So, it’s been a while…
For want of something to write about, I decided to pick on Bloodborne. For those of you who don’t know, Bloodborne is a video game (available from all good retailers, blah de-blah).
I haven’t, as yet, done a game review. And guess what? This isn’t one either. Reviews aren’t my thing. What I like in a game, book, movie, you might absolutely hate. What you like I might find totally boring. And you’d also be wrong, obviously.
So what is this then? Boredom, that’s what. Ran out of contracts to work on, couldn’t be bothered to wander into the bedroom to fetch the book I’m reading, at a loose end. Fired up the CD player, put on Floyd, turned it up to 11 just to annoy my noisy twat of a neighbour, and decided, as I’m a writer, maybe I should, you know, actually write something.
So here we are – my thoughts on Bloodborne, PS4 version.
It’s not the last game I played, in fact it’s been a while since I was on it. But I really enjoyed it, as in really enjoyed it. And even though I’ve completed the main storyline (currently at the end of new game +++), and though I’ve got the platinum trophy, it’s still a game I can go back to time and time again. PVP, two and three player co-op, randomly created chalice dungeons to explore – there’s plenty of end game stuff to keep a gamer occupied.
But what of the game itself? Well, it’s part of the Souls series – Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, and soon to be released Dark Souls III. To be fair, Dark Souls II can be left off the list, as the guy behind the others wasn’t involved in that one. These games have been touted as the hardest games ever. That’s bullshit, but there’s no denying they are hard, in the sense it takes a certain degree of skill to complete them. That skill can be learned, however, from playing the game and paying attention.
The main reason people say the games are hard is because there’s an actual penalty for dying, which is something that has been lost from games over the years. Most games these days, when you die you just respawn a small distance away and carry on, no loss of anything other than a bit of time. In the Souls series, when you die you drop all the souls you’d collected (blood echoes, in the case of Bloodborne). Souls and echoes are the currency used to level up your character, buy new or improve weapons and armour, purchase needed equipment, and so on. You also respawn way back at the last bonfire/lamppost (checkpoint). All is not lost, however, as the dropped echoes can be retrieved – all you have to do is make your way back to where you were killed, and collect them. Die again on the way there, though, and they will be gone forever.
The main point of this post, however, isn’t about the gameplay. If you like hack and slash, like fantasy, like being a hard hitting warrior, a magic spammer or a sneaky rogue, and most of all like a good challenge, then you’ll like Bloodborne. This post is mostly concerning the ending to Bloodborne.
Or, more correctly, all three endings to Bloodborne. I won’t go into much detail about the actual lore of the game, mostly because I don’t know most of it. By choice, however, not through ignorance. I prefer to put myself in the position of the character I’m playing, and in Bloodborne, and the other Souls games, your character is just dumped into his or her environment, with little or no knowledge of where they are, or why. You learn as the game progresses, but not everything. So, as a result, I know some, but not all.
But that’s besides the point. I’m not a purist, never have been. If you are, and somebody writing about a Souls game without full and proper knowledge offends you – tough.
So, three endings I said. Not uncommon lately for a video game to have more than one ending, it’s supposed to encourage more than one play through. Bloodborne has two obvious endings, and one which is hidden – you need to do certain things during the game to collect certain objects, which, when used will give access to the third ending.
Because this third ending is hidden, a lot of players say it’s the proper ending. For a completionist this may be true, but in terms of the game’s actual story, I believe this isn’t the case. Far from it.
My thinking goes like this… (the following are notes I made after completing all three endings, so might be a little rough. I could edit, but I’m lazy.)
Bloodborne plays on the quest for power through knowledge, leading to the ultimate power – becoming a surrogate for the Great Old Ones, or even becoming a Great Old One oneself.
The story weaves tales of different groups – Healing Church, The Choir, the School of Mensis, all striving for knowledge and seeking a suitable surrogate for the Great Ones. Or even becoming the surrogate themselves. As is always the case with those lost to their quest, it is left to others to clean up their mess. Hence the Hunters.
