Today a meditation on what playing too much Bloodborne has in common with winning football games. Bear with me, I think it works.
Having finished my chalice dungeon run, I dutifully ran the rest of NG+ and the DLC in NG+ to collect the various weapons I needed for the last few trophies in both the main game and the DLC. I also farmed a few more gems out of the dungeons to so that I could have four fully upgraded weapons with decent gem loadouts. As a finale to all of this, I managed to kill the Orphan of Kos with the “Bowblade”, which is a sword that turns into a bow. That was fun.
While it was satisfying to win that fight, I never felt like I really had a handle on everything that was going on. It felt like the game had simply not attacked me with things that I could not counter for long enough that I could survive to the end. A different sequence of attacks would lead to my death. In other words, I did not feel like I knew how to really execute this fight correctly.
This is a feeling that is no doubt mostly constructed in my head. However, the Souls games give you a convenient way to find out if you really know the fights.
Beat the games without leveling.
I had done this in Dark Souls, and found the experience rewarding. I had not bothered to do it in Dark Souls 2 because the base level rolling in Dark Souls 2 is bullshit. I had also not had an interest in doing this with Bloodborne, but the run through the chalice dungeons, and learning how to use the Saw Cleaver effectively opened the door to the idea.
So, I started the early parts of the game, upgrading the Cleaver as fast as I could. At +6 with fire, you can burn down Amelia pretty quickly. This fight had been pretty difficult for me the first couple of times I ran into it. Maybe I was learning something?
The two mid-game bosses that worried me were the Shadows, and ROM. But I managed to get past them without too much trouble. Micolash was a dick as always, but before I knew it I had all the required main game bosses done. The optional bosses in the main game are not too bad. But I finally got my hard fight against Ebrietas. Ebrietas is pretty easy if you have a lot of health. You just go in there an R1-spam and heal while standing right next to her.
But, in a no leveling run your main problem is that you do not have enough health. This opens you up to one shot deaths whenever she makes a move you can’t dodge, especially if that move is the head first charge. I can only dodge that about half the time. The other half of the time I miss and it kills me. Eventually I got a run where I was able to avoid this attack enough times to win. But it took a few days of trying.
All of this was feeling similar to the experience I had with the Orphan at the beginning of this story.
The next fight on the list was Ludwig. Again, with a lot of health Ludwig is a hard fight, but you have a lot of latitude to miss, especially in his second phase. Without a lot of health, you have to learn to dodge everything, but this is hard for his second phase because every time you miss you die and you play all the way to the second phase again and hope you get further to see more attacks. In Dark Souls you could always hide behind a big shield and pray in the worst case. But Bloodborne has no shields, so all you can do is slowly figure out how to stay alive. I learn very slowly.
The rest of our strategy in this fight is to pump as much DPS out of the cleaver as possible. So, Fire and Beast Blood Pellets are the order of the day. Beast Blood Pellets amplify your damage as you chain together consecutive hits. You can double your damage output if you build up enough beast meter. You also take more damage, but any since hit will kill you anyway, you might as well yolo it. The fact that base level characters can hit this hard is one of the loveable things about the Souls series.
Here is me just missing. Everything went perfectly until I forgot to get out of the way of the sword quickly enough at the end. Note how at one point my base level guy gets a series of hits for something like 4000hp. Cool stuff.
I went on like this for a few dozen more tries, until I one more great run. In this run he never hits me with those sword combos. For whatever reason they just never appear, and I win. There are a few times in the fight where I almost lose, but get lucky.
After thinking about this for a while, I realized that I was only marginally further along in fully understanding these fights. My intellect knows how to avoid the attacks. It has observed the correct moves to make. But, in the game I cannot execute these moves consistently. I can get pretty far in the fight with just my understanding and my reflexes, but I can still only win when I get lucky.
Gratuitous Super Bowl Digression!
This, to me, is exactly the situation that the Patriots found themselves in when they won the Super Bowl this year. They knew what to do but could not execute correctly until it was almost too late. Just like I almost died, the Pats dug themselves a hole they almost couldn’t escape. But, perfect execution down the stretch and a series of lucky events courtesy of the Falcons and the football gods (Atlanta passing a bit too much, their D getting tired, not getting that field goal late, the freak Edelman catch, and the Pats winning the toss in overtime) allowed them to win the game against all odds. But like me, they should not feel too good about this win. They had to be good, but mostly they had to be lucky.
So, having barely squeaked past Ludwig, I doubt I’ll beat the Orphan at level 4. There probably is not enough luck in the world for me to get through phase 2 of that fight. But it’s probably worth a few shots just to see what happens.
Note: Here is how the fight goes if you really know what you are doing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5RnSqjUfsM