We’ve sent our Games Editor Jake Muncy into the dark, unwelcoming world of From Software’s newest title, Bloodborne. Today, he carves a path into the Forbidden Woods. As Jake journeys on, spoilers will be inevitable, so keep that in mind.
Check out the previous installments:
- Bloodborne Logs #1: Being Hunted With Religious Fervor
- Bloodborne Logs #2: Over My Dead Body
- Bloodborne Logs #3: The Cathedral and the Prison
- Bloodborne Logs #4: Fail, Fail Again
“Madmen toil surreptitiously in rituals to beckon the moon. Uncover their secrets.”
I meet a man who I hope isn’t mad on my way out of Yharnam. His name is Alfred. He’s a big, blond man, almost boyish, and plump in an imposing sort of way. He hunts vilebloods, he tells me, and though I don’t know what those are, he has other information that’s useful. He tells me about Bergenwerth, an old institute of higher learning beyond the forest. Long ago, they found the old blood in ancient tombs that honeycomb the ground beneath Yharnam, and their discoveries regarding the blood led to blood ministration, the foundation of the Healing Church, and, well, all of this.
Everything—the beasts, the hunt, the dreams, the nightmares—is about the blood. And the blood leads back to Bergenwerth.
I come up to a vast, sculpted door and knock. The watchman behind it asks me for the password, and this time, I give it. The words I got from the vision back in the Grand Cathedral, after beating Vicar Amelia. “Fear the old blood.” The door creaks open. The watchman, who spoke to me a moment ago, is dead, a skeleton in a priest’s habit sitting on a chair. My Insight increases with the discovery. Was the door always open? Or maybe the power of the words opened it instead.
After my encounter with the Hypogean Gaol, this bit of dream logic is only mildly unsettling. I carry on into the forest. To Bergenwerth.
Alfred never follows me past this door, and later I’ll find him still standing here, staring wistfully at the night sky. Maybe he can’t see that the door is open. Maybe he’s not ready to know.
The Forbidden Woods are forbidden for a reason. It’s awful, crawling with roving bands of beast hunters turned beasts, even more vicious and violent than the ones in Yharnam. There are werewolves, legless bodies clawing at you from the mud, and snakes. Balls of snakes, all mashed together like a mad experiment. Some of the beastly villagers even have snakes buried inside of them, clusters of angry, hissing serpents that burst from their heads at the first sign of danger. I wield my Ludwig’s Holy Blade in its massive greatsword form through my entire long hike, keeping everything at a distance, out of fear as much as caution. I die many, many times.
For all its terrors, Yharnam is an orderly place. It’s a city, with all the linearity and order that implies, and that structure was a comfort. After exploring it for hours, I know what Yharnam expects from me, and I’ve unconsciously worked its shape into my approach to combat an exploration. I’ve come to rely on corners and stairs to spread out large groups of enemies and place them where I want them. Because of that, the wild, unstructured nature of the forest is incredibly unnerving. The paths are less clear, and it’s easier for me to lose my sense of direction. I have to rethink the way I move and fight.
After hours of acclimating and gaining strength, I feel like I’m back at the beginning of my journey, at the precipice, leaning into threats I’m never going to be ready for.
There’s a river that winds its way back into a poison-filled cave. I try to be thorough in my explorations, leaving nothing to chance lest it come up behind me and put a dagger in the small of my back. Stocked up on antidotes to keep the poison seeping into my pores at bay, I find a ladder deep in the cave. It leads back up to Yharnam, to a part I’ve never been to before. It’s disorienting, suddenly being back after a couple of hours in the forest.
And this is a harsher part of Yharnam than I’ve yet seen. There’s a woman here with tentacles for a head. She latches on to me, one tendril burrowing itself into my skull, soaking up my knowledge like a viscous syrup. My Insight goes down, and she releases me, half dead. I swing my greatsword wildly, off my game, just wanting her dead. I kill her with only a sliver of my own life left, and she fades into nothingness.
Further on, I find a hidden door into a nondescript building. When I enter, I see gurneys strewn about, unyielding metal beds and broken vials of blood, a primitive hospital after it’s been ransacked. I get a sinking feeling deep in my stomach. My Insight goes up again, an indication that I’m seeing something I’m not supposed to see. I think I know where I am.
When I woke up at the start of my journey, I was in a clinic with a locked door behind me. I think this is what’s on the other side. I walk into the dark hallway, pulling out my torch for light. I encounter… something. It’s blue and vaguely humanoid, with a head like a balloon ready to pop. It has big, clumsy hands, and they reach toward me. It’s disgusting and alien. It doesn’t put up much of a fight, and I kill it.
Yes, I definitely know where I am. I find another monster like the first, and I kill this one, too. Its body flops on the floor like a discarded strip of tire rubber. Nearby, I find a pair of shoes. They belong to a woman named Arianna, a local sex worker I encountered behind a closed door earlier. She was looking for shelter. I told her to come here.
