The Weird Horror Fantasy of Bloodborne

A lone traveller. A cursed town. A deadly mystery that swallows everything it touches. Face your fears as you enter the decaying city of Yharnam, a forsaken place ravaged by a terrible, all-consuming illness. Scour its darkest shadows, fight for your life with blades and guns and discover secrets that will make your blood run cold – but just might save your skin…

Hunt your nightmares. 

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In Bloodborne, a fragmented story you piece together from gothic artifacts, surreal cut scenes and ominous backdrops, you take control of a Hunter who must make his or her way through ‘the Nightmare’, a dark fantasy world inspired by the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (and perhaps Clark Ashton Smith).

What sets Bloodborne aside from other stories that try to emulate and build upon the mythology of the weird fiction created by Lovecraft and his contemporaries is the immersive depth found in the game’s atmosphere that the Hunter explores on his quest to end the macabre illness plaguing the residents of Yharnam – the decaying village where the majority of the game transpires.

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Smith himself said in letters to Lovecraft that a story can only be considered ‘weird fiction’ if the atmosphere it evokes is what underscores the reader’s fear. (See Penguin Classics Clark Ashton Smith The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies for the letter.)

In the game, the Hunter comes from outside Yharnam to put an end to the blood disease infecting the people who are now wandering the streets as ‘beasts’. Positioning the Hunter as an outsider is a great way to draw you in to this lush and dark world filled with cosmic gods, trans-dimensional beings, ghouls, zombies and the undead.

What begins with the mood of a Gothic-Victorian horror tale ends as a Lovecraftian apocalypse about the pursuit of a knowledge beyond space-time that allows one to ascend to the realm where the originators of this madman’s wisdom dwell, the Nightmare of the Outer Gods.

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Below is a YouTube video from Vaati who put together a decent explanation of the game’s main story. While most of this is largely agreed upon by fans, Vaati has left out content that fleshes out the story’s finer points that place the game in the genre of weird fiction.

In fact, it’s these finer points that help support the atmosphere that makes this game so special. Things like detailing within the basilicas of the old gods, baroque Lovecraftian statues, the signs of madness within the NPCs and the bizarre creatures that don’t even belong among the common undead as well as the wicked beasts roaming the Nightmare. That’s just a small sample. You should see the incredible level and boss designs!

There’s fudge all dialogue as the story elements are found in the visual aesthetic and odd item descriptions. So, for lovers of Weird Fiction who like action-horror games, this is definitely something you need to check out.

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