Bloodborne isn’t just a video game. Like Dark Souls before it, it’s a dense, nuanced, deeply textured experience, filled with and fulled by all manner of arcane interactions, in both solo play and the moments in which your world is shared with other players. It’s a huge, communal, living entity, and as such, there’s just a very bloody right and very bloody wrong way of tackling it.
Those who got deep into Dark Souls will understand what I’m talking about. A very specific culture formed in that game, one of anonymous chivalry, unspoken codes, and contrived, but universally understood communication between players. Bloodborne, evolving in new directions, is built in a similar way, and as such is already engendering a similar community reaction. But at this early stage, I need to make sure things are being done right. I need to make sure that, as Bloodborne’s human element consolidates, things are done with decorum, and respect, and finesse, and correctness. So I’ve put together not just another Bloodborne guide, but a gentleman’s guide to proper and well-mannered conduct. Because it’s not just what you do that matters, but how you do it.
Go easy on that Share button
Nothing has drawn the advent of Sonys Share button into starker relief than the experience of playing Bloodborne compared to Dark Souls. The thing is, both games are about discovery. Theyre about the journey rather than the destination. Theyre about tentative exploration, not just of geography, but of ideas, mysteries, and arcane mechanics. With nothing explained, and everything to decipher, the community element expressed through both in-game player notes and real-world chats about newly-found secrets is vital. But at no point during Dark Souls was some excitable pleb with boundary issues flooding my Twitter feed with spoilers, 24/7.
In Bloodborne, a game in which everything is part of the bigger mystery, almost everything is a potential spoiler. That new enemy youve discovered, with those new behaviours that might link to the backstory? Spoiler. That new late-game area, with that architecture that tells the learned player so much about the games lore? Spoiler. And whats the real value in posting that boss fight? Anyone whos already won it doesnt care. To anyone who hasnt, youre blowing the surprise, spectacle, and no small part of the significance. Youre just showing off and spoiling it, and there is no class in that kind of behaviour.
Co-operative conduct, part one
Bloodborne, while one of the most intoxicating, meaningful solo journeys around, is also a powerful shared experience. However heavy the adversity, however large the challenge, a Hunter is never alone. Whatever youre suffering and learning, others are as well, and its your duty to help each other out when needed. But theres a right and wrong way of going about it, and it all comes down to respect.
When you find yourself summoned to assist another Hunter with a boss, you need to respect two things, the Hunter him or herself, and the fact that this is their game youre entering. On the first matter, for the cosmos sake, do not offer help if youre not fully equipped to give it. If you dont have a full compliment of healing vials, bullets (if necessary) and weaponry in a functional state of repair (mandatory), youre just wasting their time. I dont care how easily you think you can smash up that particular boss. Cockiness is the route to evisceration, and the last thing a troubled Hunter needs is the extra demoralisation of still losing a tough fight even with help. And moving on to the second part of the equation…
Co-operative conduct, part two
Helping with a boss fight in Bloodborne is not about being the big kid wrestling the pad away from his goofy, sausage-fingered little brother. Its about a brotherhood of Hunters, bonded through the empathy and respect forged by their shared hardship. Youre not advertising your prowess when offering help. Youre respectfully paying forward any assistance youve received from the community, by taking the harsher edges off the journeys of others. You may have the required knowledge, experience, power levels and equipment to take down that beast on your own, but you shouldnt. Because its not about you.
Do not go charging off to start the fight yourself. Let your new partner take their time, gear up, apply any buffs and prep-work they may need to, and then step through the fog on their own. Fight in a way that is sympathetic to what theyre doing. You might know a better bit of terrain to use, but if your new buddy isnt taking the fight that way, dont run off and let them die for not knowing what you know. Ultimately, youre a supporting player, and you need to support in the best way you can. And always bow to your partner on the way in and out of their world. Thats just basic politeness. I actually know someone who will genuinely kick anyone who doesnt, the instant they arrive, and hes absolutely right in doing so.
Make your messages matter
Its amazing how quickly the falsely swelled ego of the common cur will forget any previous hardship once some manner of victory is attained. Such lazy, ill-mannered types care only for the self and self-image, respecting nothing of the journey of self-improvement and progressive wisdom that comes with true triumph against adversity. These wretches and wastrels will think nothing of taking help from others, building a rickety house of counterfeit prowess atop it, and then paying naught in the way of acknowledgement. Remember where you came from, is what Im saying, and give others the same advantages that got you where you are.
Do you waltz through Yarnham, hoovering up the notes about surprise attacks, boss strategies and blessed, hidden routes, without leaving many of your own? Then you, sir or madam, are frankly ill-mannered scum. Dont assume that just because you got someones note, everyone else will too. Dont fall into the selfish mentality of Well I worked that bit out, so you can as well. Your knowledge is valuable and your benevolence even more so. Never forget your pain and frustration at a tough situation once the relief of overcoming it arrives. Use that memory to help others. Any bountiful discovery you make is a discovery for all. And on the subject of notes
Write a letter, not a Post-It
If you have time to write a note, you have time to write a good one. One of the very best things about Bloodborne is the way it vastly expands the creative communication options above those furnished by Dark Souls system. With more expressive templates, grammar, conjunctives, and even physical gestures, you can express any sentiment and almost any information with wit, character and panache. So do that.
