Five Souls One Fox: A Souls Series Playthrough (Bloodborne spoliers abound!)


#161

Context warning for self harm and suicide on this one along with talk about stalker adjacent behavior and typical horror media depictions of metal health and madness and the like

And if you think this post or any other warrant more warnings than I have given please feel free to DM or post and let me know, I am happy to add more

Summary

After the fight with Ludwig you find yourself wondering what you’re doing with your life and also with the only path ahead up the stairs. There you find a jail of sorts (or Gaol I guess) with the first thing you encounter being a man banging his head against a brick wall talking about the nightmare and blood as his own blood drips down the wall. Fun times! You’ll then find the two dudes roaming this hall one of the tall pale church dudes with a stick and a wheelchair gunner who for once might actually hit you thanks to how tight this hall way is, these two actually nailed me a few times before I remembered to just parry the big dude and use the invincibility frames built in to the parry animation to dodge the bullet the wheelchair guy shoots. Around where they are you can also take a flight of stairs down to see a man in Beast hides (Which to remind you are actually people turned into monsters and thus he is in fact wearing skinned humans. The game even says that the one he wears is the hide of an old compatriot) siting in the back of a large jail cell who tells you to leave because clearly the only reason you haven’t yet is only half a dozen other people have told you to do that and you just needed one more person to suggest it. This fellow is named Brador and is a church assassin who’s job is to hunt down anyone who gets too close to the truth of the hunter’s nightmare. He’ll continually invade in the next level of the DLC though if you find the key to this cell you can instead kill him here and prevent that from ever happening but that’s no fun so for now I have left him. Also in here if you have that key is a Yharghoul (I was going to look up that is really spelled but that spelling amuses me) hunter who drops a weapon called the Church Pick that is basically a word that transforms into a big pickaxe. It’s a cool dex weapon but my dex is shit as you know. Then you find the corpse of a large women that has on it a left hand weapon called the Fist Of Gratia which I assume means this is Gratia. The weapon describes her as a women known as “Simple” Gratia (I added the quotes there) who was hopeless with firearms and instead preferred to just beat the shit out of beasts with this big hunk of iron. This is probably the time the game most directly devolves into straight up shitty ableism, most of the rest of the time it sort of talks around it which is not always better but leaves some room for nuance at least. It’s also maybe worth noting that the item description just says she was known as “simple” and that she was also known as seeming oddly heroic when beating the shit out of things with with the fist but without more details about her I can’t really give the game the benefit of the doubt on this one and will be putting it in the Things That Are Kinda Shit About The Game pile. From here I remembered that I needed to grab something back in the Grand Cathedral in the Hunters Nightmare to actually do anything past this and went back to grab it but I already touched on that. Past this jail area you find yourself back in the Grand Cathedral somehow but a version of it that you enter via a stairway like the one in the tomb of Oedon under the coffin. This is actually where the DLCs secret starts to reveal itself, you’re not exploring a linear area (though you are also doing that) you’re going backwards in time towards what started this whole mess and this is an earlier version of the church from when it was as much more a place of cruel experimentation than a place of worship. In here you’ll find a series of medical beds and some rats with brightly glowing eyes in the back where the stairway out normally is and on the opposite end two church members (both women I think)one with a sword and one with a cane and a new spell called Blacksky Eye that shoots a somewhat fast moving projectile that she spams as though she’ll never run out of bullets. She won’t. At this point this fight while not easy isn’t that hard to get through. The women with the sword will keep attacking you but her attacks are slow and she’s easy to stagger so as long as you can keep the women with the cane on the other side of a bed or pillar so she can’t hit you it’s all pretty manageable. Plus they don’t respawn even if you only kill one which is nice. Once you’ve taken them out you can head up the the alter and assuming you have the pendent from the other Grand Cathedral you’ll get a cutscene where you place it inside the skull of the corpse laying on the alter and you’ll ride the altar up into the actual Research Hall. But as we all know From can’t resist a good elevator secret. These games don’t have a lot of waterfalls so they have to hide things somewhere after all. If you go back down the elevalter you can find the skull of Laurence which you can use to ace’s the secret boss fight of this DLC which I will o later after I get the blood rock I need to fully upgrade my Moonlight Greatsword, AND if you then activate the elevalter one more time you can ride it down into a secret area that really doesn’t make any real sense that hides a church cannon which is a giant cannon you can fire for something like 8 bullets. I never said the thing you would find in this double elevalter secret would be good, though I guess with he right build it would be. Anyways The Research Hall is the second major area of the DLC and as you may have guessed from the title of this write up shares a lot in common with The Tower Of Latria from Demon’s Souls, but here you start from the bottom and make you’re way up which pays off quite well. The thing about this area is that it is extremely well designed in a way that makes it very hard to do a linear walkthrough so instead I’ll just sort of go over a few things. First the main enemies are people (of both genders! Which I guess is a good thing? That feels weird to say) in hospital gowns with enlarged heads with not mouths ears or eyes. They attack hard and fast but are easy to stun. They mostly pose a threat in large groups which is how you’ll most often face them. There’s also quite a few variations on on them with some being naked and faster (there are no bits to see if you are wondering) and others walking around on all fours or headless. With the heads still alive and begging