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A couple weeks ago, I published some basic tips for playing Bloodborne. That post focuses mostly on the major mechanical differences between Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and how your strategies and tactics should be adjusted to compensate.

In this post, I'm going to go a little bit more in-depth into some of the game's features in order to provide some more advanced strategies and tips that will become useful for players as they progress deeper into the game. As before, these will be general tips. I will not focus on tactics for defeating specific enemies, bosses, or levels. I invite you to view any number of walkthroughs, strategy guides, and let's plays scattered around the internet if you're interested in how to beat a certain part of the game.

But if you know any general tips that I missed, feel free to post a comment!

The enemy that killed you does not necessarily have your Blood Echoes

Trying to find your blood echoes after dying can be annoying in Bloodborne. This is because it isn't in a predictable location every time. Sometimes it will be held by a specific enemy that you have to kill in order to retrieve the blood echoes. Other times it will just be dropped on the ground near where you died. This does make the game a bit more challenging, since you usually have to defeat an enemy in order to regain you echoes, rather than just sprinting through the level to pick them up like you could in Dark Souls.

Bloodborne - echo retrieval
Look for the enemy with the glowy, purple eyes. It won't necessarily be the same enemy that killed you.

If the blood echoes are held by an enemy, that enemy's eyes will glow with a bright purple-ish energy. But the enemy that holds the blood echoes is not necessarily the same enemy that killed you. The echoes could be given to the closest enemy. When attempting to retrieve your echoes, try to do some recon of an area to find out which enemy has your blood echoes. If you're lucky, it may be an enemy that is easier to get to or easier to kill than the one that actually killed you.

For example, if you died to an enemy in the far end of a mob, your blood echoes may instead appear on an enemy that is in the nearer part of a mob. In this case, you won't have to cut your way through the entire mob of enemies in order to get back your echoes. You can kill the one enemy and then decide whether to engage the others, move on to a different (hopefully easier) path, or retreat to the Hunter's Dream and spend your recovered echoes before you lose them again.

Bloodborne - blood stain
Blood Echoes may appear as a blood stain.

If you don't see any enemies with the purple eyes, then find a safe perch and try using your Monocular to search the area for the blood stain. I'm not sure of the exact rules for blood echo retrieval, but from my anecdotal experience, it seems that deaths from harder enemies (such as executioners and Church Giants) and mini-bosses are more likely to result in your blood echoes being dropped into a blood stain on the ground. Deaths from more "normal" enemies (such as townsfolk and even werewolves) will usually result in one enemy in that same mob holding your blood echoes.

As far as I know, environmental deaths will always result in a blood stain on the ground.

In the case of a death to a boss, I have always seen my blood echoes appear as a blood stain on the ground in the boss area. So when re-engaging a boss that has already killed you, it may be a good idea to quickly locate your blood stain and avoid directly engaging the boss until you've recovered your echoes. Sometimes, you can even see the echoes from behind the nightmare fog. Just be careful that you don't leave yourself exposed to attack.

If the boss is very hard, and you don't think you can beat it (at least without help), but your blood stain is particularly valuable, then consider picking it up and then immediately using a Bold Hunter's Mark in order to escape the boss fight and return to the last checkpoint. You can then return to the Hunter's Dream and use the recovered echoes to level, fortify weapons, buy additional supplies, etc.

If you're very confident that you can beat the boss, or if your bloodstain is not very valuable, then you may not want to bother picking it up until after you've defeated the boss. This will avoid the risk of any cheap deaths due to going out of your way to pick up the bloodstain, and won't put your current echo stock in jeopardy.

Exit the game properly to ensure your blood echoes remain

Bloodborne - Exit game
Exit the game via the in-game menu
to avoid losing blood echoes.

I am not sure if this is a glitch or a "feature" of the game, but if you neglect to exit the game via the "Exit to Menu" option in the in-game system menu, then you risk losing any un-recovered blood echoes. Turning off the console or quitting the game via the PS4's "Close Application" option can result in your blood echoes being relocated to an area of the game that is not accessible until a moderate chunk of the game has been completed and several key bosses defeated. If you haven't made enough progress to unlock this area yet, then any un-recovered blood echoes are effectively lost if you fail to exit the game properly.

