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 – and maybe save your skin…

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In the action-horror video game Bloodborne, you piece together a fragmented story from gothic artifacts, surreal cut scenes and ominous backdrops as you control a Hunter who must make their way through the Nightmare – a dark fantasy realm inspired by the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft (and perhaps Clark Ashton Smith).

What sets Bloodborne apart from other stories that pull in the mythology created by Lovecraft and his contemporaries is the immersive depth found in the game’s atmosphere. You quest to end the macabre illness plaguing the residents of Yharnam as you explore decaying villages, cemeteries, the nightmare frontier, haunted castles, alien gardens and places that shouldn’t exist. Slay devils, zombies, giants, aliens, werewolves, uglies and squid-face beasts from beyond the abyss itself. It’s a hell of a ride.

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

As the Hunter, you come from outside of the land of Yharnam to put an end to the epidemic. Positioning the Hunter as an outsider is a great way to draw you into this darkly lush world and also set you up for some scares. You’ll follow the decaying beauty of a castle maze only to end up against a cosmic wanderer who instantly hates you and wants to see you dead or, worse, madness. It’s fun like that.

What begins with the mood of a Gothic-Victorian horror tale ends as a Lovecraftian apocalypse about the pursuit of knowledge beyond space and time with which you can ascend to the realm of the Nightmare itself; and where dwell the Outer Gods.

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Below is a YouTube video from Vaati with an explanation of the game’s main story. While most is largely agreed upon by fans, Vaati has left out the bits that flesh out Bloodborne‘s finer points, which place the game in the genre and atmosphere of weird fiction.

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 are what make this game stick out like a head on a pike in your local park. Oh, and the bosses. The bosses are very rage quit, I mean, awesome.

What about dialogue? There’s fudge all. Most of the story elements are found in odd little item descriptions and the game’s aesthetic. So, for lovers of weird fiction looking to dabble in monster slaying, definitely check this game out.

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