The blood is not good, as the scholars claim. It has terrible consequences, and those who succumb to its power transform to beasts when the moon is close. The Hunters are needed to eradicate these lost souls. At some point in history, this hunt became a ritual.
Regardless of the history – where the Great Old Ones came from, how their dimension overlaps ours, why they’re still here presiding over all, watching men scramble about in their rush to do their bidding – find a surrogate – our character has a job to do. And do it they do. They not only kill all beasts they encounter, they also hunt down and slaughter all those associated with the surrogate pursuit.
In the end, when all is accomplished, Gehrman, the first Hunter and your mentor, asks you to submit to him. If you do, he will ‘kill’ you, thus waking you from the dream. This ties in with the beginning of the story, where you are in the sickroom, being ministered to, and as you slip into unconsciousness you are told it will be like waking from a bad dream.
If you refuse Gehrman, you kill him. No victory there, as the Moon Presence descends, strips you of your echoes, and sets you up in Gehrman’s place, as the new mentor of the dream, forced to watch as future Hunters strive to accomplish what you yourself think you already have.
If, during the course of your travels, you find and consume at least three of the possible four umbilical cords found along your journey, when you kill Gehrman and the Moon Presence puts in an appearance, it senses something in you, and tries to eradicate you. You are forced to fight, and if you are victorious you ascend to greatness. Not only did consuming the umbilical cords transform you into the fabled surrogate, you are also born anew as an infant Great One. You have achieved godhood. Or have you?
So which is the good ending? In my opinion it’s the first one. You submit to Gehrman and he wakes you from the dream, the bad dream we entered at the very beginning. We have not lost sight of the fact we had a job to do, in a dream. That’s all it was, a dream. Even so, we do our duty, then return back to reality. A new day is dawning, the night, and its associated nightmares, is over.
Killing Gehrman and taking his place is not winning. Where is the victory in being forced to remain in the Hunter’s Dream, watching and mentoring countless new Hunters as they strive to do which you could not?
Killing Gehrman and also defeating the Moon Presence is not winning either. Becoming the surrogate isn’t a victory, attaining godhood isn’t a victory, becoming an infant Old One isn’t a victory. After all it was the maniacal search for the knowledge and know how to become the surrogate which caused all the problems to begin with. Problems you had to clean up. As a Hunter. Because it was your job.
The game teaches us that it is so very easy to lose sight of our true goal. The pursuit of knowledge and power is all to easy to give in to, and the use of that knowledge is a good way to become corrupted. Where, along our journey, did we forget our true purpose? Where did we step from our intended path onto a far more dangerous one? We are a Hunter. That is all we are, with a Hunter’s job to do – clean up the chaos created by all those consumed by the lust to find or become the surrogate. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that. So consumed are we as humans, and as gamers, with the need to win, that the thought of dying at the end of a game, in order to achieve that victory, is completely alien. We must live. We must continue onwards until we can travel no more.
We lost sight of our true goal.
And what of the Moon Presence? The moon is prevalent throughout the game, but only as a moon, not the Moon. Surely this being is the true protector of this distressed land? When it is near, its presence forces those afflicted by the blood to reveal their true selves, thus allowing the Hunters to do their job. If a Hunter has visions of glory, and refuses to be woken from the dream, the Moon Presence installs them as the dream’s new protector, nothing more.
If a Hunter has succumbed to knowledge and power, by ingesting three umbilical cords, the Moon Presence will attempt to strike them down to prevent the ultimate failure – the creation of the Great One’s surrogate and the birth of an infant god.
If the Moon Presence is defeated, the true protector will be vanquished. What then? What evil will befall Yharnam, evil far worse than already experienced? Who will be left to protect? Who will be left to hunt those afflicted?
Stay on the path, Hunter.
Remember your true objective.
And, as always, that shallot…