Written by G. Russell
One Game A Week is a bunch of words from my brain to yours about whatever game has been occupying my time the most over the last 7 days. Once a week, EVERY week for the duration of 2015. God help us
Or, how I learned to stop worrying about real life and almost let Amygdala ruin my weekend.
A couple of weeks ago, during the course of Bloodborne’s main story mode, I discovered and killed the optional Amygdala boss (one of the games’ Great Ones located in the Nightmare Frontier) with the minimum amount of fuss. I was so proud of its immediate and swift defeat at the behest of my Ludwig’s Great Sword that I promptly uploaded the clip to YouTube, something which, had you told me a year ago I would be doing, would probably have led me to spit in your dinner. If you watch that video you’ll see that the fight was scrappy and sloppy on my part as I frantically tried to work out why my sword was only doing 15 damage when hitting its back legs and then more often than not missing with my swipes once I had worked out where to actually twat it. But still – I defeated an end-game boss on my first try. I was victorious. Unstoppable. Farewell Amygdala, I say unto you – fuck off. Fast forward two weeks, though, and my relationship with Amygdala had become a very different one indeed
*end -game boss fight spoilers will follow*
I had reached the point where I was only one trophy away from hitting Platinum and attaining 100% completion. All that stood in my way was the defeat of Yharnam, Pthumerian Queen, the final boss of the preset Chalice Dungeons. To get to her is no easy task, though, as you have to fight your way through 6 multi-layered dungeons and 18 additional bosses before you arrive outside of her door. The toughest, and outright most miserable, of these Chalice Dungeons was the fifth one. The infamous cursed dungeon. Or, to give it its full name, Cursed Pthumerian Defilement. AKA – the one where your health bar is capped at 50% of its actual size and almost every move the bosses throw at you will kill you in one shot. Lovely. The third and final boss in this cursed dungeon was my old friend Amygdala.
And this is the point where Bloodborne actually broke me.
There are two ways that a Souls series boss fight will go. Well, three, I suppose. There’s the first, perhaps more uncommon, way in which you master the boss instantly and defeat it first try. There’s the second, and most common way, in which you’ll get your ass kicked maybe 4 or 5 times but will feel as though you’re learning, ultimately leading up to your victorious attempt where you apply everything you’ve figured out in one beautiful display of coordination and you trounce the boss with your heart pounding out of your chest. And then there’s the third way. The rare variant of the above where, after 20 or so attempts, you feel like killing this boss is literally impossible and that it is slowly driving you insane. And this third way is where Amygdala and I ended up. But swap the number 20 for more like …. 40?
A lot of the chalice bosses are unique to the dungeons but there are a few that are replays of boss fights from the main game. And so, with my YouTube victory in the back of my mind, I strolled into Amygdala’s chamber like I owned the place. And, with one slam of its gigantic arms, died instantly. And so I kept trying. And I kept dying. Fast. It soon occurred to me that despite beating it before I hadn’t even seen its move-set. I had no idea what I was actually dealing with. I had spent that original fight underneath it the whole time, throwing my sword about like an over-levelled maniac and absorbing all of its attacks with my enormous health bar. Originally, I had literally laughed in the face of a God. Here, I was rightly reduced to the insignificant speck of dust that I was.
