Bloodborne is finally out, and so it was finally time to bite the bullet and buy a PS4. This is the first - and so far only - game that makes me want a PS4. Sure, there are other games that I want to play (Shadow of Mordor, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, to name a few), but they are all also on PC and Steam, and probably look and run better on the PC. So I had very little incentive to purchase a PS4 up till now, and only needed to temporarily borrow a friend's in order to see if the new Madden was worth anything and to play the exciting P.T. demo that may not be so exciting anymore. Shucks...
Anyway, I've been playing Bloodborne, and it's been quite an adjustment from Dark Souls (much more than the adjustment from Demon's Souls to Dark Souls). As such, I've compiled a short list of tips to help new players and experienced Dark Souls veterans to keep alive in Bloodborne:
I apologize in advance for the poor quality of some of the screenshots that I am including. I had some local network issues during my first playthrough and had to broadcast to Twitch using reduced quality.
Stay on the offensive, as you have no shield to hide behind
This one is pretty obvious, considering that it is the key mechanical difference from Dark Souls. but it does still need to be emphasized. After taking damage, don't rely on rolling away and healing. Instead, it's usually best to follow up damage with an attack of your own. Attacking enemies after taking damage refills your HP a little bit. And enemies in Bloodborne are quick and often attack swiftly, so retreating is rarely a viable option anyway.
The time it takes to close distance to an enemy after taking dodging will reduce the HP you can recover from attacking.
You might have a lot of defensive habits built up from your time playing Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. These techniques worked well in those games, but the mechanical differences in Bloodborne could make them a liability. Try to break those habits early in your play time with Bloodborne. This will reduce the pain you'll suffer in the first couple of levels and spare you from having to constantly sit through the dull, long load screen...
Stamina management is critical
This tip applied to Demon's Souls and Dark Souls as well, but I'm going to repeat it here as well, for the benefit of new players.
Without a shield, staying mobile is key to avoiding damage in Bloodborne. When making combo attacks, always make sure that you leave enough stamina left over for you to roll away from an enemy's potential counter attack. As long as you have any amount of stamina remaining, you can still dodge or roll; you don't have to have the same amount of stamina that the dodge or roll requires.
Before you engage any enemies, take some time to familiarize yourself with how much stamina dodging and attacking consumes. Practice various combos, attack variations, and dodge techniques to see how much stamina they consume so that you will have a feel for how much stamina you'll have left after you perform the maneuver during actual combat.
Keep enough stamina available to dodge, especially when using stamina-draining heavy weapons,
dealing with mobs, or up against heavy-hitters and bosses.
In most one-on-one encounters with basic enemies, stamina may not be that big of a factor. But such a simple confrontation is rare in this game. More often, you'll be dealing with situations in which stamina-management is more critical. Any time you are using a heavy, stamina-draining weapon (such as the Kirkhammer), you'll want to be extra vigilant of your stamina.
You'll also want to be more aware of your stamina when confronting mobs. You don't want to get stuck surrounded by a mob of enemies and run out of the stamina necessary to dodge out. Getting dog-piled is an easy way to a quick death!
Lastly, any time you are facing a heavy-hitting enemy (such as the brutes, executioner, or any boss), you'll want to make efforts to conserve stamina. These enemies can hit very hard and take massive chunks of health away with a single hit. A lot of them also have surprisingly swift strikes that they can use to counter attack in the blink of an eye. Having enough stamina to dodge away from their follow-up combos will mean the difference between life and death.
Be judicious with your bullets
It might feel similar sometimes, but Bloodborne is not Devil May Cry! Your ammo is limited. Since the gun replaces your shield (from Dark Souls), it is your primary method of "parrying" in order to get critical hits on enemies. This ability is vital for surviving encounters with tougher enemies. But if you're out of ammo, then you're effectively out of critical hits too.
Don't blow all your ammo early on mindlessly taking pot shots at enemies. You will quickly run out, and ammo is not easy to come by within levels. Some enemies drop two or four bullets when killed, but if you run out, then your most likely recourse is to return to the Hunter's Dream and buy more. But you'll need Blood Echoes in order to do that.
Shooting enemies to lure them out of mobs is one of the few appropriate non-"parry" uses for your bullets.
I would generally recommend only using your bullets to attempt to parry enemy attacks. You could also use them to lure individual enemies out of a mob. Enemies appear in large groups quite frequently in Bloodborne, and they can rapidly overwhelm a new player. Just be careful that you don't eat away at your bullet reserve by repeatedly luring the same enemies out of the same mob after dying.
Other worthwhile uses would be to hit enemies that are otherwise on platforms that are out of range or difficult to reach or to stagger an enemy off of advantageous high ground. The crow enemies in the sewer area of Yarnham are a good early example of this. They often perch on wooden beams stretching across the sewer channel. If you walk under them, they will ambush you. Shooting them once in order to knock them off the beam so that you can melee attack is a good way to deal with them. As you get a better feel for their attack patterns and the reach and speed of your own weapon(s), you should be able to goad them into making the first move, evading, and counter attacking, which will spare you from having to use bullets.
But either of these last two tactics can be avoided early in the game by instead throwing pebbles at the enemies. Pebbles are cheaper than bullets and are dropped occasionally by enemies earlier in the game.
Press the "Up" button to trade HP for bullets.
Trading HP for bullets
One last sub-tip for using your guns and bullets: you can also sacrifice a large chunk of your HP in order to gain additional bullets for your gun. This is accomplished by pressing "up" on the directional pad of the controller. At the start of the game, this tactic will consume roughly a quarter of your health and give you five bullets (displayed as a red number below your bullet count). As far as I know, the maximum bullets you can have at any given time from this method is 5.