Behind that locked door earlier, I had spoken to a woman named Iosefka, who said she was a healer. She wanted to cure them, and keep them safe. She and I have very different definitions of the word cure.
I find her in her office. “How did you worm your way in here?” she croons. Her voice is sweet like formaldehyde.
“Things need not change… You do the rescuing, and I’ll do the saving… But if you refuse to leave, well, I’ve always wanted to try my hand on a hunter.”
When I step into her office, she attacks me, fighting like a hunter herself, though she wears the white outfit of a Healing Church doctor. She uses some horrific arcane power to turn one of her arms into a nest of tentacles, lashing out at me with them. She briefly convulses when she does it, as if she’s being manipulated by invisible hands. When I kill her, my skin is still crawling. She did something to Arianna, and to others, and whatever they became, it wasn’t a beast. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen.
“Curse this oblivious fool,” she cries out with her last breath.
I need to get out of here. I need to get to Bergenwerth. I need to know what’s going on here. My discomfort is quickly building into full-blown terror. Bloodborne is slowly turning me into the protagonist of a horror film, losing my grip as the world as I understand it slides further and further from reality. It’s getting worse.
I’ve intimated before that there are a few friendly, non-insane Yharnamites scattered around, always hiding indoors, waiting out the hunt. One, in a hut deep in the forest, gives me an item called the tonsil stone. The man tells me that it will give me “the power of the godhead,” and he directs me to an old church around the side of the Grand Cathedral. The stone looks like a meteor tunneled out by termites. I hang on to it, deciding to visit this church next time I have a moment to breathe. After I get out of this forest.
I follow the river going the opposite direction, diving deeper and deeper into the hostile brush. I reach a place where there are giant engraved stone markers protruding from the ground, like gravestones for giants. The trees are grown into and around them, suggesting that these edifices are older than the forest itself. I don’t know what to make of them. I keep moving.
Three guardians block my path into Bergenwerth. I’m so close I can taste it. They’re called the Shadows of Yharnam, and they wield curved swords and fire. Their dress is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I don’t know where they came from, and like the other terrors I’ve encountered lately, they seem to be neither human nor beast. I duel them in a near frenzy, just wanting to make it to my goal. They take many tries—and some outside help—to beat. There’s only one of me, after all.
Bergenwerth is rather slight, a small mansion on the edge of a moonlit lake. It’s almost beautiful. If not for the half-bug men patrolling the grounds, I’d be relaxed. I think the bug men are like the blue aliens in Iosefka’s clinic, part of some experiment or ritual. The Healing Church and the scholars of Bergenwerth were both researching blood. Seems like they found some knowledge, perhaps a way to accelerate or modify the path that leads men to beasthood. And then they made monsters.
I decide to investigate the tonsil stone and its promise of power before I move on. The enemies here are fierce, and now that I have access to a lamp in front of the old university, I can return whenever I please. So I return to the Hunter’s Dream, and from there I go to the Grand Cathedral, turning and heading down a steep hill toward what I think is the church the villager was talking about.
I should have turned back when I saw that the building was guarded by giant, axe-wielding beasts. Or when the door creaked open and I heard a sinister almost-sound in my ear, a quiet buzzing, like the song of a too empty room. I definitely should have turned back when all that was inside was an empty, round chamber with a large bowl in the middle. Another altar.
I should have turned back. But instead I walk up to the door on the opposite side of the altar. It doesn’t open. And then—
I’m moving in the air. At first, I thought I’d been knocked into the air, launched by some invisible attack. Maybe a seal protecting the door? Then my arc bends upward, and I realize I’m being held. I hear a deranged laugh in the distance, a voice calling out to someone it calls “Amygdala.”
Then the hand holding me turns visible. It’s a sickly green color, thin and wiry like a grasshopper’s leg. It’s insectoid all the way through, actually, a story tall, clinging to the roof of the church with more long, thin arm-legs like the one holding me. It looks at me with a giant, bulbous head, watching me with a dozen eyes that look like holes. It doesn’t have a face, but I imagine it looking at me the way a child would upon finding an unfamiliar toy on the floor. Where did you come from?
I scream as I die. I wake up in what looks like a school, a place called the Nightmare Lecture Hall. There are bits of viscera in cages, deformed things littering the floor and table in the tiny room where I awaken. The light is dimmed, as if coming through a fog. I open a nearby door and take stock of my new surroundings. I stand in an empty corridor, my hands fisted tightly at my sides, and try to breathe again.
I should have just gone to Bergenwerth. Though I can’t shake the feeling that I’m already in it. Or at least its bad dream.
Jake Muncy is a freelance writer, editor, and poet living in Austin, TX. In addition to functioning as Loser City’s Games Editor, his writing appears on The AV Club, Ovrld, Vice, and anywhere else he can convince people to post it. You can contact him by email or twitter, where he tweets regularly about video games, the Mountain Goats, and sandwiches. He has very strong feelings about Kanye West.