for death or talking about they sticky wet sound they hear and singing plip, plop, plip, plop. It’s creepy as hell, which is weird as I have more or less described a pleasant walk in the park by most metrics but hey that’s just how that From Software magic works! A lot of these variations also suggest the various types of enemies you fight in the base game, withe the normal ones resembling the mushroom aliens, the ones on all fours the werewolves, and the ones with extended arms the dudes you fight a bunch in central Yharnam who I had a funny name for but have since forgotten. It’s a cool bit of world building and helps set this up as the place where blood ministration first started. While talking about this class of foe I should also touch on some of the mental institute themes that get delved into here, as it is delving into some of those tropes for sure. I’m much less bothered by it here than I am in something like and actual Lovecraft story or your average horror film set in such a location as it’s made clear that the people here are victims of some sort of experimentation and are meant to seen with sympathy and it’s not really trying to hammer home anything about mental illness as an innate character fault and is instead about the things inflicted here in the hall. As such I am not super bothered by it in this context to be honest. Granted that may well change at some point but that’s where I am with it now, though as always your mileage may very and that’s fine and you are welcome to bring it up! I’ve actually not seen a lot of critique of the way this games handles things like mental health and the pregnancy themes which is a little surprising and worries me a bit about how game critics who claim to be better than the mainstream press tend to ignore such topics especially in regards to big budget Japanese games. But that’s a whole other rant that just makes me very sad so I’ll just skip that for now. Second (that first one sure took a while huh) is that much like Latria the whole level is maze like in how it uses the repetitive nature of the level both to help cement the laboratory/hospital feel and always keep you unsure of where you are. It’s both concrete if you know how to navigate it and always disorienting. And with something always nearby making some sort of noise that is never good. You’ll know the Souls games have truly peaked when the last third of one is just a perfectly pleasant party that you hang out at and have a very nice time as you freak the fuck out for hours on end just waiting for it all to go wrong because you know it will. You just know it. And then the game ends and it’s all fine but you write a small novel over the better part of a year about how it’s all a metaphor for like, nuclear war or something. About half-ish way through the level you’ll get to a room with two elevators and a bunch of wheel chair dudes in bird masks which ties into the consistent theme in the game of bird masks being creepy. Now in this room is actually a ladder down into a room right below it that I think is the only room you can’t get to via the stairway that occupies the middle of the tower that has the only enlarged head patents to walk around on all fours in it and some nice hunter gear in it. This set of rooms also acts as the shortcut to the boss once you get the stairway moved. Via the elevator that takes you down to the first level is Saint Adeline, an NPC enlarged head patient strapped to a chair with a blood drawing device still stuck in her arm unable to move, and unable to see. She asks you to help her out by finding brain fluid, which you get by finding various heads sans bodies that talk do that sing song plip plop thing and trying to kill them. It doesn’t kill them however, when you strike them their health doesn’t even actually go down they just briefly deflate and you get the fluid. In a game like this one of the must unnerving things that can happen is the have something not react when you try to kill it. It’s so deep. Hand it to Saint Adeline and she gives you a vial of her blood, the description for which tells you she is one of the blood saints who received “treatments” from the church to cultivate healing blood (side note are blood types a thing here? Is there like a one in 7 chance that whenever you heal yourself it will be the wrong blood type and you’re just fucked? Is everyone who gives blood for these things just a universal donor?) and uh, you can see how that worked out for her. She seems to be proud of what she has achieved in her state though and as you give her enough fluid she eventually separates her head from her body in the chair and asks for brain fluid one more time, but there’s no more heads to be found in the level from which to get it. Except you remember that when you struck to other misshapen heads they didn’t die, you just got the fluid. So you strike Saint Adeline, you get brain fluid from her, and give it to her. Upon which she thanks you, has a revelation and gives you the milkweed caryll rune, which turns you into a strange blue alien thing like the mushroom people and unlocks the full moveset of a certain weapon. Having given you this she unlike the others dies as she thanks you and tells you how she used to be nothing. This game gets dark sometimes. At some point in all that she also gives you the key to the balcony that lets you unlock the door on the first floor of the hall that takes you to where in the base game you fight the Celestial Emissary but here just has more of the patients tending to a garden of creepy white flowers that only get creepier in a moment and find a corpse strapped into a chair which at this point doesn’t even register as strange and find on them the Blacksky Eye which I already touched on, and can make you’re way back into the Grand Cathedral much like in the base games version. Now in the course of doing all this you’ll also move the stairway in the center of the hall by climbing to the top of the hall and moving a lever raising the stairway which both makes new areas available and drops new enemies on the first floor, patients in restraints that attack with tendrils that suddenly spike out of their heads. They aren’t though to fight as they don’t move too well but I hate them none the less. Now with the stairway moved you can get to the boss and via going all the way to the bottom of the stairs find the Shield of Loch, the only good shield in the game that blocks most blood and magic damage and I imagine would come in handy for the next few fights if I was so inclined. Now with the boss available to us we can go do that but first I will note the patient in front of it begging Lady Maria for help