You can "parry" an enemy at range

One of the intersting side effects of using a gun to trigger a "parry" (instead of a shield) is that it can be done at range. This can be especially useful against the brick trolls, executioners, and other large enemies that have some slow, winding attacks. These slow attacks can give you time to back out of range of the attack and still fire your gun as the enemy swings. Doing so will still stun the enemy just as if you had done it right in his face. He will fall to a knee, and you will be able to run up and perform a critical hit.

Bloodborne - ranged parry
Enemies like executioners and brick trolls can be more easily defeated by parrying them at range.

This tactic is especially relevant in co-op, since one player can engage an enemy in melee while the other holds back at range. The ranged player can wait for the meleed enemy to begin an attack swing and then shoot the gun to stun him, and the melee character can then take advantage of the stunned enemy to get a critical hit. Or the ranged player can run up and make the critical attack herself.

This can even be done with summoned NPCs. These NPCs don't do much damage themselves, but they are usually very resilient and can be a great distraction for tougher enemies and bosses. If you let you NPC ally engage an enemy in melee, then you can hang back and wait for an opportunity to make a critical shot.

This can also be useful in PvP against button-mashing opponents who continue to swing their weapon even after you've dodged away.

You can mash buttons to escape grabs

If you're being frustrated by enemies that grab you and deal multiple hits, then you should be aware that many of these grabs can be escaped by mashing certain buttons on the controller. Most sources seem to say that rapidly alternating between L2 and R2 will escape the grab quickly. Other sources are saying that mashing any button (L1, R1, L2, R2, X, or O) will perform a grab escape. I've been in the habit of mashing the circle button, but that doesn't seem to work for most of the enemies that I've been grabbed by. I'll have to do more research to find out what specific buttons work best.

Bloodborne - double backstab
Mashing L2 and R2 after being grabbed can allow you to throw off the enemy and escape with less damage.

This method doesn't work on all enemies though. It may not work on bosses that have grab attacks, and it also may not work against the slime enemies that appear in Chalice dungeons. I'll have to do more testing to verify.

If anybody can confirm what buttons work best, or what enemies it works against, please post a comment below! Thanks.

Transform your weapon to extend the reach of your backstab

Most weapons' transformed state has a longer range. You can take advantage of this longer range in order to backstab an opponent from further away. Performing the charge attack from behind with the longer range can allow you to catch unawares some enemies that would otherwise detect your approach. It's also helpful at catching enemies that are moving, since you don't have to get as close, and the enemy is less likely to walk out of the range of your weapon.

The exact range of the attack varies based on the specific weapon, but most weapons that are available in the first half of the game will have a long enough transform range to be able to use this technique. For weapons that have a swinging charge attack, the longer range can also increase the arc of the attack. This can make it easier to catch enemies from behind while in the midst of combat, since you're more likely to hit them in movement.

Backstab chaining

I described the process for a backstab in my previous strategy post, but there is additional nuance to this ability. You can actually chain multiple heavy attacks together in order to essentially stun lock an enemy indefinitely and do massive amounts of damage.

To do this, perform a heavy charge attack on an enemy's back in order to stagger them as normal. But instead of following up with a normal R1 attack (to perform the critical backstab), instead begin holding R2 again to charge a second attack. By the time the enemy recovers from the first stagger, the second charge attack should have charged, and you'll re-stagger the enemy. The exact charge time and attack speed varies between weapons, so the enemy may or may not begin recovering from the first charge attack before the second one hits.

If you hit an enemy with a second charge attack before they recover from the first stagger, then the attack damage will be multiplied. This can result in doing even more damage than an actual backstab! Better still, you can still perform the normal backstab critical after any of the chained charge attacks.

Bloodborne - double backstab
Making a second charged heavy attack can actually do more damage than the backstab critical!
Just be aware that you are vulnerable to other enemies while charging the second attack.

There are some pros and cons of chaining your charge attack instead of backstabbing:

  • PROS:
    • You can stun lock an enemy indefinitely, preventing it from counter attacking,
    • You can accumulate much more damage than with a standard backstab.
  • CONS:
    • You do not have the backstab invulnerability while charging your chained heavy attack, so you are left vulnerable to any other enemies in the area,
    • You may not regain as much HP with a single charged attack, since the visceral backstab seems to completely regain your HP,
    • Not all weapons can reliably perform this technique due to varying charge speeds, range, etc.

