It only took me a twelfth of the time I spent beating Dark Souls to beat its spiritual sequel Bloodborne. Which is to say rather than roughly four years it took me roughly four months. And even then the ending I got this weekend, while “truer” than some, was not the absolute “truest” of them all. But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna waste time hunting down the final third of an umbilical cord (don’t worry about it) while the Batmobile is just waiting to be driven in Arkham Knight.
But, should you play Bloodborne?
Well, on the one hand I hold a deep intellectual and literary reverence for director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s games. Their particular brand of storytelling, one deprived of exposition to the point of being malnourished, vying for scraps of half-truths in item descriptions to concoct some semblance of a narrative meal, is captivating. Depending on the amount of digging and extrapolating you’re willing to do Bloodborne can be a kiddie pool or the Marianas Trench and whether you want to splash around a bit or explore the abyss Bloodborne insists you take an active effort in divulging the secrets of its mythology, flat out refusing to draw a line from any one point to another.
It’s a fascinating way to tell a story, one that keeps me intellectually engaged and curious even now, as I look back on the world of Bloodborne from the rearview mirror of the Batmobile. But, that curiosity starts to fade around the tenth time you drop into a bottomless crystal moon lake to get clobbered by a slug with a million legs and a rock head who is supposed to be a spider and its pack of relentless goons who actually are spiders.
Much like its Souls predecessors, Bloodborne prides itself in punishing anyone arrogant enough to take it on. While the challenge is often just engaging enough to bait you onward at some point you’ll hit a wall. It might not be the wall your friend hit or the wall(s) I hit, but it’ll be a big old brick wall and you’ll hit it and hit it and hit it. On several occasions I found myself wishing I’d never bought Bloodborne. I contemplated the blissful ignorance of never delving into Yarnham, the games werewolf-infested, Victorian hellscape. I’d fall asleep at night with a smile on my face, drifting off into a dream world in which Bloodborne didn’t exist. But always, always Bloodborne would gnaw and nag at me, unfinished, whatever wall I hit standing defiantly in the forefront of my mind like a Kubrickian monolith.
Bloodborne holds the distinction of being the only game to illicit a physiological response from me. When health bars of certain bosses would dwindle below that final quarter my arms would tingle and my hands would start to go numb. It was weird. And the dopamine rush when that health bar emptied? An iron corset taken off of my soul.
But the joy I got from Bloodborne was more often than not purely out of spite for Bloodborne. And boy oh boy does Bloodborne spite me back, various threads and unexplored nooks and crannies still tugging at my cape while I patrol Gotham’s rainy streets, reminding me of prey slaughtered valiantly with my hunter’s axe.
I’ve seriously contemplated shattering the game disc with a hammer and framing the splintered shards like a trophy so that I can’t return to Bloodborne.
Bloodborne is the kind of game you’ll only truly love after you learn to truly hate it.
So should you play it?
Nope. You shouldn’t.
And if my word is enough to discourage you, you absolutely shouldn’t.