The Living Failures

This is basically the Four Kings fight but a little better. Moving on!

Okay not yet I’ve come too far to half ass this now. This fight is hard but mostly due to the things you must keep track of much like the Rom fight. As with the Four Kings it starts off with just the one and more spawn in but unlike that fight they spawn in much faster and due to the failures not being huge they are much better equipped to take you one themselves with fast bashing attacks with their heads being the hardest to dodge. And also some of them shoot magic at you. They have both a slow-ish moving orb they can fire and a field of stars they can summon that fires a large number of homing missiles that don’t move too fast but will kill you if you get hit by more than one. So for this first phase (you knew there was going to be more than one don’t act like you didn’t) the trick is trying to beat them down one by one without getting overwhelmed with a few tactics to take as to how available to you. The most consistent method being to simply hit them with an uncharged R2 attack from a hard hitting weapon to stun them before dodging out of the way of the soon to come retaliation, but you can also focus on trying to take out the ones with magic attacks as they charge a spell or trying to take them all out in large groups as they can only spawn in one at a time, or get real good at dodging their attacks and just beat the ever loving shit out of them. I assume I always just go with the first method. Also the L2 on the Pizza Cutter Of Doom just chews through them with some luck but if you get snuck up on it’s hard to dodge out of that attack. The second phase is more or less the first but they can all group up and summon a much larger field of stars (some how they can do all this and still be called failures I think they might be stand ins for millennials treatment in the modern workplace) that calls in full ice meteors that if you panic will kill you in a heart beat. Luckily you can avoid the entire attack by heading behind the Sunflower With Teeth (coming this Fall to a record store near you!) that makes up the garden portion of this garden and I should have mentioned this was a garden already shouldn’t I? Well anyways this attack is a great example of how the Souls games true innovation in difficulty is really tricking you into fucking yourself over by making you panic. If you know what you’re doing there’s not a ton to worry about but the game is very good at making sure you learn what you’re doing the hard way

After that fight You remember that Simon from earlier in the DLC shows up as soon as the stairway is moved and that in your write up you should have mentioned that fact and so do it between boss fights as filler to have something in between the back to back boss fight paragraphs and make your way into the clock tower (this also makes Bloodborne the only good Castlevania game don’t @ me [Castlevania is fine it’s just not what I would call high art and Symphony is a game I find wildly overshadowed in what it does well by the Souls games {that’s a topic for another time though}]) to fight:

