Seeing as how it’s October, I figure now’s as good a time as ever to talk about one of my favorite spooky games: Bloodborne! Bloodborne is an amazing game, but as the Critic’s review shows it’s not exactly the easiest one to get into. No doubt about it, the challenge is definitely part of what makes it fun, as anyone who’s played any other FromSoftware game will tell you, but I can’t shake the feeling that this was never meant to be anyone’s first FromSoft game. Dark Souls was always vague in terms of rules and directions, and Bloodborne fully expects you to already know those rules when you jump in. A lot of people will tell you that figuring things out on your own is all part of the experience, but if it helps other people discover just how awesome this game really is, then I’ve got no problem holding your hand through the first couple hours (because the game definitely isn’t going to).
So, here’s my guide for Bloodborne’s first area, Central Yharnam!
Let’s start with the character creation screen: like the Dark Souls games, what class you start as is less important than you might think. Since you level up your stats however you want, you can make your character whatever class you want him to be. But for beginners, I suggest choosing either the Violent Past or Military Veteran backgrounds, because they give you the best starting stats for melee fighting.
Next, you’ll wake up in Iosefka’s Clinic, unarmed. Go the only way you can, and you’ll find a werewolf. Don’t bother trying to fight it, just let it kill you. You’ll then wake up in the Hunter’s Dream, Bloodborne’s hub world. There you’ll be given your choice of starting equipment. There are three main weapons, two ranged weapons, and your notebook (we’ll get to that later).
The weapons you have to choose from are the sawblade, the hunter’s axe, and the threaded cane. All are great weapons that can carry you through the whole game, but you might find that one fits your playstyle better than others. The threaded cane is fast, uses little stamina, but has weak attacks. Honestly, you’re better off leaving that till your second playthrough. The sawblade is in the middle, with decent attack power and quick attacks. The hunter’s axe is my personal favorite, and the one I recommend to new players. It’s slow, and you can’t swing it much without losing all your stamina, but for a beginner’s weapon it hits like a freaking truck! It also, in my opinion, has the best “transformation.”
Every weapon in Bloodborne has two forms, which you switch between using the L1 button. With few exceptions, this will physically change the shape of the weapon, usually turning it into a slower, but more powerful, weapon with longer reach. The cane turns into a whip, the sawblade uncurls to become longer, and the hunter’s axe extends into a two handed weapon.
Secondly, choose your ranged weapon. You only have two options here, the pistol and the blunderbuss. As a beginner, I recommend you choose the pistol. Neither do enough damage to be considered a real weapon, but they have other uses. The pistol has longer range and can be fired more rapidly, which as I’ll explain later will be very useful.
As for the notebook, anyone who’s played a Souls game will know what this does. It allows you to leave messages on the floor for other players to find. These are usually used to give hints about something just ahead. Mind you, this only works when you’re online, but even if you’re not go ahead and take it just to give those poor ugly messengers a break.
Finally, you’ll see a doll sitting in one of the flowerbeds. This is how you level up in Bloodborne, but you’ll need Insight if you want to do that. For now, go to the gravestone and warp back to Iosefka’s Clinic.
Now that you’re properly armed, you’ll find the werewolf by the door poses almost no threat anymore. Go outside, go through the gate, and you’ll be in Central Yharnam. Explore the immediate area a bit to find some items, but look out for a couple low level enemies hanging around. When you’re ready, go to the right and you’ll find a lever that drops a ladder. At the top of the ladder, you’ll find another lantern. Light it. Lanterns are the bonfires in Bloodborne, whenever you touch one it’ll become your new spawn point. It’s also your gateway back into the Hunter’s Dream.
You’ll see a red lantern and hear someone coughing. Go to the barred window, and you’ll talk to someone inside. He’ll tell you to go to the Healing Church. Exhaust his dialogue, and he’ll give you a flamethrower. You won’t have the stats to use it now, but keep it tucked away for later. Also keep this in mind, because whenever you see a red lantern beside a door, that means you can knock on the door and speak to whoever’s inside. Most will just tell you to go away, but a few of them are important to finishing the game.
