It has been a long time since I put this many hours and this much money into a video game. Over the last week to get over the pain in my bank account, I’ve been putting an insane amount of time into From Software’s Bloodborne.
It’s the night of The Hunt and you are a stranger to these lands. As a Hunter, you are immediately confronted by beasts much larger, scarier, and blood thirstier than you, but with your trusty axe, saw, or sword you can strike back against them.
There’s also a prophecy that involves some crying baby, a guy having a nightmare, and a whole bunch of pigs are running amok. It’s also fair to mention that I’ve had a little bit of growing pains getting into this one.
As this is my first play through of the game, I’ve probably screwed up more times than I can count.
I killed Patches the Spider thinking he was an enemy, I killed the crying woman thinking she was an enemy having seen her in the strategy guide, and I also stabbed Master Willem thinking he was an enemy.
Man, I killed a lot of NPCs thinking they were enemies… but I guess that kind of strikes at the heart of this article.
As I’ve read online, Bloodborne is a game that rewards aggression.
Unlike Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls, Bloodborne’s gameplay is on the faster side. When you take damage in this game there is a short grace period where you can recover health by attacking the enemies around you.
This often results in getting your brains smashed in/out throughout the beginning of the game, but after levelling up a bit and being able to take a little more damage it becomes an essential tool to survive.
And bosses are often the enemies that do the most of this style of damage.
Bosses generally leave you with a lot of recoverable health than normal enemies and being such large targets you can syphon it out of them with a few quick stabs. The game requires a kind of aggression that’s taken a lot of time for me to develop, but damn do I not wish for a good shield sometimes.
And in what could be the biggest snub in the history of video games, the game does have a shield, but, for the most part, it’s completely useless.
“A crude wooden shield used by the masses who have arisen to join the hunt. Hunters do not normally employ shields, ineffectual against the strength of the beasts as they tend to be. Shields are nice, but not if they engender passivity.”
Well excuse me for being passive, I’m just gonna leave a comment in the wiki about the shield being actually useful against gun-wielding people. Hmph. However, in this case the description really couldn’t be more apt.
While the wiki does say that the shield can be an effective tool against gun-toting maniacs, it’s also a terrible weapon that brings about old habits that simply don’t work in this game. Bloodborne is a game about rebounding from the edge of death with a few pinpoint strikes, not turtling behind a shield biding your time against the enemy.
In almost every area and every boss fight waiting along the edges for the enemy to attack, so you can retaliate, will almost certainly get you killed. However, I can’t say that I personally like that kind of system.
The shield while not an essential tool in any of the games is something that I have utilized in the Souls games to a ludicrous degree.
In Demon’s Souls, the Adjucator’s Shield was one of the best weapons in the game giving you regenerating health while providing some measure of protection. However, I can’t say that it’s a helpful item with anyone who has a build other than being a quick-footed bandit, spell user, or faith user. With a vitality above a certain mark, the healing properties of the shield just become too expensive to waste your Colorless Demon Souls on.
In Dark Souls, the Sanctus Shield not only completed my awesome looking armour set, but it also provided some measure of healing too. It gave you a chance to settle back against the enemy and recover while thinking about your next moves. I can’t tell you how many times that little sliver of life it provided saved me in PVP fights inside of Darkroot Garden although the shield was usually on my back as I used the Moonlight Greatsword like a punk.
And in Dark Souls 2, Havel’s Greatshield was my greatest ally. It is the strongest shield in the game, its resistances are off the charts, and when fully upgraded it can actually be quite a powerful weapon. It gave me emergency options when retreating from an enemy to strike back at them with a surprise attack. It’s not often that you get attacked with a shield and one hit from Havel’s will knock you on your butt.
The point being of this is that while shields do create some degree of passivity, they also in turn allow you to be more aggressive as players. The degree of protection that afford allow you to run into a fight while still being able to run out if things got too hot. Some shields also have attacks built in like the Spiked Shield and the Crystal Ring Shield in Dark Souls.
Getting after Bloodborne for its lack of shields is a tough complaint because of the reasoning mentioned high up there in the article. People will simply say that the game demands aggression and that attacking is also your greatest defence. To that I say, all right, but wouldn’t it be better if you had a shield that was also a gun? What if it was a weapon that could be used both aggressively and defensively? What would you think about shields then?
That moment of making a weapon change forms was perhaps the coolest part of playing Bloodborne. I spent just five minutes changing by Hunter’s Axe back and forth between its forms over and over to see what combinations of attacks I could come up with. It made me wish that shields could have been in the game because they would provide an entirely new way of looking at the game’s mechanics.
Even enemy NPCs would have more options other than continually trying to get around you in those little weird circles that they always do. It just leaves them open to attack when they could pull up a shield to defend against your riposte.
The Wooden Shield is a nod to the developers wanting to change up the series and I agree that it does give this game a much different feeling than the others. I’m constantly on the assault rather than hanging back with magic, I’m willingly attacking large groups of enemies and somehow winning, and I’m still having a lot of fun, but I imagine how much more fun I’d be having with the option.
On the whole, Bloodborne is lacking in weapons, but perhaps the developer were taking a Pokemon X and Y style look at the series. Perhaps less does mean more and players will really internalize how to use their chosen weapon instead of just constantly switching between the hundred at their disposal. The game forces you to choose from a small arsenal and get good with using your weapon of choice (although I think most people use Ludwig’s Holy Blade in PVE).
I don’t mind the change in having no shields, but it’s a limitation that you’ll definitely not see in Dark Souls 3. Hopefully From Software will give us a nice hybrid of the two games that will give us both defensive and offensive options rather than just the latter.