Hunter’s Journal Pt. 3 – All Nightmare Long

“Well, once a group of young Byrgenwerth scholars discovered a holy medium deep within the tomb.”

“This led to the founding of the Healing Church, and the establishment of blood healing”.

“In this sense, everything sacred in Yharnam can be traced back to Byrgenwerth.”

Moving forward from the Forbidden Woods, I finally made it to Byrgenwerth; it’s an interesting location from a lore standpoint. This remote institute of higher learning is the place where blood healing began after its scholars discovered the Old Blood in the Pthumerian labyrinth below Yharnam, which in turn, led to the formation of the Healing Church. It’s also mentioned by Alfred in the Cathedral Ward that the church has since declared Byrgenwerth as forbidden ground. I find this bit of lore interesting as it seems unclear(per my mortal understanding) whether this was done to limit knowledge gained anywhere but from the church, or simply out of knowing the dangers that lie beyond the realms of mortal understanding…you know, Lovecraftian ‘curse of knowledge’ themes and all that. Also interesting is that Alfred, who shares this information is an Executioner – part of an extension of the Healing Church whose members seek out and eradicate the Cainhurst Vilebloods, as well as others in order to keep the “purity” of the church intact, which seems like an allusion to inquisitors of the church during the Middle Ages.

Despite the significance Byrgenwerth represents in Yharnam’s murky history, there isn’t all that much to accomplish here. Once I collected a few resources, including an Arcane Lake rune and Empty Phantasm Shell, I made my way outside through the Lunarium door. Outside, I had a (very)brief conversation with Master Willem, who sits quietly gazing at the stars in his rocking chair before having an “accident” and dropped the ‘Eye’ rune. The next thing to do was jump from the edge of the balcony into the dark waters below, which led directly to Rom The Vacuous Spider. The battle against Rom can be tricky, but not exceedingly difficult as long as you’re selective with your attacks and don’t try to run straight at it and begin hacking away recklessly. You also have near unlimited space to fight the idiotic arachnid which makes this much easier the first time…the second time you come across Rom in the Lower Pthumeru Chalice dungeon is much more challenging as it takes place in a smaller, walled-in area.

After defeating Rom, I was…teleported(?) to the small chapel just to the east of the Grand Cathedral. The building was “empty” the first time I visited, but this time around a Lesser Amygdala can be seen floating above the altar. Using the Tonsil Stone or simply letting Amygdala grab you will teleport you directly to the Lecture Building, but I decided to make a dash through the nearby doorway and take another stroll through Yahar’gul Unseen Village. Yahar’gul is still as nerve-racking as my previous playthrough of Bloodborne; there’s multiple enemies across nearly every inch of the area, many of which being summoned(frustratingly, so) by chime maidens. Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend too much time here as I was able to grab the Tiny Tonitrus and Upper Cathedral Key before moving on to the next boss fight: a reanimated pile of corpses known as the One Reborn. I usually see the One Reborn given the title of “worst Bloodborne boss” and…it definitely feels a little underwhelming compared to some of the other epic boss battles in the game. I did have repeat the fight a few times before remembering this heaping collection of cadavers is laughably weak to fire. Prey slaughtered, easy as pie.

From the Cathedral Ward lantern, I rode the elevator up to the Healing Church workshop, fighting through a few waves of enemies before I was able to access the Upper Cathedral Ward. Upon reaching this new area, I carefully made my way through the side entrance to the Orphanage. I’m still not entirely sure I understand how it connects to the Choir and Healing Church, but…either way, those celestial larvae, scourge beasts and Brainsuckers weren’t going to slay themselves. After shamelessly cheesing a pack of scourge beasts through a doorway and taking out a couple Brainsuckers – quite possibly the most annoying enemy in the game, I was able to get ahold of the Orphanage Key which unlocks the front door of the building. Having played through Bloodborne a little over a year ago, I remembered this as the location of two late-game boss fights: Celestial Emissary and Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos. I remembered the Celestial Emissary fight as being ridiculously easy if you have a weapon that is at +7 or more, which I absolutely did. My cane-whip made for a brief boss battle as I could damage several of these Roger-from-American Dad-looking assholes at a time before eventually spawning the big boi Celestial Emissary. Despite how quickly I breezed past this encounter, I remembered the fight against Embrietas, whose chamber is right next door to the Celestial Emissary, as being substantially more difficult. It was at this time I decided to travel to the Nightmare Frontier.

