hi, i have movie reviews to do. but since i have spent the last 2 months re-arranging my molecules after adding new medication to my daily regimen, i’m feeling a little rusty. before i get back to writing things that are good, i would like to stretch my brain writing something bad. stick with me.
my friends, allow me to present to you…the greatest videogame ever made in human history
my relationship with the 2015 fromsoftware title “bloodborne” could best be described as “worrying”. considering the already fragile mental state/ego of the dark souls community, this is a confession that should put me on a list of some kind. if we aren’t creating incredibly tortured and tenuous connections between the barest scraps of information, then we’re reading other people’s baseless speculation and going “wow, that really makes sense to me”. they should add whatever we have in the next DSM; i didn’t realize how deeply insane i sounded until i tried to talk to another human being about the game with my mouth in a real-life physical space. go to another person right now who doesn’t know what bloodborne is and try to explain who the celestial emissaries are without being forcibly removed in a straight jacket. life imitates art, i guess.
as much as i try not to succumb to the urges*, i too find myself weaving elaborate narratives as a result of my love affair with the fromsoft lore delivery system: the player must take the initiative to read item descriptions and notice their placement, examine the environment for context clues both big and infuriatingly miniscule, and explore every inch of yharnam to try to to gain even an inkling of what the fuck is happening. that’s how it starts. then you’re reading interviews, cracking the game for cut content (fromsoft famously just leaves all of their cut content in the game and there’s always a stunning heap of it) and comparing beta versions of the game’s map that looks like it was drawn on a napkin with the canonical map. collecting and making sense of fromsoft lore is arduous, deeply annoying work that involves reading a lot of annoying and wrong people’s ideas to try to spur some of your own, but at least we can take comfort in the fact that its also extremely pointless and time consuming.
[sobbing] help us we are very sick (via the bloodborne-wiki)
(as a weird site note: i do not think i would call the collective of people are absolutely nutty about fromsoft a “fandom” due to fandom culture’s inability (largely, not entirely) to gain traction in these circles. obviously there are people that share fanart, ideas, and mods, but the cooperation within the community has been, i think, drastically shaped by 2 things: 1. the sexlessness of the games themselves. which i recognize is a bold and incredible claim for me to make considering gwynevere’s massive honkers and the suspicious number of women without shoes on. but while the developers are horny as hell, i dont think anyone in the dark souls universe knows what sex is except for arianna. that’s one out of how fucking many?! additionally, no one wants to see these beef jerky people have sex because then they’d have to think about how they’d fall apart like someone shredding a boiled chicken. and 2. the game itself utilizes and fosters stark, silent, jolly cooperation. your ability to communicate to other players is limited entirely to silent gestures and, if they find them, wood carvings that yell “IM SORRY” when you smash them on the ground. the community, i think, mirrors the relationships you build within the game. anyway)
ive never seen people communicate like this in a videogame. incredible stuff (via kite pride worldwide @somethingawful)
at some point this year, in a fit of self-righteous pique, i created and posted my own “bloodborne iceberg” meme as a catty response to the two that i knew existed at the time. the existing ones were, in my eyes, baby shit; either barely scratching the surface of the stories and details i found fascinating or they were just fucking WRONG. stupid wrong! the kind of wrong that makes you realize some people’s ability to think critically calcified in the 8th grade. as soon as people start trying to drag lovecraft shit into bloodborne lore i completely lose it. no!!! you are NOT utilizing outside knowledge to draw logical conclusions when you say byrgenwerth is miskatonic university!!!!!
shut up!! shut up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
anyway here’s the damn thing already:
if you don’t know anything about bloodborne, this is probably like word salad to you. if i showed you this and told you it made sense to me, you would be right to take me to a hospital. but i know there are fandom rubberneckers who have no interest in playing the game itself who nevertheless enjoy looking at charts detailing how desperate for answers or explanations we’ve become. of course, i personally think that the soulsborne (a portmanteau of “dark souls” and “bloodborne”, both fromsoft creations) games are not to be “solved” and should retain much of the deliberate, artful ambiguity. i think generally anyone who has interacted meaningfully with me would agree that attempting to discern a definitive, irrefutable, seamless meaning to narratives that are purposefully constructed as to invite the reader to fill in the gaps on their own is sad. just a sad, sad way to interact with art. absolutely refusing to do anything but examine it at arms length so it doesn’t touch you.