Lady Maria

Don’t spit on the floor! Use the cuspidor! That’s what it’s for! Ahem with that out of my system, when you walk into the room you’ll see her sitting in a chair blood dripping from her wrists (hence the self harm context warning on this post that I need to remember to put up before I copy paste this into the forums) appearing quite dead, and maybe she is but if that’s the case she doesn’t seem to mind much as as soon as you approach your character reaches out to touch her (presumably to check for a pulse or something you don’t really get a sense of what you’re reaching for so I will be kind and assume it’s one of the not creepy options) and she springs to life to grab your hand, and tell you a corpse should be left well enough alone and I am inclined to agree! From here she tells you not to go chasing secrets but knows full well that at this point you aren’t going to stop but tells you that an honest death should stop you all the same and the fight begins. This fight is in the Artorias mold though not a one to one. Most of her strikes are as you would expect quick attacks with varying degrees of windup. The best avenue for taking her out is to parry like there’s no tomorrow as all of her attacks save a few charge moves can be parried. This gets harder in her second phase though when she stabs herself and extends her blades with crystallized blood. I guess I should mention she is a cousin of the vileblood queen. At this point she gets more ranged attacks and all her melee moves do more damage and are faster but the way you deal with it all is the same just parry till the cows come home. She also has a third phase when her health is almost gone that adds fire to her attacks that comes in waves a half a second after the attack ends so good luck with that. With a DEX build that ups the damage of visceral attacks this fight is really fairly easy if you can parry but with a STR build that’s not so good at that, well, it could have gone better. It wasn’t terrible by any means but I did somehow run out of blood vials while doing it which sucks a lot as now I have to go grind for those again. Now on to the lore component of this fight. Lady Maria as you can guess by the way people talk about her is some kind of caretaker or guardian of this place. Her backstory as I know it is that she was also one of the first hunters who worked under Gehrman or however that’s spelled and originally was one of the Vilebloods though I can’t say if they were called that at the time. She left having been disgusted with the whole blood thing they were doing and forsake the blood magic they used and switched to using two blades instead of the blood infused swords of the Vilebloods that she would later toss in a well with two shark monsters that I will talk about later. She then joined the first hunters to kill the beasts. I guess the thing that happened next is the events of the end of this DLC and she quit the hunters finding it no better than the Vilebloods and instead joined up with the church or the choir or whatever and well that didn’t seem to turn out much better. So now she guards the secret of this nightmare either to protect the people within or to stop people from acquiring the knowledge out of a sense of guilt and does so with all the tricks she learned as a vileblood. Also she has tried to kill herself and end her torment a few times hence the whole corpse thing, though she seems to be unable to do herself in likely due to one of the great old ones. She’s also the modal for the Doll in the hunters dream, Gehrman having been so obsessed with her that he made the doll in her image even though by all indications she wanted less than nothing to do with the old creep. After you kill Maria the Doll says she has sensed a liberations from heavy shackles, implying that the doll and Maria are connected somehow. There’s sort of two readings to this, in one Gehrman is an old creep Maria wanted nothing to do with by the end of things who made a doll he implies you can have sex with if it pleases you out of a nightmarish obsession that the game certainly seems to think is creepy to some degree based on how the line is delivered. This is largely the version I buy into. The second is that they are lovers of some sort and when Maria died he then made the doll to try and keep her alive in some way and brought it to life via some dark magic and this is some grand tale of romance which is another theory on the Internet which is not not supported by the game. Which is kind of one of the issues of the ways Souls games do story. One of these version is somewhat thoughtful examination of obsession that no doubt misses the mark in some ways and one is just kinda bullshit but there’s no real way to prove one or the other so you’re just sorta stuck in a loop of questions with no way out which is fine most of the time but more than a bit of a problem here. I lean towards the first interpretation, the game refers to Gehrman obsession as a mania that Maria was unaware of which rather implies to me that it was less than healthy and the game knows it and at a few points the doll herself talks about how she loves the hunter and her creator and asks how she could feel any differently given the fact that she was made to do so. Which pretty directly compares Gehrman to a god and I don’t mean to alarm you but this s not a game with a high opinion of gods. And as such in this case I am inclined to give it some benefit of the doubt though I find it messy to say the least. On the whole though I like the character of Maria, I find her motivations to be interestingly complex in a way you rarely see for women in videos games. Well in the AAA space. And her arc I think works quite well in the contest of how the souls games tell stories and works as a parallel of Maiden Astraea from Demon’s Souls and of all things Mother Teressa (I’m not getting into that whole thing just go read this if you want to know more I’m sure it will at least get the basic idea of how she was perhaps not the best person in the world across: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Mother_Teresa). As with a lot of Bloodborne’s depiction of women I have some issues with all of this, and would like to read some critique of it somewhere by someone, but for now I like most of her story even as I wish it was handled better in some cases and I think I know and like what they were going for