Editorial Note: Chaining heavy back attacks like this could be considered an exploit. Using it in PvP can effectively kill an opponent without any chance of him or her being able to escape. Because of this, I think that it is a strong likelihood that this ability will eventually be removed via a patch by the developers.

Take the time to learn the advanced maneuvers of your weapons

Whenever you acquire a new weapon, you should take a few moments to practice its moveset. Knowing the capabilities of your weapons is essential to tackling the more difficult challenges later in the game. Every weapon has far more attacks available than the ones that are offered by just repeating the same 3 or 4-hit R1 combos and the heavy R2 attack. Below is a list of some of the more advanced maneuvers available to most weapons.

Transforming during a combo

You can replace any R1 command in a combo with L1 in order to perform a transform attack during the combo. Doing so will transform the weapon and make an attack without breaking the stride of the combo. All subsequent attacks in the combo will be with the transformed state. For example, pressing R1, L1, R1 with the threaded cane will swing your cane, then perform a long-range crack of the whip, and finally a horizontal sweep with the whip. You can also perform multiple transforms in the same combo, for example pressing R1, L1, L1 with the Threaded Cane will cause you to start the combo with a normal attack with the cane, then the long whip attack, then another swing with the cane.

Tranforming mid-combo allows you to change the range, damage, or speed of your attacks mid-combo, which can be useful depending on your situation and the weapon equipped. In the first example with the threaded cane, the third attack in the combo (with the whip) will have greater range and a wider, sweeping arc. This combo could be useful if you are engaging a single enemy in a mob, but immediately attract the attention of other nearby members of the mob who start to crowd around you.

Other weapons such as the Kirkhammer might not necessarily change their range or arc, but will change their strength. The transform of this weapon is a two-handed hammer, which is slower but more damaging. You can start your combo with the quicker sword attack, in order to catch the enemy in a combo, then follow up with the heavier hammer attack in order to do more damage and finish him off. Since the hammer form of the Kirkhammer is two-handed, it also negates the use of your off-hand gun.

Backstep attacks

You can perform a backstep and then immediately press the attack button to lunge forward and close the distance with a counter attack. It's sometimes a good idea to delay the attack very slightly in order to ensure that the enemy completely misses you. You don't want to attack too early after backstepping and then lunge right into the attack you just dodged.

You can also use L1 to trigger a transform attack after a backstep. Depending on the weapon equipped and its current transform state, the range of this attack will vary. Take the time to test it in a safe location and practice it against some easy enemies.

After backstepping away from an enemy, you can press R1 or L1 to close the distance and counter attack.
In this case, I transformed with L1 to use the whip's increased range and sweeping combos.

This tactic can also be useful after taking damage. If you get hit by one of the first attacks of an enemy combo and backstep out of the subsequent attacks, you can counter with your own attack in order to regain some HP while the enemy waits for its own stamina to recharge.

Attacking without a target lock

Sometimes it is actually helpful to attack without a target lock. Doing so allows you to rotate the character around to attack different enemies in a single combo. This way, you can hit more enemies in a group instead of repeatedly hitting the same enemy. You can use this to interrupt some enemies' attacks, which can help you to survive when surrounded by a mob. This is particularly useful for weapons that have poor range or narrow swing arcs.

Not locking to a target also allows slightly greater mobility. You can more quickly track the movement of a fast-moving target (like a dog) and hit it mid-movement instead of whiffing as it hops around you. This can be particularly helpful in PvP, since it makes it harder for your opponent to predict your moves, and it allows you to more easily change the direction of your attacks in order to hit enemies that frequently roll.

Lastly, neglecting the target lock can also be helpful in some encounters with bosses or oversized enemies. The camera can get very problematic if you lock onto such enemies and can lead to cheap deaths since you might not be able to see your surroundings very well. Avoiding the target lock in these situations allows you to position the camera yourself, but it also requires a lot of manual micro-management of the camera.

Attacking without a target lock requires a great deal of practice! An unpracticed player will likely miss many attacks and leave herself open to counter attacks, especially against mobs. But once learned, this technique will become a valuable trick in your arsenal.

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