There are two ways you can go from here, but the way left is blocked by a locked gate. Go right instead, down the stairs and down the path, and an enemy will smash some crates to get to you. He’s a basic Yharnamite, the lowest enemies in the game, so he probably won’t be much of a threat. Even so, remember that pressing R3 will lock on, and the circle button is for dodging. Also keep in mind that locking onto someone is the only way to aim your gun. Dispatch him, go around the corner, and you’ll find two more enemies. One is standing with his back to you and a torch raised, the other is sitting against the wall pretending to be a corpse. Get the one sitting down before he can get up, and then take care of the other. He has a shield, but a couple hits will throw him off balance and leave him wide open for attack. Just be sure not to use up all your stamina!
Also keep this in mind: Bloodborne doesn’t have shields like in Dark Souls. The enemy you just killed can drop one, but it’s pathetic and you’re better off without it. In this game, your gun is your shield. I’ll explain why later.
The Yharnamites are gathering in a mob in the center of town, and groups of stragglers are roaming the streets. One such group is right at the bottom of these stairs. They will trigger automatically when you get to the stairs, but probably (read: probably) won’t see you at the top. You have a couple options here: either run down and ambush them from behind, or try to lure a couple up to where you are. For a new player, I recommend the second option because fighting a group even that small can be dangerous for inexperienced players. This is where your gun comes in handy! Lock onto one and shoot him in the back. The others will hear the blast, but only one, maybe two, will actually be aggroed by it (pebbles can be used to do this as well). Bait them up the stairs, finish them off, then repeat.
You do have the option of just letting them walk by, but that only makes things worse later because they’ll join the bigger mob up ahead. Better to take them out now. These enemies also drop blood vials, which are your only healing item in this game. You can only carry up to 20 at a time, but any you collect after that will be automatically put in “storage” and added to your inventory when you spawn, so don’t hesitate to grab as many as you can!
With the first group taken care of, you can either go right or left. Going left takes you to a lever that unlocks a gate, which serves as a shortcut back to your lantern. The shortcut itself is useless, since it’s just as fast to run the way you’ve already come, but it’s a good way to teach you to watch for things like that.
Just to the left of the gate is an executioner, the highest level enemy you’ve found thus far. He’s slow, but has a ton of health and can kill you in one or two hits. This is a good place to learn to use your gun. Just like shields can parry in Dark Souls, shooting an enemy just before they hit you will stun them, letting you do a visceral attack that does a crap ton of damage. Why? No idea. Visceral attacks can also be performed by sneaking up behind an enemy and doing a charged R2 attack. It’ll probably take a few tries to get it right, but I think the executioner was placed here for exactly that purpose. Killing him nets you lots of blood echoes (read: XP) and will probably score you a few blood vials or bloodstones too.
If you come down here, keep in mind that other Yharnamites are patrolling the streets, and another group might happen upon you if you stay in one place too long.
So, continuing up the road to the right of the staircase, you’ll pass a carriage on the right side of the road. There’s a huntsman (not a hunter, those are completely different) sitting on the other side, and he’s easy to miss. Take him out before he can stand up, and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. Depending on how fast you were, there might be a couple more stragglers around this area, or they might have already joined the bigger mob. You can climb the stairs (watch out for the Yharnamite hiding in a doorway) to get to the sidewalk above the mob, but here’s my recommended way of doing it:
Stay on the road, but absolutely do not, DO NOT, run into the middle of the mob. Again, here is where the gun comes in handy. Get just close enough to lock onto them, then shoot someone in the back. That enemy, and maybe one or two others, will break off from the group and come after you. Take them out, rinse, repeat. It will take a few minutes, but Bloodborne isn’t a game for the impatient. Keep an eye on the two huntsmen, one standing on a carriage and the other hiding behind the fire. Make sure you lure the enemies around the corner so those two can’t take potshots at you while you’re fighting them. Be careful of the dogs as well, because if you aggro them they will charge straight for you and can be a little difficult to hit.
