Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ludwig's Holy Blade and Vicar Amelia.

Despite the property's youth, Bloodborne's original designs manage to be kind of iconic.  The image of the hunter with the blunderbuss in one hand and the Saw Cleaver in the other is striking and instantly-recognizable as Bloodborne, and begs so many questions about the world this dark hero is butchering their way through.  For that reason alone - because it was just so Bloodborne -  I'd stuck with the Saw Cleaver exclusively, upgrading it to +5 and being very careful not to socket any of those blood gem upgrade things into it because what if you can't take them out and I'm stuck with the lowest-level gems in my primary weapon?

So I mastered it.  I got real good at the form-switching combos, wherein an enemy takes a swipe and I zip out of the way, lashing out with a strike that both shears through their flesh and snaps the cruel-looking blade out (or in) before following up with some bloody devastation.

After several hours with the game, though, I'd unlocked a bunch of weapons at the store.  I tried out the Kirkhammer.  Meh.  I tried out the Threaded Cane (which, in combination with the top hat, renders one very fancy), but none of them really grabbed me.

Around this time, I met Vicar Amelia.  I've been careful to avoid spoilers, where Bloodborne is concerned.  A great deal of the game's joys and pleasures are found in the finding - of discovering and being shocked or surprised or horrified or enchanted by what From's laid out for us, this time - and I wasn't prepared to click on anything that would spoil the game for me.

All I knew about Vicar Amelia, up to this point, was the fact that there were a ton of articles and help tips out there about her.  A lot of people were writing a lot - her name was coming up constantly - so she must be... something.

And man, is she something.  To spoil nothing, she kicked the shit out of me a half-dozen times and sent me packing.  The first boss in Bloodborne I didn't beat on my second attempt.

I cut my way around the Cathedral district for a bit, earned a few dozen thousand souls and went back to the Hunter's Dream... and there, I found it.  I found the weapon I was willing to give up my Saw Cleaver for.

Ludwig's Holy Blade.

Like most, I have long played the Souls titles as a sword-and-board character, but that changed about a third of the way through Dark Souls II.  I had been relying on short swords and (most often) scimitar-style curved blades - small, whippy, zippy things - for my entire Souls career, when I picked up a weapon which was simply called "greatsword," down by the docks.

It was too stylish not to try out, so try I did.  Its best moves required both hands on the grip, so it rendered my shield all but useless - but in exchange it offered an incredible amount of reach and an incredible amount of damage to whatever gets caught in its path.

It was, essentially, the ultimate risk-reward weapon, with which you either absolutely slaughter your foes or you wiff an attack with a long recovery period, and get slaughtered yourself.

You win decisively, instantly, or you die.

And I got to know the Greatsword so well.  I learned that weapon until its moves were seared into my muscle memory.  I ignored my shield for the entire second half of Dark Souls II, in favour of its ridiculous potential.

So, when news broke that there were no (effective) shields in Bloodborne, I felt cool with it.  I'd abandoned the shield long ago - and Bloodborne's combat, with the Saw Cleaver, felt comfortable and fun - but I didn't expect to be reunited with my old friend, the Greatsword.

Well, she's back - and she loves me still.

A torch, a top hat and the Blade.

Armed with this ridiculous weapon, I dove back into the Cathedral District and Hemwick Charnel Lane, smoothing out my understanding of the weapon's behaviours, becoming intimate with its moves list until I began to earn a muscle-memory insight into its precise reach and the precise timing for each of its devastating blows.

Most importantly, I mastered its charge attack.  Every weapon in Bloodborne has a charge attack - you see a lot of them (and a lot of stylish weapon transformations) in the long version of the Cut You Down trailer.

Only two parts of the trailer are prerendered - the very beginning, where the hunter draws their hand along the saw blade before transforming it, and the very end, where they hold out the blade behind them for one trembling moment before allowing it to lash out and lunge forward as they face the Cleric Beast - the first boss you'll encounter.

I don't feel that was chosen by accident.  Putting a charge attack front-and-center in the game's launch trailer, I mean.

That moment, when you've blinked out of range of your foe's strike, swept around to one side, and found yourself with a sliver of time in which to press and hold R2 to charge up your weapon's ultimate attack, is the beauty of Bloodborne's combat, frozen and crystallized.  It's what makes the Souls games, or Don't Starve or The Last of Us's gameplay so compelling, because it's this little pebble of time in which your intimate, hard-won knowledge of your enemy and your abilities have led you to this choice, and you've already committed to the next - which will either get you killed, or win the day.

Did you misread the enemy's last attack?  Is it part of a string that will smack you out of your attack before you can begin tearing into them?  Is this the end?

It is a moment pregnant with meaning and drama.  So I picked up Ludwig's Holy Blade, and I cut a bloody swath through Charnel Lane and the Cathedral district.  I got to know that weapon well.

Then, I returned to Amelia.   And here's where I'll break for spoilers.

What a spectacular boss fight.  What a wonderful intro.  What gorgeous designs.

When she's not hammering you with her closed left fist, which still clutches the medallion she was praying over, or making great sparking swipes with the claws of her right, her attacks are... savage prayers.  She clasps both hands and raises them above her horned head, as if in religious fervour, before bringing them crashing down.  She shrieks and screams and scrambles about the room, long tendrils of her flowing fur pouring off her and trembling in the air as she moves.

Absolutely god-damned spectacular.

And this time, armed with my ridiculous and beloved greatsword, I strode confidently - and a bit trepidatiously - into the Grand Cathedral.  Her great neck hovering twelve feet above the cathedral floor, her veiled eyes catching my movement.  Her terrible cry.

She charged across the great room towards me, launched herself into the air and came down with a blow that shook the old landmark to its foundations - but I was already gone.  I was already behind her, my blade bent behind my back, my muscles trembling and tightening and snap - I launch the blade into her side.

She shudders, and a huge chunk of her life bar falls off.  I grin.

This time.  This time it's gonna' happen.

Be patient.  Keep your distance.  Wait for her to make the big move.  Then make your own.

I love this game.

1 comment:

  1. MOST unfair game ever created. LAZY developers. Zero content. ZERO story. NO saves, no pauses, NO checkpoints. THE only people who love this game are low iqers WHO accept mediocrity as THE new normal.