<em>B</em><em>loodborne.</em> Not only my current game of the year, but a contender for my game of the decade. And certainly something that calls to mind the darker parts of Halloween. </p>
Let me see if I can convey just a taste of the horror game that I’ve become enthralled by.
Bloodborne is one of the finest examples of Lovecraftian horror. Not the horror of a ghost jumping into frame, startling you. Not the horror of gore and goo plastering the walls, though it certainly has that as well.
It is the horror that comes from knowing of a hidden malevolence behind everything. A cosmic, unknowable horror. Horror that is elemental and omnipresent, that the human brain may just not be able to handle.
Lovecraft’s famous Cthulhu isn’t some Godzilla-style monster, even if pop culture likes to use it that way. It’s a godlike being that will make you insane just by looking at it.
The cobblestone city of Yharnam is the closest we have to interacting with a waking nightmare. You certainly have power in this dream — you play a superhuman Hunter, wielding all manner of brutal weapons, such as saws and sledgehammers.
But Yharnam hates you. This is a successor to the infamously hard Souls series. Not only will the awe-inspiring bosses kill you, but any given enemy, especially in a group, could take you down.
You’d be forgiven if you think this is another plague of infected zombie-like villagers with some werewolves thrown in, or another wave of bad guys to slay.
There’s more to it than that. Much more. I mentioned Lovecraft, remember? Stories with eldritch beings so grotesque they harm you just by looking at them?
Werewolves are the least of your problems.
Story is given out sparingly — the city is a monolithic mystery that will only give out its secrets to those who search for it. Read every item description and scrap of lore. It’s a world that is, at best, indifferent. It doesn’t care if you know what lurks behind its facade.
There are the carrion crow enemies, massive black birds that, oddly, don’t fly. They crawl along the ground with their wings, sometimes flailing around in a vague attempt to fly forward and attack. Their roars sound less like crow caws and more like feral bestial roars.
You see these enemies again in a later area. When I saw them here something clicked in a sick way. The reason why they don’t act like birds. Why they crawl. Why they have such a strange cry.
They have dog heads instead of crow heads. And they probably have the entire time. You just couldn’t see it.
Once you know the twisted reality of what’s right in front of your eyes, you don’t look at the game the same way again.
I was playing the first section again for this column. And was honestly disturbed at the hidden horrors that surround you, unknowingly, from the beginning. Hidden in plain sight.
Those ornate statues everywhere, faces covered. Those hidden faces aren’t human.
A sweet song from a music box, given to you by a little girl looking for her father. Was it always that song? I can use this song as a distraction since I have to kill her father. He’s gone mad, turned into a beast. The significance of babies in the lore. Were there always this many baby carriages everywhere?
And what is this Red Jelly in my inventory? It looks vaguely human… umbilical cords are one of the most important items you’ll find.
I’m not scared of the monster designs or creepy environments, Bloodborne is actually a beautiful game in a macabre way.
The horror is instead from knowing that the raving madman may not be mad, but just acting as one does when they see horrible truth. That is what truly gets under my skin.
A friend and I sometimes stare at the box for this game, sharing that strange mild trauma of knowing some dark secret.
Just what do we really see when we walk down the street? Is every building hiding a horror? Was that road the site of a tragedy? Can I even trust this mirage of light bouncing off the bundles of walking atoms that are humans?
Or maybe I’m overthinking it.
Maybe you should just take the advice of the man at the beginning of the game, “Whatever happens, you may think it all a mere bad dream.”
Just a bad dream…