[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he story and lore of Bloodborne borrows heavily from the tales of H. P. Lovecraft and others inspired by his horrific tales. While there are few overt references to his works, the subtle nods to the occult and eldritch horrors introduced by this literary powerhouse are readily apparent to those who take keen interest in the darker side of arcane magicks. As an avid reader of his stories I offered to tackle the comparisons between both the game and the author’s tales.
Before I begin, though, I have to point out that I do not own a Playstation 4 so I could not experience the game firsthand. However, thanks to the YouTuber DaveControlLive I have watched his Let’s Play series of Bloodborne released thus far. This critique is based on these videos and my knowledge of Lovecraft. The screenshots are taken off of Google.
So, where to start? Well, with a title like Bloodborne, blood is a very important component in the game. And while it’s been quite a while since I’ve done any deep research on the Mythos, I’m pretty certain I read somewhere about a belief in blood holding a special place in rituals due to it’s nature of the source of life. Or something to that effect. And nowhere is it as important here as in the rituals and experiments performed by the Church and its rivals. Everything is based around the infusion and letting of this requirement of all life. And as has been seen countless times before, this necessary element of one’s life force can become tainted and mutate.
Another major comparison is in the use of sanity shattering imagery. Lovecraft is most well-known for his use of imagery that would turn even the most resolute person to a gibbering mass of madness. And there’s certainly no shortage of creatures in Bloodborne that warp the senses and can easily break even the most hardened of hunters. In fact, the more “insight” that you gain the closer to the abyss you stumble. The major difference between the two is that you very rarely saw the monstrosities in the books and short stories. It’s all implied. In Bloodborne, though, they’re all up close and personal. And are just as willing to tear you a new one as to shatter your fragile psyche.
And where we have “that which man is not meant to know”, we also have the physical manifestations that such reality warping effects have on the populace. In Lovecraft’s tales we encounter “mutations” of the human form in a number of occasions. Particularly in the case of the “hybrids” of Innsmouth in Shadows Over Innsmouth. In this tale, the interbreeding of Deep Ones and the human inhabitants of the town lead to human-yet-not-human creatures. In the same vein, we see a similar occurrence in Bloodborne‘s population. Again, this is a curse of the blood, or so I’m led to believe from the lore. The further one gets into the game the more feral and mindless the townsfolk become.
And lest us not forget the Hunter’s Dream. Dreamscapes were used to great effect in Lovecraft’s tales, particularly in his “Dream Cycle” set in the Dreamlands. Fantastical vistas of unimaginable beauty or the stuff of nightmares abound all that can be accessed by the sleeping minds of humans and otherworldly beings. The one refuge that the player can use as a safe haven to level up and upgrade their equipment is separate from the main setting in Bloodborne. To add to this, there are also lands that you can travel to lovingly called “nightmares”. Yeah, it’s just like it sounds.
Finally, and this is the most obvious connection, is that everyone in Bloodborne seems to worship what they call “Great Ones”. This should be an obvious nod to the great Cthulhu and his brethren. Whilst I didn’t watch through to the end of the game I got the sense that these gods are similar to those creatures that we read about in Lovecraft’s macabre tales. And from my understanding of the lore in the game, these aren’t your benevolent deities just looking for a few good men (and women) to love them. Nope. These sound, at best, like the indifferent and ineffable creatures that humanity is not meant to comprehend on any level let alone try to bring into existence in our material plane. But most likely all they want to do is end all life on earth and make it a paradise for their own kind.
And speaking of worship, while they’re not exactly called “cults” in the game, there are still plenty of fanatical members of various sects liberally sprinkled throughout Bloodborne. In fact, you’ll discover a good number of not only religious zealots from the Church and its offshoot members of the clergy but also scholars from the school of Byrgenwerth. And both factions will do anything to achieve their goals. Even if it means using blood to further their aims of coming in contact with the Great Ones. Sane people need not apply.
As I mentioned above, I’m very much a fan of Lovecraft and his tales of the occult and it makes me wish that Bloodborne wasn’t a PS4 exclusive. The Let’s Play videos has me wanting to see more and I look forward to continuing DaveControlLive’s series as he publishes them. I also am very much interested in seeing how the previous games FromSoftware released compare. So, if you don’t mind I think I’ll finish here and check them out now.
Bloodborne is the selection for the April 2015 “Not Crowdfunded, But…” series. You can read more Bloodborne articles here.