Bloodborne is PlayStation 4’s first essential exclusive. It’s a beautifully bleak adventure that’s equal parts uncompromising and rewarding. It’ll tear you down, leaving you a broken mess, your hands shaking like you just took a caffeine injection to the frontal lobe, only to reward your persistence with unmatched euphoria when you finally make it to the end of an area and slaughter its boss.
If you’ve never played a Dark Souls game — a series from the same creator that shares much of the same DNA - you’ll likely be left feeling a bit lost after the sparse tutorial introduction, so we’ve put together a bunch of handy tips to keep you alive during your time in Yarham and beyond. These blood soaked streets - filled with monstrous nightmares and spine-tingling banshee screams - are likely to leave you feeling intimidated, so consider these tactics to give yourself the edge.
1. Conquer your fear
Those bosses won’t kill themselves you know. Hiding behind a shield and poking into the darkness with a spear isn’t a viable option in Bloodborne. No matter how terrifying the salivating monstrosity in front of you is, it’s often important to strike first, strike fast and strike hard.
If you’re fast, you can sometimes down an enemy before they can even react, so get in and hit them before they can raise their arm or prime their jaw. If they manage to get a strike in, quickly pirouette to their flank and hit them from behind. If you’re hit, hit back. When injured, an orange bar appears in your health bar - this is the Regain System. If you strike back quickly you can gain back lost health for each strike - handily, hits even register while enemies are dying, so keep hacking away!
2. Know your surroundings
The world of Bloodborne isn’t just hauntingly beautiful, it’s a confusing interconnected web of interlocking areas and hidden pathways. Always be on the lookout for shortcuts. If it seems like you’re heading the right way it’s a good idea to wander off the beaten path, because it might just loop around to an unlockable door that leads you back to a lantern checkpoint, making your next death, and the loss of all those hard-earned Blood Echoes, not quite as heartbreaking.
Not only should you be looking for shortcuts, but there are plenty of items tucked away that could help you on your journey. Keep an eye out for skeletal messengers poking out of the floor - these messages, left by other players, could lead you to a shortcut, item, or warn you of impending danger. If nothing else, terrain can be important in battle, too - funnel large groups into a corridor where you can fight them one at a time, or drop down on a big enemy with a powerful falling attack.
3. Learn how to use trick weapons
As well as learning your environment, you need to know your weapon intimately. Whatever Trick Weapon you choose to start - the versatile Saw Cleaver, the cumbersome Hunter Axe or the Threaded Cane with extendable whip - you need to be adept at using them. You can perform basic combos by continuously tapping R1 and you can finish one with a slower heavy attack with R2.
What might not be so immediately obvious are the transformation combos. The weapons all have two forms - for example, the Saw Cleaver is a short-range axe of sorts when folded down, but a tap of L1 sees your character flick it out, extending its reach and making it a long-range weapon.
You can do this mid combo, so you could attack a single enemy with R1 and press L1 for the second attack, transforming the weapon and hitting the extra enemy who just lined up behind the first one. Each weapon has different combinations for different versions of this scenario, allowing you to adapt on the fly to enemy positions and formations. Try different combos in the Hunter’s Dream - the game’s safe hub area - and make it second nature before venturing out.
4. Know yourself
There are a lot of advanced techniques that Bloodborne doesn’t explain very well and some of them are integral to success. Of these, the most important to master is the parry. Your chosen firearm in Bloodborne isn’t really a ranged weapon - its main function is to interrupt enemy attacks and create openings for Visceral Attacks. You can generally tell when an enemy is about to attack because they wind them up, raising their arms and coiling their body backwards. When this animation ends and the attack animation begins is when you need to pull the trigger - if executed correctly, they will fall to their knees, allowing you to stroll in and tap R1, ripping out their heart.
Another handy move is the backstab, which is performed by getting behind an enemy and holding down R2 until your character attacks - this also opens them up for a Visceral Attack. You can walk up behind unaware enemies to practise this. Don’t run! Another advanced move is the lunging slash, performed by pushing forward on the left analogue stick and tapping R2 at the same time. This move is great for hitting enemies not quite directly below you - on stairs, for example. It’s also handy for closing distances.
Another tool for closing distances is the pirouette. If locked onto an enemy, the circle button performs a fast, balletic step. You can use this to flank, close distances - which can also be combined with an attack - or to get out of the way. When not locked on, you instead perform a roll, which can be useful for covering a greater distance.
5. Use your items
Items are a handy resource in Bloodborne and aren’t to be underestimated. Some enemies are weak to fire, for example, so you can use that knowledge to your advantage with clever use of molotov cocktails or the weapon-enhancing fire paper. You can even set an enemy up to take more damage from fire by first throwing an oil urn at them and coating them with the flammable black stuff.
Use pebbles to lure enemies away from groups and fight them on your own terms. Equip a torch in your second left hand weapon slot and switch between that and your gun to shine a light on the game’s dark corners, where enemies often lurk. Place shining coins at forks in the road so you can remember where you’ve been. Read the descriptions of everything you pick up and think about how to turn it into another weapon.
Insight, located in the top right corner of the user interface, is an obtuse currency used in Bloodborne and governs how much of the world your hunter can see, opening up more options as the number increases. For example, you can’t level up until you have at least one, which you generally get by being killed by or defeating the game’s first boss, the Cleric Beast. Once you have one you can head back to the Hunter’s Dream and use the doll to level up.
There’s also a bath in Hunter’s Dream that unlocks upon getting 10 insight and you can buy goods from it by spending insight. It’s always a good idea to keep spending it, because once it climbs over 15 the enemies will get stronger and develop new techniques - unless you think it’s too easy or something. You also need insight to be able to call co-op partners into your world, so bear that in mind if you need help. The best places to summon are by lanterns or just before boss encounters.
The best way to get stronger in Bloodborne is to specialise. Do you want to focus on fast attacks? Pour your points into the ‘Skill’ stat. If you want to wield heavy weapons, focus on the ‘Strength’ stat. Each weapon has a modifier for stats, increasing their effectiveness the higher that particular stat. For example, a greatsword might have an ‘A’ next to Strength, but a ‘D’ next to Skill, so increase your stats to suit your weapon.
Around level 30, your stat benefits from leveling up start to trail off a bit. By far the best way to increase your damage output is to upgrade your weapons, which is done in the hut at the top of the stairs in Hunter’s Dream. Again, focus on one weapon at a time, at least until the required item to upgrade changes to a rarer material.
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