After spending a few minutes wandering around trying to remember how to reach the Lecture Building, it occurred to me that I never went through the opposite doorway after defeating the One Reborn back in Yahar’gul….turns out all I had to do was inspect the mummy just past the lantern(would it still be a From Software game if anything was completely straightforward?). The Lecture Building feels similar to Byrgenwerth as there’s not a lot that you need to do here as it functions as more of a transit station to the Nightmare Frontier and Nightmare of Mensis. The building is essentially a dark library full of mortarboard-wearing, gelatinous blobs known as slime scholars. These enemies move along very slowly, making them relatively easy to avoid as you loot any spare resources scattered around the area, like the Augur of Ebrietas – one of the Hunter Tools needed for the ‘Hunter’s Craft’ trophy.

(I’ve now reached the part of Bloodborne where I’m mostly just trying to stay alive long enough to piece together whatever the literal hell is going on.)

Taking the doorway at the end of the first floor in the Lecture Building leads directly to the wondrous Nightmare Frontier, an otherworldly wasteland of jagged rocks and poisonous sludge. Immediately after reaching this wondrous new area, I hear the ringing of a bell and see a message indicating a sinister bell has been run, meaning I’m about to receive some company; a few moments later a pair of NPC hunters appear. Fortunately, I was able to fight off the hostile intruders before continuing on my merry way.

The Nightmare Frontier only contains two lanterns: one at the entry point and one in the boss arena available only *after* making it through the fight. The area itself isn’t particularly massive, but contains plenty of hazards between points A and B, including silverbeasts, crawlers, and boulder-throwing yetis. Also, to make sure this area is adequate levels of miserable, half of the area is covered in poison sludge you get to wade through – ‘Goddammit, Miyazaki!’ Counter No. ??

I finally made it past the rock-tossing sasquatches, squid-like Crawlers, frenzy-inducing Winter Lanterns and acres of toxic goo just in time to take the small rock bridge across the chasm to meet up with Amygdala, another Great One and the next boss blocking my path to…surviving the night of the hunt, I think? Amygdala is a giant arachnid-like entity that hits pretty damn hard if you get in the way of any of its arms(legs?). Adding to the difficulty of the fight is the fact that its hind legs(the easiest part of the creature to lock onto…of course) take next to no damage from physical attacks, which means you will need to target the head(or a shit ton of elemental attacks). This was significantly easier in my current playthrough as the whip form of the threaded cane has a nice almost-vertical angle of attack when using a charge attack while running towards an enemy. Another advantage was the fact I’d spent so long fighting Amygdala in the Defiled Chalice Dungeon(fuck that place, btw) last year that I still had the attack pattern down pretty well. My strategy for the fight was pretty simple: wait for Amygdala to telegraph its arm smash attack by raising all four limbs in the air and then quickstep to the side before charge-attacking its head. This rendered the fight relatively easy even as I reached the final phase of the fight and Amygdala literally ripped off two of its arms…with…the other two members before flailing about. After sufficient cranial trauma had been inflicted, the Great One Amygdala fell, leaving hunter Dude the victor once again…

Only a few things now remain before I can complete Bloodborne again. Next, I’ll be returning to the second floor of the Lecture Building to travel to the Nightmare of Mensis and ascend Mergo’s Loft, but this would have to wait until the next time as it was now the early hours of the morning and soon rays of light would soon be permeating the night sky, indicating another successful night of hunting.

Farewell, good hunter. May you find your worth in the waking world…

Hunter’s Journal Pt. 2 – Through The Woods

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Father Gascoigne is defeated. It may have taken me a couple more attempts than I had hoped(somewhere between 5-10?), but I finally emerged victorious. The proficient hunter had become consumed by the blood, causing his transformation into a beast not unlike those he had spent so long hunting. This is one of the prominent themes throughout Bloodborne, which brings to mind the above Nietzsche quote. I’m inclined the believe that’s another of the many things that I love about the game: outside the obvious elements like core gameplay or its gorgeous Victorian-Gothic aesthetic, there’s the existential questioning of our own ambitions and desires – “why?” and “at what cost?”. But anyway…back to the beast hunting.

Once Gascoigne had been dealt with it was time to proceed to the Cathedral Ward – one of the most memorable areas of the game for me with its dismal cemeteries surrounding the ward’s namesake structures, which provide a brief respite for those seeking refuge on the night of the hunt.

