‘Bloodborne’ starting guide: ‘Dark Souls,’ this is not

Bloodborne
As the first game in Dark Souls’ lineage that doesn’t actually have “Souls” in its name, you might expect Bloodborne to be a little different — and you’d be right. Dark Souls, this is not.

With that in mind, even veteran Souls players are going to need some help starting out in Bloodborne. From Software has altered the very DNA of its punishing and rewarding signature formula, and you’re going to have to adjust the way you approach the developers’ newest dark, twisted world.

If you’re new to the series entirely, this applies triple — and you’ll need a lot of luck besides to progress in Bloodborne. So before Digital Trends’ full Bloodborne review goes live at a later date, check out these tips and explanations to help ease you into the world of Yharnam and beyond.

Starting out

Bloodborne

As with past games in the series, Bloodborne opens with an in-depth character creation process — now with beards and sunglasses! Once you’ve selected those, you’ll also choose a starter class. For melee builds, try out the well-rounded Military Veteran class; if you want to focus more on guns, which probably isn’t advisable for a first run, choose a class with a high “bloodtinge” stat. The best advice is to pick whatever you think will fit your play style best, even if it’s the blank-slate “waste of skin” template that starts out at the lowest level so you can choose exactly where to allocate your skill points later on.

No matter what you choose, you’ll soon find yourself in the midst of the action. Bloodborne is a clear evolution from the Dark Souls games, but more remains closely rooted to the first game, Demon’s Souls. Just like in Demon’s Souls, you have to die once to be sent to the hub world, the Hunter’s Dream. In Bloodborne you don’t start out with a weapon, though, meaning that death will come even more swiftly.

Still, it’s worth exploring the first area to find some blood vials — the new, finite healing item — and silver bullets, the other essential new consumable. You’ll now heal by pressing “triangle,” regardless of what item you have equipped. It’s a convenient change, although it may also lead to you wasting some vials if you’re used to using triangle to switch your combat stance in the previous games. It’s something you’ll need to get used to, along with a ton of other changes that are detailed in the combat section below.

Gearing up

Once you’ve died — or found the first lantern (Bloodborne‘s progress-saving bonfires), which is far less likely — you’ll finally arrive in the safety of the Hunter’s Dream. Examine the adorable little pygmies popping up out of the ground around here to gain your first weapons. Like the starting class, which you choose depends on how you want to play.

The cleaver is fast and lets you keep your firearm out even when it’s fully extended, while the axe can do more damage and has better reach, but forces you to put your gun away when you’re two-handing it. Similarly, the blunderbuss is great for close-quarters attacks and crowd control, while the pistol can do more damage from further away.

Any weapon you choose here is going to get the job done for the time being, and the others will soon become available for purchase, in case you change your mind later on or want to experiment. No matter what you decide on, you’ll want to open the “options” menu and equip your new gear by selecting the slots on the “arms” row that’s second from the top. The first two slots are for your right arm, and are generally where you’ll put melee weapons. You can switch between two equipped weapons using the right directional button.

Bloodborne

The second two slots can be used for firearms and other gear, like torches and this game’s pathetic excuses for shields (it really, really doesn’t want you to use them — more on that below). Switch between these with the left D-pad button.

You can’t level up before fighting the first boss, but there is one thing on which you can spend your “blood echoes” (Bloodborne‘s version of experience-slash-currency “souls”). From the fountain near the center of the Hunter’s Dream, you can purchase a new set of armor that should help in your fight against the beasts — until you find something better, at least.

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