Bloodborne is not a game that holds your hand. In fact, if you don’t go out of your way to search for and read the notes scattered around its world, the game’s “tutorial” section is akin to a judgmental stare and a punch in the face; repeatedly, in my case. Bloodborne is very much a cousin to From Software’s previous entries, Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, and as a Souls game amateur I was woefully unprepared for it.

After a couple of hours of constant death and nearly setting fire to my Playstation 4, I realized that perhaps it wasn’t the game’s fault that I was doing so poorly. A few tips from friends set me in the right direction and now, 15+ hours later, Bloodborne is one of my favorite games.

If you’re in a similarly frustrated state, I’ve listed what I feel is some of the most useful advice I can offer to help alleviate your pain:

Tuck & roll – Herein lies one of the most valuable pieces of advice I can give you: DODGE! Use the circle button to evade your enemies. Rolling behind them and slashing a few times makes for a great combo, and this is especially true during boss fights. Staying behind your enemy is key to survival.

1 v 1 me, bro – Enemies often show up in pairs or groups, especially early on. A low level Hunter versus two or more enemies simultaneously is a guaranteed death. Use pebbles to lure foes away from their friends for a fairer fight. If you don’t have any pebbles, run just outside of their line of sight and wait for them to spot you. You’ll be put on the receiving end of an exaggerated gesture and insult, then well on your way to a 1v1 showdown; it works the same as Call of Duty!

Check your corners – I wouldn’t say Bloodborne overdoes it with the jump scares, but it is fond of them. Use the right control stick to peek around corners and tight spaces to prevent any ambushes or heart attacks.

Stun gun – Your gun does little in the way of damage, instead, use it as a shield. Shooting an enemy before he is about to strike will stagger him. You’ll know you nailed it when you hear the metallic chime (and haven’t been sliced in half) as your enemy falls to his knees. Move forward and hit R1 for a visceral attack that kills most enemies and greatly damages bosses.

Passive aggressionFrom Software has changed their formula from previous games, opting for a combat system that rewards more aggressive fighting styles. If you pay attention to your health bar, you’ll notice that the white marker moves before your health does. If you land a retaliating blow before being struck again during a fight, you’ll move that marker back up and regain some health. Use this regenerative system to your advantage by aggressively countering attacks, but don’t be afraid to retreat if necessary. Blood vials are plentiful, especially early in the game, so you should use them liberally to soothe your battle wounds (and ego).

Combo #5 – Bloodborne’s combat is quite literally a bloody ballet; pay attention to the buttons you’re pressing and the weapons you’re using. It’s common sense that you can sometimes overlook in other games due to their simpler combat and control schemes. Not so in Bloodborne. You can’t often get away with engaging in combat using whatever you currently happen to have equipped. Learn the nuances of your weaponry and enter battle with a plan. For instance: if your enemy carries a long spear, use L1 to transform your melee weapon and extend its reach; when going up against a shielded foe, use R2 for a heavy charged attack to break through their barrier. Link up these attacks, as well as timely dodges, for combos that deal immense damage.

Embrace the shadows – As the game progresses, there will be further opportunity for sneaking up on your enemies. If your adversary has his back turned, put away your torch and lantern and slowly creep toward him. When you’re within range (but not too close, you filthy beast), you can charge attack with R2, then quickly hit R1 to stab them in the back. Et tu, Brute?

Know thy enemy – Pay attention to the different enemy types and how they react to you. Fire works well against nearly all enemies, but some will literally cower from it. Once you grow accustomed to a foe’s fighting style, you’ll be able to spot their telegraphed moves from miles away. Use this newfound knowledge to send them swiftly to their death.

“I-frames” – Invincibility frames, or “I-frames”, as my buddy Scanner calls them, are also an integral part of Souls games. During certain Hunter animations, including the roll dodge and take down attacks, your character becomes temporarily invincible. Take notice and advantage of these moments by syncing your moves to enemy attack patterns.

Life’s a marathon – Your Hunter’s key stat will be his or her endurance. The more endurance you have, the more often you can bob and weave out of danger, as well as string together longer combos for dealing out increased damage. Choose a starting class with boosted vitality (health), endurance, and strength to give yourself a head start. I recommend the Military Veteran.

Gossip Girl – You may notice that some of the houses throughout Yharnam are lit, or filled with raucous laughter (or sobbing, or coughing). Be sure to check these out by knocking on doors and windows. Talking to NPCs early and often will sometimes surprise you. Most of them will tell you to “piss off” early on, but return to them at different stages and they may change their tune in the form of granting you items or quests. However, be wary of who you trust…

Blood Harvest – If you find yourself continually roflstomped by a boss or newly discovered hub, backtrack to an easier area and kill those enemies to farm their blood echoes. Return to your creepy doll friend in the Hunter’s dream to level up and make life a bit easier.

RUN, FORREST, RUN – Outdated pop culture reference aside, don’t be afraid to sprint through an area to reach your destination. That doesn’t mean you should sprint across the map just to get to the next checkpoint, because you’ll probably be unprepared to face whatever is waiting for you. But, if you’re ready to fight a boss and find yourself slowed by clearing the path of enemies, just run for it instead.

Explore – Bloodborne’s world is rich; detail, lore, and secrets are everywhere. Explore each area thoroughly to find hidden items, read notes and open up shortcuts. If you come across a closed iron gate, there’s a lever or key for it somewhere. Opening it will cut your journey time in half as well as serve to further interconnect the intricate and beautiful labyrinth of Yharnam.

Embrace mortality – While playing Bloodborne, you will die. You will die early and you will die often. Use the excessively long (and hopefully soon-to-be patched) load times to count to ten and normalize your blood pressure. The first hours are the toughest, but I promise that once you soldier through and begin to get the hang of things, your life span will increase by minutes, then hours.

Bloodborne isn’t necessarily for everyone, but it’s a fantastic experience to be had, and it would be a shame to miss out due to a little frustration. I hope these tips will help you survive your journey through Yharnam, and if you have any wisdom of your own to impart, please leave it for fellow Hunters in the comments!


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Feature image thanks to Giant Bomb

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