the gimmick of the iceberg is this: it’s supposed to be a collection of easter eggs, observations and theories, or (arguably) plausible speculation (colloquially known as “lore”) that grows more and more obscure/bizarre as you reach the bottom. the image on the right that accompanies each level is intended to depict the level of psychic damage you would have taken to store all this stupid shit in your brain.
i will go over all of these and why i chose the images i did. I’ll also try to include (when possible) the origin of specific theories and a determination of how plausible they are. i’ll do my best to provide the information necessary so that the uninitiated can try to understand what the fuck im talking about, but you’re going to have to use context clues for some things. this will contain spoilers and frank discussions of nasty shit like infanticide. reader beware!!! you’re in for a scare!!
level 1: surface knowledge
our image for this level is the player character, the hunter, in his iconic outfit that you find in a sewer in the game.
altar of despair + annalise
jesus christ, i started out with one that requires a 3 hour lecture to understand. and, even better, no one else understands it either. i’m going to do my best here: there is- uh, were a contingent of nobles called “vilebloods”; vampires to compliment the abundance of werewolves in this game. there is only one living vileblood left: the vileblood queen, annalise.
annalise is immortal and impossible to wound, but its not really clear why she is. people have all kinds of theories, but i have trouble working around how she is the seemingly only immortal being in the entire game*†. by all appearances she is an average noble woman who also happens to have a helmet welded to her face to prevent her from, presumably, biting or eating people.
*wrong! future bea here. the “undead giant” in the chalice dungeons technically counts. although he looks like he’s been forcibly stitched back together a few times where as annalise is physically fine. zombie undead vs vampire undead i guess.
all hail the undying queen of blood!
it can’t be a trait inherent to vilebloods because the rest of them were brutally slaughtered by a church sanctioned group. i assume someone came up with the helmet solution when they realized they couldn’t kill someone described explicitly as “undead” and trapped her in her magically concealed throne room. despite the best efforts of the executioners, you show up and find her. okay, now here’s where it gets a little awkward, through a series of unfortunate events you facilitate, she is mashed into red paste by a maniac.
annalise is the leader of a covenant (a pvp thing) so her being dead is kind of inconvenient if you’re trying to raise your rank. fortunately, there’s a solution: you can dump a chunk of what’s left of her (specifically her liver) on a rock in an underground cave beneath the grand cathedral that has a big dead spider on it. the message “time flows in reverse for this scrap of flesh” pops up and next time you visit annalise she’s back on her throne good as new! why, you may ask?
don’t worry, she’s fine (long story)
your guess is as good as mine. its not clear why this happens at all. my theory is simple: the altar of despair (the big spider rock) is located in an area of the game world that is kissing the unfathomable, eldritch cosmos (look around, you’re in great isz!) and is bound to have some weird shit happen there. all the bosses in that dungeon end up being ones you’ve already killed…how mysterious…!
this is a surface level game mechanic. i have no idea how people discovered it in the first place but now its a open secret.
celestial emissaries were people
whew! this one is easy. there’s a boss/enemy mob called “celestial emissaries” that look like 1950s b-movie rubber aliens. their name suggests they were meant to be a conduit between humanity and the great ones, but how did they come about…?
well, in the clinic of a woman named iosefka, we find…THIS!!!!!
oh my god they were people all along aaaaaaaa
its hard to miss this in game. just open your eyes.
abandoned old workshop
if you manage to pull off the most spectacular acrobatics of your life (thank you fromsoft, i love your platforming sections), you can discover a location called “the abandoned workshop”. it is an eerie, run-down replica of the sanctuary area of the game, “the hunter’s dream”. the hunter’s dream is not a physical location (it is a literal dream) and there are items to collect related to the original group of hunters from hundreds of years ago (“the old hunters”) that makes one wonder why it was abandoned and when. there’s even a lifeless version of the doll.
this is easy to find in the game. it’s a lot harder to get to.
three third cords
one of the items in the abandoned old workshop is “one third of umbilical cord”. it is described as the “precursor to the umbilical cord” (?). there are four one third umbilical cords in bloodborne but you only need three; a note left by someone who felt they didnt have to elaborate gives us this stark information: “three third cords”.