Trap awaits ahead? What does that even mean? A physical booby trap? An ambush? A pit? Such a note is the most token of gestures, and in practical terms, helps no-one. Give rich details. Plough through all of the templates and language options. Leave a sequence of multiple notes. Get abstract if you need to. Just do the job right, and make sure to make a real, human connection. And do not limit your scribbling to mere functional facts. Leave little pep talks during particularly oppressive sections. Leave observations, drawing other Hunters attention to splendid vistas and worthwhile sights. When you clear any tough section, just think about what would have lifted your sprits along the way, and then go back and leave it there.
PvP: Politeness, virtue, propriety
This is, Ill admit, a trickier matter than co-op play. After all, the intent in PvP is to defeat ones opponent in combat. Surely a lesser degree of manners is required here? Well no. Not at all. Now I categorically wont outline imaginary rules for battle, or outlaw the use of particular weapons and items, in that self-defeating way that the cowardly scrubs of the fighting game community so woefully do. After all, Bloodborne – like Street Fighter – is a game of deep yet balanced combat, in which imagination and insight (lower case i) can always win out. To label certain things inherently cheap does not give one the moral high-ground after a loss. It simply provides one with a toxic excuse for not improving.
But my reluctance to set artifical rules is exactly the point. The fact is that in Bloodbornes PvP, you are going to take some severe beatings at some terrible times. Maybe invaders will hit you with a sneak attack. Maybe theyll strike as youre already being ganked by monsters. Maybe theyll use a nasty environmental advantage. Whats important is that whatever form an attack takes, you take it like a man (or woman) and dont cry unfairness. Any tactic or item your opponent uses is available to you, or will be, and any savaging you take is a lesson. Learn it, and youll walk away empowered, even if superficially battered for the meantime. Though it should go without saying, never attack if your opponent is bowing. Because you should clearly be doing the same.
Take a bit of pride in your appearance
Youre not a shambling, hollow Undead. Youre a Hunter. A professional. A respresentative and bastion of hope and civilisation, in a world of savage beasts. Look the part, and set some standards. Wear a top hat. Wear a goddamn top hat. Look, Im aware that for specific armour purposes, youll sometimes need to wear different headgear. Thats fine. You do what you need to in order to survive. You must cleanse those foul streets. But unless you absolutely cant for tactical reasons, wear a top hat.
And carry the cane. I know that as a weapon it isnt for everyone. If you prefer big heavy hits and better attack range, youre probably not going to invest in the Skill-based build and additional augmentation required to make it viable. But that doesnt mean you cant use it as an accessory. If youve cleared out an area, and are spending some time exploring its blissfully monster-free nooks for loot and secrets, get out the top hat and cane while you do so. See how much better you feel? See how quickly your confidence has risen following all those long hours of beat-downs? Clothes maketh the Hunter. Respect them, and respect yourself.
Following on from that last point, you should set an example during combat as well. He who fights monsters, and all that. Youre here to slay these uncivilised beasts, not drop down to their level. Do not let blind aggression consume you. When fighting a boss, do not windmill about its person with furious abandon. Make your hits precise, specific, and measured. Ideally, you should kill your foe with your last strike, making no further, flailing swipes after the ending blow is landed. You may then neatly fold your weapon away, and bow to your dying adversary, showing yourself to be the better man, and holding no undisciplined grudge now that the work is done.
Im not just roleplaying here. Yes, Im aware that this stuff may make it sound like Ive gone overboard with the character attachment over the last few dozen hours, but thats not (just) whats this is about. Simply, if you fight like this, not only will you be a Damn Classy Chap or Lady, but youll fight better. Youll better understand your quarrys susceptible windows and retaliation patterns. Youll better understand attack timings. Youll better manage your stamina bar, and know exactly how many strikes and evasions are possible and necessary in any given situation. Youre not a barbarian, youre a professional, and you must bloody well learn to fight like one.
Treat the friendlies with respect
On a similar note, conduct yourself well in your non-aggressive encounters too. Manners cost nothing, so you can afford a surplus. Yarnhams citizens will usually proffer a second set of dialogue when you prompt them for an additional chat, so do engage them in conversation. But dont badger the poor blighters. Theyre having a rough enough time of things as it is.
No-one wants a blaggard hammering on their front door at all hours of the night, so once the conversation is done, leave the buggers alone until you can (maybe) help them later. And as for the Doll in the Hunters Dream, treat that lady with the reverence she deserves. Shes not just there for your convenience. Shes no mere function of your levelling system. Shes a damn human being. Well, not technically, but you know what I mean. Dont just skip to the channelling menu. Talk to her. Find out how shes feeling. Thats the gentlemanly thing to do. Also, her musings will really help you start to understand the world around you, if youre willing to be patient and join the dots. Make an effort, in all senses of the word.
Face up to good grooming
If youre playing a male Hunter, grow a neat moustache. Just do it. Your face might be obscured for 80% of the game, but youll know. And keep your face clean and presentable. Youre going to become covered in buckets of gore throughout your journey, so make sure to clean up regularly.
Head over to the Hunters Dream to refresh yourself when heading into a new area. You never know who youll meet there, so you need to remain as presentable as possible. Theres definitely an important gameplay purpose to this too, and I definitely havent just gone mad and started taking things far too seriously. Im just not going to explain it right now. But youll see. Maybe. Definitely havent just gone mad.