informa
6 min read
Blogs

Bloodborne as a visual novel

Adam Thompson explores the characters and narrative of Bloodborne, identifying its suitability towards other genres.

This blog was originally posted on the Emotion Theory tumblr and can be found here. 


 

I'm Adam Thompson, solo indie game dev running my own studio: @EmotionTheory. I'm making Project Ascension, a small puzzle adventure game about transcendence and the power to manipulate remnants and architecture.

I like exploring ideologies and design philosophies behind games I enjoy - and I tend to see the silver lining in other titles less well received.

This post explores the characters and narrative of one of my favourite recent titles - Bloodborne - and identifies just how scrumptuous, interconnected, and multi-tiered they are; something often seen in visual novels or story-focused RPGs like Mass Effect. It's much more subtle, though. Much, much more subtle.

There are a lot of fascinating elements to the characters and lore of Bloodborne. One of the most interesting is how most players’ experiences are likely to differ based on the choices they made, and the way that they’ve played.

I’m specifically talking about the NPC survivors you encounter. Do you withhold information from them? Which safe haven do you send them to? How do they interact with one another? What consequences do your actions and choices have with them?

Withholding information from them eventually leads them all to their demise. Sending them to Iosefka’s Clinic will get them to be experimented on and turned into beastly creatures. Sending them to Oedon Chapel will provide them a safe haven, but further opens up options for them to either kill, or be killed.

I will be going through each major character whose story can play out differently based on the player’s choices. This exploration will show just how compatible such an intricate web of NPCs and player choice can be to a game of a different genre entirely!

Iosefka

Iosefka asks you to send survivors to her clinic to provide them a safe place. You later discover that this person is an imposter masquerading as Iosefka - the real person was experimented on and turned into a beast. This imposter really just wants bodies, and blood, to experiment on. Sending survivors to her clinic gets them all to turn up as beasts. You can confront Iosefka earlier while she is still sane, or choose to do so later as her body begins to turn to a beast itself.

The Chapel Dweller

The Chapel Dweller is the first person you meet in Oedon Chapel and kindly requests you to send any survivors to the chapel, where the scent wards off beasts. This is perhaps the only sincere character you’ll find in the game who speaks truth and wishes to help others. Sending people to the chapel makes him happy, as he converses with each of them and finds comfort in their safety.

The Skeptical Man

The skeptical man, to start with, does not believe you and chooses to go to the opposite place which you tell him. He continues to remain skeptical and spreads rumours about other characters in the game.

The Suspicious Beggar

The suspicious beggar is actually a beast in disguise. Should you send him to the chapel, he will eventually kill off all the other characters residing within. 

A video explaining these characters further can be found here.

The Old Lady

The old lady is at first hostile towards you, but eventually warms up to you. You find out that she’s taking sedatives to calm her nerves. She offers you some, and should you accept her offer multiple times, her supply will deplete, prompting her to go out and find some more. In doing this, she will be found dead outside the chapel by the hand of some creatures.

Arianna

Arianna, the woman of the night, offers some of her blood to the player. She eventually finds herself feeling sick, and later leaves the chapel to be found in the sewers below to give birth to a demonic child. 

Adella

Adella the nun sees Arianna as impure and falls jealous to her and the player’s relationship. Each time the player speaks to Arianna, you can find Adella standing up and looking over towards them. The player can accept Adella’s blood too, though she will not give it to you if you are carrying Arianna’s. Accepting Arianna’s blood multiple times will send Adella into a rage, getting her to murder Arianna in the chapel.

The Girl

Finally, The girl with the music box can be sent to either safe haven, or you may instead choose to give the brooch of her late mother. Either way, she attempts to leave her home, but never makes it far, as she apparently gets killed by the giant pig demon in the sewers. Killing the demon gets you the girl’s red ribbon, which can be kept or given to her sister who now resides in their home where you spoke to the girl. Eventually, the sister is met with the same fate, and her red ribbon can be found by the demon outside of their home.

Eileen the crow

Eileen the crow can be found in multiple places throughout the game. Following her story eventually squares you off with one of her adversaries before she passes away, defeated from her battle with him.

Alfred

Alfred is part of the clan of Executioners. Giving him an invitation letter to the throne room of his immortal enemy and will get him to confront her and shred her into bloody bits. Alfred soon thereafter takes his own life, having completed his quest and taken revenge over his master. 

Annalise

Meanwhile, the flesh of Annalise, queen of the Vilebloods - the sworn enemy of the Executioners - can be taken to an alter to have herself revived.


An entire video playlist dedicated to the characters and lore can be found here.

Conclusion

The way the game handles these NPCs and your choices is similar to the way a Bioware or TellTale game does - albeit in a more natural and compelling way. No prompts tell you what is mechanically taking place, nor does any of it feel artificial or contrived. 

Each of your choices result in a physical difference in the world - a different outcome, a different story to tell.

It is a small yet remarkable aspect of a large and remarkable game, and I feel like these collective choices and consequences can be used to great effect in other game genres - particularly one where characters, choice, and consequences are a selling point. 

This style of character development, choices and consequences, are a perfect fit for a visual novel. This genre has been doing stuff like this for years, and a game not unlike To The Moon with a greater focus on unique player stories could make for a very interesting player experience!

What are your thoughts on Bloodborne and its storytelling?

You can read more of my blogs on EmotionTheory.tumblr.com or follow my updates on twitter.com/@EmotionTheory. Cheers!

Latest Jobs

Treyarch

Playa Vista, California
6.20.22
Audio Engineer

Digital Extremes

London, Ontario, Canada
6.20.22
Communications Director

High Moon Studios

Carlsbad, California
6.20.22
Senior Producer

Build a Rocket Boy Games

Edinburgh, Scotland
6.20.22
Lead UI Programmer
More Jobs   

CONNECT WITH US

Register for a
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Account

Game Developer Newsletter

@gamedevdotcom

Register for a

Game Developer Account

Gain full access to resources (events, white paper, webinars, reports, etc)
Single sign-on to all Informa products

Register
Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Subscribe
Follow us

@gamedevdotcom

Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more