After exploring the Cathedral Ward and meeting up with Alfred, hunter of Vilebloods, I made my way down to Old Yharnam. The aging district of Yharnam has been reduced to little more than rubble as you see the charred remnants of the Healing Church’s attempt to “purify” the area. As soon as you reach Old Yharnam, you receive a friendly warning by Djura, who sits atop the clock tower with a gatling gun that “Old Yharnam, burned and abandoned by men, is now home only to beasts.” So, of course I do what any reasonable person would do in this situation…grab my cane and torch and begin ridding the area of every foul beast in sight, with any aggression towards the dwellers of Old Yharnam causes Djura to promptly begin raining bullets upon hunter Dude. I’m still familiar enough with the area from my previous Bloodborne playthrough, so I didn’t have too tough of a time avoiding “Machine Gun Djura” and the hordes of enemies that remind me of the Big Bad Wolf disguised as Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother(blanket and everything) as I navigated my way to the next boss – the Blood-Starved Beast.

Vileblood Hunter Alfred was available as an NPC summon just outside the lair of the Blood-Starved Beast, he quickly came to my aid, Kirkhammer in hand as we fought the giant, über-agile beast….which I had to repeat roughly a dozen times, including a detour or two through Central Yharnam to farm some blood vials and level up twice. Once the beast had been slain, I headed back up the grand staircase of the Cathedral Ward to face off against Vicar Amelia, another of my favorite Bloodborne boss battles(amazing…alliteration).

The Vicar Amelia fight takes place inside the Grand Cathedral as we first meet Amelia in her human form before transforming into a menacing beast right before you. This fight is the first boss battle where the Threaded Cane felt like an advantage as its charge attack would have enough range to hit her in the head and would routinely stun her long enough to get some real damage in. After Amelia had met her end at the hands of Dude, Beast Slayer, I approached the altar and interacted with the elongated skull of Laurence, which prompts a cutscene in which we see a brief conversation between him and Provost Willem ending with one of the game’s taglines: “Fear the Old Blood”.

Ok…fear old blood, got it!

Shortly thereafter, I ventured from the Grand Cathedral and through Hemwick Charnel Lane which is always a lovely time. Surprisingly, I managed to make it through the entire area full of sickle-wielding witches and scary, pointy dogs without dying, only to take a cheap shot once I reached the Witch of Hemwick, usually the easiest boss in the game…provided you know the trick to it. Upon reaching the witch’s abode a second time, I promptly eliminated the Witch of Hemwick and was on my merry way…

It was now time to make my way through my favorite area of the game(sarcasm alert)…the fuckin’ Forbidden Woods. Not only is this place dark and scary with plenty of perilous hazards, but once you make it to the second half of the area, it becomes overrun by bundles of snakes…of course it has to be goddamn snakes. Fortunately, this was my fourth(?) time traversing the area and I’m familiar enough with this miserable viper maze to know to stay along the right side of the area as far as possible before making a quick left, and then another right through a rusty gate which will eventually lead to another of my favorite boss fights(more sarcasm) – the Shadow of Yharnam. This boss fight puts you against not one, not two, but THREE hooded assholes, two of which come at you with katanas and the other one stands back and spams fireballs at you like they’re named Ken or Ryu. Of course, we wouldn’t want this to be a simple fight now would we? So, to make things even more exciting, each of the three Shadows can begin to summon gigantic snakes during a third phase which emerge from the ground and force you to immediately go full evasive maneuvers. I only had to repeat this…<sigh>most joyous test of skill a few times as I knew to equip my bolt paper to add a charge of electricity to my cane-whip and that the best strategy is to distribute damage evenly so I could quickly take out all three within moments of each other and avoid an annoying third phase of the fight. I’ve accumulated enough experience by now that it’s not as difficult going through the area as it once was, but I still emphatically decree – Fuck the Forbidden Woods AND Shadow of Yharnam…can’t wait to meet up with them again in Mergo’s Loft.

Now that the Forbidden Woods had been mostly cleared – I still need to go through the poison caves(thank you, Miyazaki) to reach the rear entrance of Iosefka’s Clinic, it’s time to press forward to the next area – Byrgenwerth. This is one of the more fascinating areas to me from a game lore standpoint, but it was around this time I decided to get some sleep. Tune in next time as we’ll take a stroll through Byrgenwerth before battling Rom, the Vacuous Spider and marching onward to Castle Cainhurst.

Farewell, good hunter. May you find your worth in the waking world…