My first “Souls-like” game was the first Souls game: Demon Souls for the Playstation 3. It launched in 2009. I bought it and played it for a couple of hours, got frustrated and put it somewhere that I didn’t have to look at it. There it still sits, forgotten in some box in the back of a closet. I think.
Then came Bloodborne for the PS4. It launched in 2015 and, demonstrating that I don’t learn from my mistakes, I bought it, played it for a couple of hours, got frustrated and set it aside. (The one downside of digital games is you can’t fling the disk into a dark abyss when you get frustrated.)
Since then I’ve felt vaguely salty about “Souls-like” games and their popularity since I always feel like I’m missing out. Envy I guess. Damn the FOMO!
The other week I was sorting through the external hard drive that hangs off the PS5. It has my library of PS4 titles on it and I was going through removing games I know I’ll never play. There was Bloodborne. I felt like the icon was looking pretty smug so I hovered over DELETE and then for some reason clicked PLAY instead.
And died, died, and died some more. But for some reason I didn’t get so frustrated. Maybe age has mellowed me, I dunno. But I kept playing. Not for hours at a time. I’d do a run or two then set it aside. Maybe THAT is why I didn’t get frustrated. I got a little better. I got to where the villager ‘trash mobs’ in the first area were of no real concern to me. I explored, found my first shortcut. Found a boss: The Cleric Beast. I got smooshed.
I actually remember the Cleric Beast from 2015 and that it was why I quit. This time instead of quitting I just ignored it and kept farming to get my character stronger, at the same time getting myself a little better at the game. We’re not talking a straight line improvement. Some days I did well, other days I just had to accept that this wasn’t a day for Bloodborne. On average I was getting better though. Every so often I’d have a go at the Cleric Beast. Failed. Sometimes spectacularly, other times I’d do well enough that I could visualize the day I would succeed.
Monday, on the last day of my vacation, I finally beat the damned thing and it felt pretty good. Now I absolutely KNOW that for skilled Bloodborne players, the Cleric Beast is hardly a speed bump on the path to whatever waits further into the game. But for 60+ year old, slow-reflexed, arthritic-fingered, poor-eyesighted, failing-hearinged me, it felt pretty good.
And it also felt like I was done. At least for now. I wanted to leave Bloodborne while I was feeling good about it, and I had some other things I wanted to play.
Now I have the itch to try another Souls-like. Bloodborne is, frankly, a gross game. The environment is oppressive and the gore-factor is very high. Also the game runs at 30 FPS. None of these aspects thrill me so I’m thinking of trying a different one; there are plenty out there. It’d be really nifty to be able to add “Souls-likes” to my quiver of gaming genres I enjoy.
One of the drags about getting old, for me at least, is that your world keeps shrinking. There are fewer and fewer things you can do. Adding something, even something as trivial as a game genre, really feels like a win. I’m pretty happy I gave Bloodborne one more try.