careful distinction: it is not “one third of an umbilical cord”. you aren’t collecting 3 parts to one cord. you’re collecting one of three umbilical cords from three (well, four) different…origins. there is some debate about whether this is the case of a bad translation. in other versions (including the UK iirc) have it listed as “third umbilical cord” which not only makes more sense considering the item picture is of an entire umbilical cord, but the idea that alien space gods have 3 umbilical cords is delightfully repulsive to the human species. it invites a little more imagination than just a standard human pregnancy and makes the “making a eldritch baby” process sound much more complicated and mysterious.
you can tell they are aliens due to the presence of goop in this image. goo is a vital part of alien culture
anyway, these items give you three insight (a game mechanic that reveals hidden horrors as the number goes up) when you “consume” them (very unclear what this means, terrifying to contemplate), and eating three of them sets you up for the real final boss of the game (“the moon presence”), who can only be summoned by the cords.
since we’ve talked about the workshop, here’s the description of the umbilical cord you find in the workshop:
“Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate. The Third Umbilical Cord precipitated the encounter with the pale moon, which beckoned the hunters and conceived the hunter’s dream.”
the umbilical cords herald encounters with the great ones no matter whether it was because humanity attempted contact or the great one just decided to drop by unannounced. the being described as the “pale moon” responsible for the creation of the hunter’s dream is the moon presence. the child loss part is extremely unclear. i dont think anyone knows wtf that shit’s about.
yes, they are covered in eyes. don’t worry about it. that’s just your “eyes on the inside” as they say (or Insight….get it?).
you’re likely to discover at LEAST one of these one any given playthrough.
iosefka is an imposter
the first character most people meet in the game is Iosefka (pronounced “yo-sef-ka”), a doctor who has locked up her clinic for the duration of that night’s hunt (the hunt is a frequent event, but people within the world of bloodborne start to comment and worry about how supernaturally long the night is lasting this time) to protect her patients. she’ll only talk to you through the door for everyone’s safety, gives you a little medicine vial of her own creation, and then gently and kindly shoos you away.
come back later after progressing to the next big area of the game and iosefka has a job for you: send her any survivors you find. if you do this, she’ll give you a little something for your trouble. send her enough people and the veil will drop, allowing her to indulge in some patented Fromsoft Sinister Laugher.
how awkward, this isn’t the iosekfa from the start of the game! this is an impostor!
affectionally called “fauxsefka”
you never see the original iosekfa’s face and enough time passes between your first encounter and the next that you likely forget what her voice sounds like. they are certainly two different people though; the new iosekfa is a high ranking member of the church who seems to be engaged in unauthorized off-hours research that involves turning people into celestial children (see above) so that she herself could transcend humanity. the only way into the clinic is through the back, so when you sneak in she’s quite cross with you for discovering her unethical experimentation and will try to kill you.
whatever, bitch! i was one of the last people on the planet to realize there’s two iosekfas so i think everyone figures this out at some point.
an initially seemingly useless gesture you learn from a withered corpse at the highest echelon of the healing church. you hold your arms like you’re saying it’s 9 o’ clock.
if you hold it for one minute, the hunter will switch the arms. now it’s 3 o clock.
do this in front of a giant rotten brain you find in a big hole and get a special caryll rune (a gameplay mechanic that gives you temporary boosts): moon. moon (the one in the sky) is important. i have no idea what the gesture is trying to convey. a funny (maybe good?) guess is that your hunter knows math and is doing gauss’ pythagorean right triangle proposal.
the only other character who reacts to this is the doll, who claps politely when you swap hands and not when you begin the gesture, like all other gestures. odd.
this is another one where i have no idea how people found it. i THINK it was the official guidebook lol.
mergo’s lullaby=music box
the worst track in the game, lullaby for mergo, is an intentionally off-tune clunky music box song. off tune means SCARY.
this song is encountered for the first time at the very start of the game. a young girl gives you a music box with the hopes that it will bring her father back to his senses and stave off beasthood just a little while longer. you can use it in the fight with one of the first bosses, father gascoigne, to stun him. the song appears once again as the background music for mergo’s wet nurse. she was robbed of a better song.
i would guess its an in universe folk song. it’s also hard not to notice they’re the same bc they’re both terrible in the exact same way.
that wraps up the first part. see you next time with uhhh oh cum dungeon, great.