So I dropped back a bit. I did the learning thing. I learnt to dodge its laser eyes. I learnt when the tell was for its acid vomit and how long it would remain open to attack following that. I worked out that trying to stand behind it was hopeless as you’d get stomped by its feet or slammed by its rear arms. I learnt the patterns of its various front arm slams and how long it would leave itself open for after doing them to allow me to rush in and slash at its head. I’d learnt that it was a multi-phase fight; Amygdala’s tactics changing as its health bar was whittled down. I figured when the changes would come and what they would mean in regards to my strategy. By attempt 10, I’d got it locked down. My attempt 15, I’d mastered it. I could get to phase 3 of the fight without ever needing to heal. A full set of 20 health vials to see me through the last couple of minutes. Easy peasy, right? Sadly not. At the start of phase 3, Amygdala reaches its huge front arms back and over its head and tears off its rear arms to use as clubs. The creature’s already enormous reach is now extended to carry across almost the entire of the arena. Dodging its attacks now had become the most stressful thing I think I’ve felt in a long time. And I go to Tesco most weekends. It suddenly felt like it was 50/50 whether I would survive. It no longer felt like I was meticulously avoiding damage from working out the patterns. The patterns were the same, I just couldn’t get out of the fucking way. No matter where I rolled, when I rolled or how I tried to avoid it, I would be clipped by its arms every time. And one hit meant I was dead. I would fight the thing for 10 minutes to get it into its final phase only to be wiped out seconds after it transformed. I spent three whole evenings attempting this fight with the same result every time. I went to bed, two evenings in a row, so stressed that I felt like I wanted to punch my way around the country on some sort of sponsored anger-marathon. I would wake up thinking about some new way to approach the final stage of the fight only to try it and get destroyed again. I could see no way past it other than trying fruitlessly over and over until I happened to get lucky. Sinking hours more into this one fight, having to battle my way to the third phase of Amygdala’s attack patterns over and over only to fail. I was a mess.
So, thank God for YouTube. More specifically, thank God for this guy. As a broken, gibbering wreck I’d watched a couple of people defeating Amygdala but they didn’t help; showing fights that either captured the one time this player happened to get lucky or showing someone cheesing the fight using a blind spot exploit that ultimately took forever to whittle the bosses health down by hitting its back leg while also leaving lots of room for error. But after scrolling down to some of the lesser viewed videos I discovered the answer. Watching his video not only gave me a method for getting through the final stage of the fight but it also gave me one of those “of course!!” moments. You can’t get behind Amygdala at first because of those rear arms, but she rips those arms off at the start of the final phase. So now you can get behind her! It’s suddenly the only safe place to be! Genius! And armed with that information, I defeated her instantly. No biggie. *laughs maniacally and dribbles*
And after that, it was a clear run to that Platinum trophy. Well, I say clear, I still had to kill 2 bosses in Lower Loran Chalice to be able to collect 2 Red Jelly’s (a rare chalice ingredient required to craft the final Great Pthumeru Ihyll dungeon) and then fight my way through the 3 layers of that final dungeon to reach the last boss. The definitive final Bloodborne boss. Yharnam, Pthumerian Queen. The person to whom almost all of Bloodborne’s story can be traced back to. And what a fight that was.
For a game that prominently features themes of blood, pregnancy and childbirth throughout, I guess it’s only fitting that the final Chalice boss is a screaming, heavily pregnant, blood-soaked Queen who will slit her wrists throughout the fight in order to spray her poisonous blood all over you. It’s an exceedingly grim battle (the moment that you first strike the Queen, a baby starts crying and doesn’t stop until she’s defeated) but is so contextually perfect that I spent the entire time in awe of it. The setting, music and mood that accompanies the final main-story boss fight against Gehrman is astonishing but, somehow, this battle against the Queen surpasses that easily. It’s so perfect, so essential to the overall story and themes of Bloodborne, that’s it’s a shame that the vast majority of players (if the attainment percentage of the trophy for killing her is anything to go by) won’t experience it.
And so, with a final slash of my Burial Blade, she was dead. And, with every other aspect of the game complete, I’d hit Platinum. Seeing that trophy pop, as ludicrous as it might sound, was a wonderful moment of total euphoria. It had been a right fucking effort getting this far. But I’d loved every second of it. And I guess, with 100% completion achieved, it’s time to finally put the Bloodborne disc back into its box…
Nah, scratch that. I started a new character last night. Arcane / Skill build. I’m already at the Forbidden Woods. I’m going to play this game until someone confiscates my PS4.