If you are low on ammo, but have plenty of excess Blood Vials, then this technique can be very useful to enable you to parry tough enemies that you may be approaching. Be sure to use a Blood Vial to heal yourself after doing this. Or, if you're in combat, try to quickly attack an enemy in order to regain some of the lost health.
Note: I haven't actually tested to find out if you can die by using this action. Until further notice, I'm going to assume that you can, and so I recommend that you don't use this feature if you are low on health.
Use Blood Vials prior to searching bodies
Bodies drop Blood Vials pretty regularly, and you may be tempted to quickly loot all the bodies after a fight, before something else jumps out and murders you. But if you're HP is not maxed prior to searching bodies, it may be a good idea to pop a Blood Vial or two to get yourself back up to (or close to) max HP. There is a limit to how many Blood Vials you can hold. At the start of the game, it is 20. So if you have to use them anyway, it is a good idea to use them before picking up new ones so that you can keep your supply as close to max as possible.
Most enemy drops will be Blood Vials (at least early in the game). So use your current Blood Vials
before looting bodies in order keep your health and your supply as close to max as possible.
But don't worry, even if you pick up excess, they won't disappear forever. Items beyond your carry limit are automatically moved into the storage cabinet in the Hunter's Dream. But keep in mind that there is also a limit to how many items can be held in storage (99), so if you're up to that limit, definitely make sure to use your Blood Vials before collecting new ones!
Yes, there is a backstab
Backstabs don't work the same as in Dark Souls. Instead of just walking up behind an enemy and making an attack on their back, you must first knock them prone by using a charged heavy attack. Then, you can attack their prone backs in order to perform a critical backstab (called a "visceral" attack). This will kill most early enemies with one hit.
Backstabs require that you first knock the enemy prone with a sneak heavy attack to the back.
Remember that you are vulnerable while charging and executing the heavy attack. Be sure that your approach is unnoticed by any other enemies in the area, or else you may turn yourself into a sitting duck. Once you attack the prone target and trigger the visceral attack, then you become invulnerable for the duration of the animation.
It's also worth noting that the knockback from the visceral attack can actually impact nearby enemies and force them to stagger backwards a few steps. You can't attack them during this time (as far as I know) because you are already locked into an animation. But it does leave them open to attacks against any allies you may have summoned, and in some cases, the stagger may be enough to knock them off a ledge or into an environmental hazard such as a trap or fire.
The weapon workshop is in Hunter's Den.
Remember to improve your weapons
Just like in Dark Souls, you can strengthen your weapons with upgrade material. Except in Bloodborne, you have to do it from the workshop table in the Hunter's Dream hub location (accessible from a checkpoint lamp). The workshop is located in the small building that opens up after you encounter* the first boss and awaken the Doll NPC that allows you to level up. This workshop also allows you to repair your damaged equipment, which is not automatically repaired at checkpoints (like in Dark Souls II).
* You don't need to defeat the first boss. Simply triggering the battle with the boss unlocks the Doll NPC and the workshop. So if you die in your first encounter with that boss, you can farm blood echoes in order to level yourself up enough to beat him.
Don't neglect this workshop, since failure to upgrade your weapons will almost certainly result in you being severely overmatched by the second boss.
A second quick inventory is on to the touchpad.
You can equip items to the touchpad
You actually have two quick inventories in Bloodborne (in addition to the dedicated Blood Vial button). There is the standard inventory that is mapped to the Square button (same functionality as Dark Souls), and there is also a second quick inventory that is accessed by clicking on the right side of the controller's touchpad. Best of all, it's not some gimmicky feature that requires you to do gestures on the pad to use items. It just treats the pad like a button that brings up a small menu, so it's very easy to use.
I like to use this inventory for non-consumable items such as the Notepad (for leaving notes to other players), the multiplayer bells, and so on.
It can also be quite handy for equipping certain "special items" I don't want to spoil things for you, but there is an certain early game boss that can be more easily defeated by using a specific inventory item during the battle. Obviously, you don't want to be fumbling around your full inventory during a fast-paced boss battle. So taking the time to equip such items to one of your two inventories is beneficial. I prefer the touchpad inventory for such uses because it spares me from having to rearrange my regular quick inventory that is usually stocked with throwable weapons and other accessories in a specific order so that they can be efficiently used in the heat of battle. I don't like messing with the order of the items in that list for situational equipment, so the touchpad inventory is a helpful tool.
The poison indicator is small and obscure.
Know where the poison indicator is
Unlike Dark Souls, the poison indicator doesn't appear over the player character's body in the center of the screen where it is obvious to see. Instead, it's a small indicator in the top center of the screen, where it's hard to see. Since most elements of the HUD are in the corners, the location of the poison indicator makes it hard to notice sometimes. I actually did die once because I didn't realize that I had actually been poisoned.
I'm sure that if there are any other status ailments, that their respective indicators will probably be in the same location on the screen. I just haven't gotten far enough into the game yet to encounter any other status effects (except for Frenzy). So make note of enemies that cause poison (they start showing up fairly early in the game), so that you'll know to check for the poison indicator when you engage them in combat. You don't want to be running around and suddenly drop dead from poison now do you?
Touching the checkpoint lamps does not restore your health
Another subtle, but significant change from Dark Souls is that touching the checkpoint lamps no longer restores your health. You can fully restore your health by returning to the Hunter's Dream, but this will (of course) respawn all the enemies and make you have to sit through two load screens! It's probably not worth it unless you are desperate.
Touching the checkpoint lamp does not restore your health or cause enemies to respawn.
You have to teleport to the Hunter's Dream and back in order for those things to happen.
In Dark Souls, it was common for players to return to bonfires in order to restore HP or status effects if they took damage from enemies that were near the bonfire. It was also a cheap way to farm souls. But you can't do it anymore in Bloodborne. Once you enter the level, you're on your own.