[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]’ve been gaming for the vast majority of my life but have only rarely enjoyed a From Software game. Some of their most esteemed properties, the King’s Field and Souls series, look incredible and yet my time spent playing any of them probably clocks in at a little under five hours – ever. When Demon’s Souls arrived I bought it on launch day and fired it up. Then I was dead. And it happened again. And each time, either by fear or game design, each restart felt even harder. The game was legitimately punishing me for failing to understand its methods. Despite barely touching the game, I still went ahead and bought Dark Souls. It still sits shrinkwrapped on my shelf.
Now Bloodborne is out. Although free of the “Souls” terminology, it still plants itself firmly in that school of design. When you hear people talk about it, folks routinely discuss how painfully difficult it can be. Mentions of bosses are still filled with a sense of awe. The formula of cruel gameplay first initiated with King’s Field is still going alive and well, only this time it seems From Software finally has the technology to make it a visual powerhouse as well. So now Bloodborne stands as terrifying from multiple angles: Actual gameplay and aesthetics. I’ve heard people talk about actually having nightmares about the game! After seeing a few enemy designs I can’t help but feel a little creeped out myself. The whole game just appears tremendously eerie.
A culture of masochistic gamers has cropped up around Bloodborne and it feels impenetrable. Even if I did enter into the circle, what would I find? Everything sounds so cryptic from the outside, and at this point in time I’m not looking to delve into a game’s lore simply to enjoy it. Of course, getting taught about the world is still meaningless without the ability to actually play the damn game. There’s no doubt that, given enough sweat and stress, I’d be able to grasp gameplay concepts and get somewhere in Bloodborne. Does that mean I’d beat it? No, but I recognize the potential of learning from mistakes and studying them to do well.
So why then can I still not touch Bloodborne? It just seems too much of a time sink at a period when I’ve barely got time to play games for fun as is. When I play, it’s typically with plans of writing a review or some such. Sure, it’s actually fun to play even with an assignment looming, but it’s not the same as sitting back and simply immersing yourself into a world. Getting sucked into Bloodborne is tempting as can be, despite the “impenetrable” personality. But once I got in, would I be able to get out? Would this become one of those games that bewitches me into nightly play sessions, the likes of which continually reveal more reasons to keep playing?
It’s a funny problem to have, don’t you think? Fearing that a game with such punishing gameplay would coerce me to rabidly play probably sounds odd to many gamers. However, those who have dealt with serious time management issues associated with World of Warcraft or other MMOs know that sometimes games really can provide too much, or too great an escape. Do I know that Bloodborne will have such an effect on me? No, after all, Demon’s Souls failed to capture my attention years ago. But a lot has changed since then. Now that my time is more carefully ordered, little things somehow grab me quicker, and with more strength.
Basically, my resistance to play Bloodborne is that it could potentially be a three-pronged attack on my free time. On one end, it punishing gameplay could rile me up, enforcing a requirement to play continuously to learn. While not a horror game explicitly, it does seem there is some horrific stuff to be found within. When weird images or monsters appear in horror films, they tend to stick with me, even if it’s not purely in a nightmarish context. Finally, that cruel cycle of learning, as well as the heavy underlying lore might prove too tantalizing hook to explore. Along with a need to study gameplay it could become a perfect reward cycle for near-obsession. That’s why I say the concept of playing Bloodborne is tremendously exciting, but also terrifying for me. For now I’m content to just let friends talk, stream, and share their adventures rather than play Bloodborne myself.