Okay that’s that hopefully this will be the last super long one of these as the rest of the DLC and game are a bit more subdued in terms of things I want to do deep dives on. Hopefully I’ll have the next one of these posts up next weekend that will cover the last of the DLC and then that just leaves the last of the main game which isn’t a whole ton to be honest. Oh and the Chalice dungeons but I think I’ll do the wrap up on the game before I bother with that and cover it in a between Bloodborne and Dark Souls III bonus section as there’s really only one boss to cover and it doesn’t have a huge effect on the main game anyways though I will cover it. Oh and those cut bosses people found a while back that’ll be fun! I’ve never really dived into cut content like that before

Stray thoughts

I can’t believe I ran out of Blood Vials. I had 400 after the Ludwig fight and I ran out. I have no idea how I used so many

I hate looking up lore theories for these games as none of them seem to actually understand anything other than Lost style detail obsession and often ignores context like delivery and implications like how Gehrman is compared to the Old Ones in making the doll in favor of finding the most boring and literal version of the story about dream logic and nightmares that they can

To be sort of fair to the Gehrman is not a mega creep theory he has been trapped in a dream by a horrifying squid monster as a prop to use people for decades if not centuries and I guess I to would be a mega creep by then but that doesn’t make the text of the work any better and is still pretty shitty

There’s a book in the Hunters Dream with a title you can make out called “How To Pick Up Fair Maidens” which is a rather juvenile joke that does not speak well to whoever got it in or to how the game views women and I am just going to chalk it up to being the product of the same dude who designed Gwynevere that got snuck in at some point

Elevalter is fun to say. Also it should be spelled Elevaltor but I don’t want to go back and fix it so I won’t


#162

To give you an idea of how the fight with Orphan Of Kos is going I am now keenly aware of the travel time on bullets in this game


#163

I took this more as the game roasting Gerhman, like of course the guy who made a living doll in the image of the woman who rejected him has a book on how to be a pickup artist. It’s meant to be a dumb joke but also to be solid reinforcement that he’s a mega creep dweeb-lord.

Good luck with Orphan! That fight is just absolutely brutal. I love it but holy shit is it an ordeal.


#164

Maybe? In my experience stuff like that is as often used to indicate a sort of jokey “Women am I right?!?” as anything else and the game doesn’t go far enough in stating anything about Gehrman for it to come off as a critique concretely enough for me. And that’s kind of the big issue with the style of story telling in these games is that when it works it really does work but sometimes you just need to make a statement outright less it come off the wrong way and these games are very poor at it


#165

Yeah I definitely see where you are coming from with that and agree about how the vagueness in storytelling and lore sometimes works against the games by obfuscating the writers’ intentions a bit too much, thereby robbing them of the weight a more direct approach could have had. At the same time I feel like the direct approach, if not handled right could feel unnatural and harm the stronger aspects of vagueness that other parts of the game use well. It’ll be interesting to see how Fromsoft handles similar things in whatever they make next.


#166

“What if the new Souls game that I assume will be announced at either Sony’s or Microsoft’s press conference is called Bonedead?” I think to myself late at night after waking up due to rain hitting my roof


#167

It’s hard to play Bloodborne with a head cold and a long week of work ahead