“When the Soul meets the Body.”
The second day in Central Yharnam didn’t start well. To start off, I was lost yet again, farming off enemies, revisiting the Hunter’s Dream and surfacing back on Yharnam to find my foes reawakened. The path I took was tiring my boots off, I was trying to snatch on to that last Blood Vial before I could scavenge some from the downed enemies. And everything was slowing me down. I was trying to connect the dots, make it look simpler, make it look achievable, make it look that this game is in spirit with one of the greatest game franchise I’ve ever played – the Souls series.
With at least fifteen rabid Yharnamites running after my life, I was rolling, dodging and sprinting as fast as I can off the main roads. Until I hit the first big revelation – rolling into a couple of barrels, I broke off the main map and discovered an alternate route. A route that took me through streets full of hounds and a bleak house full of demented humans, until I was at the very gate that unlocked a quicker route to reach the first boss from the lamp. Lamps are Bloodborne’s save points, or Bonfires. I was waiting for this moment of revelation to blow me away, there are reasons why I prefer Miyazaki’s Souls series over any given game today, and a majority of that love comes from his sense of level designing. It raises the explorer in me, it gives me a sixth sense that comes handy every time I lose faith in me.
With more than 2000 blood echoes to spare, I rushed to take the first head on with the touted beastly boss from the alpha tests – The Cleric Beast. Nearing him, I was jumped by two giant lycans, a hammer giant and a bunch of crows. Each had their own ways to kill me, the beasts were pouncing with strength, the giant would crush me with a blow, and the crows murdered me in flight. Fending off every single one of them, I reached the first big task of Bloodborne – the vicious figure of the Cleric Beast jumped from the arch. In Bloodborne, everything connects, all these different attack types that I defended some minutes back, came as a cumulative challenge in Cleric’s move set. It shows how well Miyazaki controls his game, and never leaves the gamer open to any kind of unfair and sudden challenge. These minions raised my senses and gave me strength to almost beat the Cleric in my first try, but there was something I was still missing, and before I could discover a weakness, it jumped on me from thin air and killed me with 2000 blood echoes vapourising in front of my eyes. It was the healing chant, the Cleric can be weakened by repeatedly attacking any of his limbs, or by fire, and once he goes down to heal, one needs to rush up and hit the healing limb as many times as he could. The third time I cracked open his right leg with my starting Cleaver.
In Bloodborne, one needs to pay attention more than rest on luck or chance to survive a fight. There are some streets where you will find a mere two disfigured entities patrolling, on others, you will have to beat more than fifteen to get past. The thing I said about Bloodborne is true to the core, in Yharnam, everything connects. So when you hit the left shoulder button and make your short cleaver into a longer spear like cleaver, you can swing the weapon so hard that not just five but ten enemies can fall prey to your move. If molotovs sparingly knock off giants, try throwing an oil urn before slinging a cocktail, and watch it burn in agony. Everything must and need to connect when you are walking the streets of Yharnam with hope in your heart and death by your cleaver.
It is true that you start with a highly skill defined character in Bloodborne, but how you are going to develop your skills to suit the night is completely up to you. I started as one with a Violent Past, one who can avenge anything with superhuman strength and solid health bar. But then I realized that I rely on my blunderbuss staggering move a lot, and so I started farming blood echoes just to push my blood tinge higher up the skill ladder. In no time, I was defending my position and challenging enemies ten times my fit, with one single offensive approach – heavy swing and wait for him to charge, and once he does, voila – open fire. Like I said, everything comes round in Bloodborne, and as enemies showcase their new skills, never fear to experiment with some of your own.
It was down the road, training for the second big boss in Bloodborne – Father Gascoigne that I learned how Yharnam was puzzling me over with maths and pure maths alone. When the elevator next to my lamp wouldn’t work, I questioned myself – is there any other way to reach where I must without this passageway. In a few minutes, wandering off a road I have never been to, I realized that in Miyazaki’s games, when there is a will, there is a way. Beating hounds, downing charging giants, I was painted all in red, smearing thick blood clot that the game drapes you in, the more you kill without taking breaks. I found a way through a sewer, with ambushing beastlike enemies blocking my way and sharpshooters draining my health from a distance, I said to myself, the archers of Anor Londo all over again? So I made way through the dirt and mirth of Yharnam once again, as more inmates yelled ‘Beast’ at me, some lurking like reptiles inside the sewer waters. It took me 20 minutes before I could feel light in my eyes again, and when I did, I realized that I basically bisected through the heart of the city, travelling through its gutters. I could see holes and ladders down the sewer line, so I assume that there is yet another layer of world added to these two contrasting aspects of Central Yharnam.
Ascending the ladders, I treaded on heartbreak, the Souls kind of heart wrenching NPC talk. A girl offered me her tiny music box, which her mum was supposed to take along with her. And now she is lost in Yharnam, probably transform into these hideous creatures, leaving the kid alone. On the night of the hunt. I wish I could do more than just reassure her that it will be all right, because in Souls universe, nothing is all right. Even the sense of morality and what is fit in a world that you are merely thrown into is introspective and connected, but never truthful. Escaping a rolling ball of fire on the bridge of Yharnam, I was ready to meet the so-called Father. The first encounter with Gascoigne made me raise doubts on my existence in this trampling world order. He was dressed like a Hunter, he swung his spear like one, he definitely shot fire rounds like one, and then he was ripping off his clothes, showing his lycan side. Am I infected? Are we all mad? It painted this picture in my head, and I realized – The Cleric Beast, a cleric who turned into this madness, a Father, who developed a lycan side, and then there’s me who kills madmen and perks him up with their blood echoes. What am I exactly saving here in Yharnam? Who am I to decide? The same thoughts that disturbed me when I was in Boleteria, or Lordran or Majula for that matter.
The thing is, it may be a new hack and slash game from FROM Software, but everything is so well connected in Yharnam. It’s like Miyazaki knows what he loves, what we love, and has been painting a series of bloody paintings that have truth hidden beneath their hideous canvas. It’s like Miyazaki has been joining dots for the perfect moment, or the perfect world, or the perfect game, to transform two decades of two console generations and bring to us one solid truth. Or maybe the truth is already there, and we cannot see it for ourselves, it’s just a matter of joining dots. It’s a matter of time before realizing how a hero becomes a villain, or a road can be shortened, or how a universe can be left alone to its own good. Until then, the night is young