Friday, January 19, 2018

Tools of the Trade

"Now, where did I put the Rifle Spear...?"
Over the New Year's break I noticed a Bloodborne sale on PSN with all the DLC included.  So, I finally decided to pick myself up a copy.  I'm a big fan of Demon's Souls and the first Dark Souls, but Dark Souls 2 gave me a severe case of franchise fatigue.  As such, it took me a long time to work up the motivation to play yet another one of From Software's brutally difficult third-person action RPGs.  For the most part Bloodborne is an excellent next-step in terms of design.  A lot of the needlessly complicated baggage that muddled aspects of the Souls series has been refined and streamlined in Bloodborne; the number of character attributes has been reduced, the complex system of equipment upgrade trees has been greatly pruned, the repost technique has been modified by replacing parrying with "boomsticking," and the weapon list has been mostly stripped of redundancy.  That last point is a bit controversial amongst Souls fans in that some prefer a wider variety than what's available in Bloodborne.  I would argue that the greater variety found in the Souls games is actually an illusion though in that weapon categories sharing the same moveset usually have one among their number which is undeniably superior in every way, a fact that renders all the rest undesirable (at least in the long run).  Regardless of what individual fans feel about the limited arsenal, I think there's one thing pretty much everyone can agree on - weapons in Bloodborne are kind of weird.

The closest there is to a
Bloodborne table-top RPG
Before continuing, I should clarify that last statement by saying particularly when it comes to melee.  Given the faux-historical setting blunderbusses, wheellocks, and other black powder firearms are a logical fit.  That said, "hunters," as they are called in-game, have some bizzare tastes when it comes to doing their job up close and personal.  Take, for example, the iconic starting weapon - the Saw Cleaver.  To me it looks suspiciously like an oversized straight razor.  Similarly, the Whirligig has a shape reminiscent of a pizza cutter.  The Flamesprayer has an uncanny resemblance to a plant mister (with the obvious exception that it shoots fire instead of water).  The Kirkhammer might actually be an exceptionally large meat tenderizer, while the Tonitrus looks more like a scepter lacking in adornments rather than a precursor to the stunbatton.  The Threaded Cane is just that, a cane (that happens to be made of segmented joints).  Then there is the Logarius Wheel which is...yes, you guessed it...a wagon wheel with some nasty bits attached to it.  Meanwhile, weapons like the stakedriver, church pick and hunter's axe feel more appropriate for use in construction work than combat.  The Burial Blade is basically a swiss-army scythe (great for harvesting wheat and it folds up nicely!).  Based on it's own descriptive text, the Fist of Gratia is really just a lump of iron with some crude finger holes in it.  In other words, if it were a bit rounder you could go bowling with it.  The Rifle Spear looks like an enlarged version of a penknife.  Lastly there's some creature's arm, a beast's claw and a parasitic organism, all of which can be used in battle (although they might be better suited to a jar of formaldehyde sitting on some biologist's specimen shelf).

As I said before, not all weapons in Bloodborne are such strange combinations of utility and deformity.  Ludwig's Holy Blade is most definitely a sword, as is the Chikage.  Even the exotic reiterpallasch is actually based on real-world renaissance era prototypes of attempts to combine firearm and blade into a single weapon.  Having said that, realistic weapons are definitely in the minority when it comes to a hunter's arsenal.  Then again, when you're up against werewolves, vampires, and the Cthulhu Mythos (in all but name) the best option might be to fight unconventional foes with unconventional weaponry.

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