely-crafted decaying charm that is Yarnam. Starting from the city itself, whose looming ruins of Victorian architecture speak of a magnificence lost to time. It seems to be born from the very pages of Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Bloodborne
Image courtesy of ©2015 Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.

The atmosphere makes a striking impact thanks to its horrifying realism. Conveyed through the wariness of the few inhabitants left alive and the silence of those blood-spattered streets, fear and superstition reign supreme. It is a place of corruption that cannot find redemption, just like the protagonist is not the hero that will save it. Rather, the executioner that will put an end to its misery. And yet, even in this macabre world, it is possible to find an unexpected spark of beauty; may it be the kind greeting of a doll or the innocent request for help of a child.

It is a delicacy that is not meant to last, but that results even more precious in its fleeting nature.

Ultimately, the beauty of Bloodborne is a far-from idealized one that draws inspiration from the literary genre of gothic fiction, embodying the theme of lost humanity. The narrative results are so effective because it embraces the power that horror holds to evoke emotions in the audience, lured in by its grim call.

A lore to uncover

The story behind the characters and events that take place in Bloodborne is intentionally vague. Not laid out plainly, but rather strewn around in the form of hidden clues, cryptic dialogue and even subtle description. All for the player to discover and hypothesize about, but never with an official explanation. This applies from the very beginning when the Hunter arrives in Yarnam armed with little more than its purpose and the weapons to perform it.

There are no instructions nor clear paths to follow, and thus the player is left to their own devices to find an answer to the impossible; encouraged not to let any detail go unnoticed in the hope of finding even a single hint. This enigmatic quality has both spurred the curiosity of the audience and added to the ambiguity of the title. Which, in turn, ultimately contributed to the feeling of facing a supernatural mystery beyond human comprehension. A well-crafted atmosphere that pairs with the underlying themes of Cosmic horror. A genre where the unknown represents an uncharted, malignant territory that no man should ever wander. Despite this, in 2015, Bloodborne was rated the fourth greatest video game of all time by the Edge.