† future bea here again, sadly i came up with some more “theory”. i was going to mention that there’s one character in the game that probably SHOULD be undead: yharnam, pthumerian queen (the city was named after her). she is the true, TRUE end boss of the game but requires a ton of dedication and diving into the (optional) chalice dungeons to fight her as a boss. you encounter her mourning her infant (who appears to have been cut out of her) in the base game twice.
there is a stark difference between her appearance in the game and in the chalice dungeons: the boss version is pregnant.
god this is so stupid complicated but someone out there might appreciate it. the second half of bloodborne is VERY baby-crazy, starting with the first appearance of yharnam as you unwittingly reveal the blood moon. the blood moon is a bad omen:
“When the red moon hangs low, the line between man and beast is blurred. And when the Great Ones descend, a womb will be blessed with child.
well, there’s a red moon and people are turning into dogs. the great ones do appear to be descending. but who was womb?? was it this mysterious queen?? no. because after you defeat the queen in the chalice dungeons, your reward is (to many people’s annoyance) a dead baby that’s functionally useless:
a dead baby is about as useless as it gets
this item literally serves no purpose in game but has an eerie item description that shares many similarities with the item “queenly flesh” (annalise’s aforementioned chunk):
A sacred heirloom left by Yharnam, Pthumerian Queen.
The Queen lies dead, but her horrific consciousness is only asleep, and it stirs in unsettling motions.
despite the item description, you cannot use the “yharnam stone” on the altar of despair and raise the queen. at one point there was a small, useless “purpose” for it.
when the moon descends, one woman gets pregnant: arianna. we know arianna is a cainhurst (the castle of the vilebloods!) relative or descendant of some sort based on her dress’ item description. the blood you can solicit from her is described as forbidden and after you kill her “child” , the umbilical cord it drops suggests that this isn’t just an ordinary monster baby.
“Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate, and Oedon, the formless Great One, is no different. To think, it was corrupted blood that began this eldritch liaison.”
arianna’s vileblood in her vileveins elevates this monster kid from “oedon’s one night stand” to a prophesized “child of blood”. we know about oedon from his caryll runes: he has “inadvertent worshippers” (our dumb asses for revealing the blood moon) who “seek the precious blood” (hot babes). if oedon can impregnate vilebloods, then he is responsible for arianna’s baby AND yharnam’s baby.
yharnam’s baby lives in some strange capacity despite its stillbirth. with enough insight you can hear it cry in the distance while in the chalice dungeon boss fight, the baby takes a more pro-active role by paralyzing you with its screams. oedon is described as “lacking form, exist[ing] only in voice”; a quality he apparently shares with his offspring. given all of this AND yharnam’s appearance at the bottom of the loft in mergo’s nightmare, i think it’s fair to assume that mergo is just a voice. there’s nothing in the baby carriage because there’s no physical form for the baby. because mergo is physically dead, the attempt by the school of mensis to communicate with it resulted in a “stillbirth” of their brains.
alright, finally back to annalise, who oedon skipped over. poor annalise thinks she the last vileblood, having no clue about arianna. but annalise was working very, very hard to be the recipient of that child of blood. the cainhurst knight set explicitly states this. the rune “blood rapture” has three different versions, one is found on queen yharnam’s bodyguards, the other is found on annalise’s most bastardly knight. yharnam wears a low poly version of the ring of betrothal, an item with freakish rarity that you can only give to annalise for new dialog (but she rejects your marraige proposal). worst of all, annalise’s covenant revolves around “getting the queen her cummies”.
come on man
and here is why annalise knows about yharnam: even in the deepest possible parts of the chalice dungeons, you will still find piles and piles of cainhurst armor and bones from the knights who went into the dungeons and never came back. treasure from the chalice dungeon can be found in cainhurst castle. there are even a few very rare living cainhurst knights in the dungeons, presumably bringing back something for their queen to eat.
all this to say: annalise is not the only immortal. there’s also queen yharnam. and oedon is mergo’s father and mergo is just a noise you soothe away. i can’t believe you read this. fuck us all.