If you chose the axe, this is also a great place to use its secondary form. Extend it, and then charge your R2 attack for a devastating spin move that can kill most enemies in one hit! Don’t rely on it too much, though, because it takes about two seconds to charge— two seconds your enemies can use to absolutely thrash you if you don’t plan things out well. It also takes a huge chunk of your stamina, so don’t use it if it’ll put you in a position where you’ll have to dodge right afterwards. But use it wisely, and it can be your ticket out of lots of sticky situations.
So, clear out the mob and the two huntsmen won’t be much of a threat. It takes several seconds for them to reload their guns after each shot, and their bullets are strangely slow. When you hear the bang, dodge to the side (or heck, just walk) and they’ll miss every time. They also drop silver bullets for your own gun when killed.
The big door is locked, and for good reason, so take the upper sidewalk to the left to get to the next area. Now, there are two ways you can go from here, and one of them is a little hard to find. There’s no real order you have to do them in, but here’s how I recommend it: don’t go down into the big area with the fountain. You’ll see a row of coffins leaning against a fence. Roll through them, and you’ll fall (safely) into a new area. Keep this in mind, because Bloodborne loves to hide secret paths this way.
There are lots of dogs down here, but most of them are caged. Kill them for some quick, free blood echoes. Head to your left, and you’ll find a house you can go into. The house is dark and has a couple enemies hiding in it, namely an old man in a wheelchair. Kill him before he turns around, because he’s got a blunderbuss. Don’t go upstairs yet, go through the other door and up the stairway there to unlock the gate and get back to your lantern.
Now here’s where things get clever: remember when I said you need Insight to interact with the doll and level up? You get Insight in one of two ways: by consuming an item called Madman’s Knowledge, or by seeing bosses. Go back into the house and go upstairs. Be mindful of two more enemies hiding in the darkness. Go up the stairs again, and you’ll find yourself on the bridge you saw when coming out of Iosefka’s Clinic. To your right are two werewolves guarding the bridge—STAY AWAY FROM THEM. They’re even stronger than the executioner from before, and there are two of them. It’s possible to kill them if you’’re skilled enough, but if you’re reading a guide to beat the first level… well, you’re probably not. Go left instead, and you’ll find a brick troll surrounded by crows. Go around them if you can, and run further onto the bridge. There you’ll be confronted by your first boss, the Cleric Beast.
Let it kill you.
You can try to fight it if you want, but chances are you’re in no state to beat it yet. Why are you here? You just saw your first boss, which means your Insight count just went up to 1. You just lost all your blood echoes, but that’s okay. Collect some more, and then head back to the Hunter’s Dream. The doll you saw earlier is now alive, so you’ll need to resist the immediate impulse to kill it kill it kill it. Talk to it, and you’ll be able to trade blood echoes to level up. At this point in the game, you only need to worry about three stats: HP, strength, and stamina. Even stamina is optional if you feel comfortable enough with what you already have. So, level up the other two stats as much as you can, grind Central Yharnam a few more times if you need to, and then go back.
Fight your way back to the fountain area, and this time we’re going to go right. Down there, you’ll find that the thing pounding on the door back where the mob was gathering is another brick troll. You might be tempted to ignore it since it’s not bothering you, but don’t. If you leave it alone, it’ll come after you, probably while you're busy with the next group of enemies. Brick trolls are super dangerous this early in the game, but some skillful dodging and well timed shots will take them down.
Head up the stairs on the other side of the fountain, and you’ll see a couple of dogs, plus another set of stairs in the right corner. A huntsman, a couple Yharnamites, and another dog will start coming down those stairs as soon as you get there, but they’re in no hurry so you have time to shoot the two dogs, draw them over to you, and kill them before you’re in any danger. The Yharnamites will take the long way around, giving you the chance to sneak up on them and (if you’re using the axe) spin attack them. Then head up onto the stairs.
You’re back on the Cleric Beast’s bridge, but on the opposite side. The werewolves are still in your way, but you don’t have to go through them. On the left side of the bridge, directly across from where you came up, there’s another stairway leading down that will bring you to a rooftop overlooking the mob’s bonfire. Behind you is a bunch of boxes and coffins. Roll through them to reveal a hole leading down into the sewers. Go down, and be careful of the wolfman enemies that are patrolling down there. They may not look much more intimidating than the regular Yharnamites, but they have a combo that can kill you in one go.
Jump down from the walkways and into the water. There are rats down there, but they’re only a real threat if they gang up on you, so… don’t let them. Go to the very end, where you’ll find a dropoff. To the left is another wolfman guarding what you came down here for: the hunter’s set. Not only do these clothes look way cooler, but they offer way better armor stats then your starting outfit. This is by far the most important item that’s just lying around here, so make getting it a priority.
This next part is optional, but helpful. Jump down into the lower area if you have enough health to survive the fall. This will agro all the monsters pretending to be drowned corpses, so kill them if you can and run if you can’t. A ladder leads up out of the water, and another leads out of the sewers. Go right once you reach the top, kill the crows, and collect some Madman’s Knowledge. If you don’t want to die to the boss, this is another good way to get some Insight to level up. Then cross the bridge, kill the brick troll guarding the ladder, and climb up to unlock the gate that leads you back into the fountain area. There’s also a red lantern by the window that will offer you a sidequest, if you want to take it.
Note that the sewers go a lot farther than I’m telling you here. You will actually use them later to access the second level, but I’m only walking you through level one. While we’re on that note, remember the area from before with the dogs that you get to by rolling through the coffins? Going right down there instead of left is another way to get to the sewers that you fell into after getting the hunter’s set, but it’s guarded by even more of those wolfman enemies so be cautious about going in there. There is also a large area by the house being patrolled by two brick trolls that’s going to be important later, but for now you’re safe ignoring it.
Now you’re all set to take down the Cleric Beast! If you still don’t feel strong enough, grind Central Yharnam a few more times to level up. Use the shortcut to the left of the lanter, through the house, to get to him in under a minute. Once you fight him, the best strategy is to stay behind him as much as possible. This is harder than it sounds since he’s surprisingly mobile for a monster his size, but since all his attacks come from in front of him, his backside is the safest place to be. If you’re having trouble meleeing him to death, try throwing a few molotov cocktails his way, but there’s a trick to that: throw an oil urn at him first. If it hits, he’ll be soaked in oil, which means the fire damage will be dramatically increased. Landing a lot of hits on him in a row might stun him, which will let you do a visceral attack for even more damage.
Did you run out of molotov cocktails? Go back to the Hunter’s Dream. To the left of the doll is a birdbath filled with messengers having the world’s weirdest hot tub party. This is a shop, and you can buy stuff there from in exchange for blood echoes. You can also sell of items you don’t want or need, but I’d advise against that for now since you don’t know what might end up being important later. Bloodstones are used to upgrade your weapons, and other random items act as ingredients for Chalice Dungeons later on.
If all that still isn’t enough, return to the fountain area with the brick troll, and you’ll find a strange looking… thing… on the ground. You can spend Insight here to summon an NPC to help you, but that has the downside of making the doll go inactive again in the Hunters Dream if you bring your Insight level to zero.
And that’s all there is to it! I know, it’s easier said than done, but the game gets a lot easier once you learn how it was meant to be played. The skills you use to beat Central Yharnam are the same skills you’ll use to beat the entire game, so consider this a training ground and don’t be afraid to spend more time here just to learn the ropes. Remember, Bloodborne is like Dark Souls: they are their own unique genre of games. Going into them expecting to play them like you do other games is a good way to get yourself frustrated and quit. But once you figure it out, all it takes is practice, practice, practice and soon Bloodborne will be on its knees begging for mercy!
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