There's a good chance that you're looking at Bloodborne through worried eyes. From Software's latest foray is a critical darling, there's no doubt about that – but despite it being praised as a must-own PlayStation 4 exclusive, the developer has a terrifying track record. Indeed, this may not be a 'Souls' game by name, but it's very much a spiritual successor to the likes of Demon's Souls and Dark Souls – and that may have you conflicted about whether it's for you.

While we can't guarantee whether you'll have the patience to persist with the popular release, we can introduce some of the title's basic gameplay concepts so that you find it that smidgen bit easier to approach. Veterans to the series on the PlayStation 3 will already be familiar with the gameplay loop, of course, so this guide maybe isn't for you – but newcomers are advised to read through all of the following tips before embarking on your journey into Yharnam, as they may just save your life. Well, for a few minutes at least.

Bloodborne Guides

What is Bloodborne?

Bloodborne, perhaps in the purest sense, is old-school. Much of From Software's rise to prominence can be attributed to the way in which its games treat players with respect for their intellect, doing away with the hand-holding so common in other areas of the medium. That's not the only reason that the Japanese studio's Souls series is acclaimed, of course – great combat, art direction, and intense boss fights also play a part – but it's certainly a contributing factor.

This means that you need to approach the developer's latest with a different mindset: checkpoints and difficulty toggles are not going to save you here. The important thing to remember is that with patience and perseverance you will progress through this dark role-playing game, so it's all about re-tuning your expectations. You will fail and you will make mistakes, but unlike in other games, this is all part of the learning process.

What are Bloodborne's controls?

Bloodborne may sound like an ancient torture device, but it's actually quite easy to control. Here are all of the inputs that you need to know:

  • X: Your action button, used to interact with objects and characters in the world.
  • Square: Uses your currently selected item.
  • Triangle: Uses a Blood Vial for health recovery purposes.
  • Circle: Used for evasion, but can also be held to run.
  • R1: Your regular attack.
  • R2: Your power attack.
  • L1: Transforms the state of your weapon where possible.
  • L2: Fires your gun when equipped.
  • D-Pad:
    • Up: Refills your ammunition in an emergency at the price of health.
    • Right: Changes your right-hand weapon.
    • Left: Changes your left-hand weapon.
    • Down: Switches your item.
  • R3: Toggles your target lock when near enemies; re-centres the camera when not.
  • Touchpad: The left half brings up gestures, the right half Personal Effects.

What are Blood Echoes in Bloodborne?

As in other Souls games, you'll collect Blood Echoes – souls in all but name – from the corpses of your foes. These represent the primary currency in the game, and can be used to both level up your character and purchase new equipment from the Hunter's Dream, which is the game's main hub world. You will drop these if you die, but you'll be able to retrieve them from the spot that you fell should you stay alive long enough to recover them. Sometimes enemies will pick these up, and you'll be able to spot them due to their glowing eyes; kill them to get them back. The important thing to remember is that you will lose your Blood Echoes at one point or another, so accept this and try not to see red.

When should I use Blood Vials?

In the simplest sense, Blood Vials are recovery potions, and they're mapped to the triangle button on the DualShock 4. This means that you can use them regularly without worry, but you can only carry 20 of these at a time. Fortunately, you can store up to 99 of these in the Hunter's Dream, and if you're already at capacity on your person, these will automatically be added to your stash. You can farm these by killing enemies, and will probably need to if you find yourself stuck on a boss. Don't stockpile them for the sake of it, though; if you need a health boost, make sure that you glug a Blood Vial to avoid that dreaded 'You Are Dead' screen.

Do I need to be wary of stamina in Bloodborne?

Your health bar is important, but so is your stamina. Represented by the green bar beneath your life, this will determine how many manoeuvres you can make before tiring. Both attacks and evasion will drain this, so you can't go into battle expecting to button mash. The best thing to do is to be methodical: wait for openings, carefully dodge attacks, and be patient. Picking an origin with a high Endurance rating will allow you to chain together more attacks, and you'll also be able to focus on this area when you level up. You'll still need to be careful in combat no matter how much energy you've got to burn, mind.

What is the regain system in Bloodborne?

The biggest twist in Bloodborne, the regain system awards you with a small window of opportunity in order to win back some health. When you take damage, a section of your life bar will turn orange, and this represents the health that you can steal back. Fortunately, you don't have to do anything especially "special" to get it – just land a clean, melee blow on the foe that inflicted the damage in the first place. The whole mechanic is designed to encourage a more aggressive play mentality, so while you do need to be patient in order to succeed, this game does reward risk-taking a little more than its predecessors.

What are these Messengers all over the place in Bloodborne?

Perhaps the niftiest thing about Demon's Souls when it released was that it included a notes system, allowing you to share "tips" with the rest of the world. This mechanic was, as you'd expect, abused – and it became a fascinating social experiment. "Is there really a secret down there, or will I fall to my death?" These kinds of questions cropped up regularly, and they'll return courtesy of Messengers in Bloodborne. You'll need the Notebook ability in order to leave your own bloody bulletins, but will be able to read others from the off. Just, er, don't necessarily believe everything that you see.

How can I be successful at combat in Bloodborne?

The key to Bloodborne is paying attention; don't rush into battle sword and shotgun raised, as that's a quick ticket to getting killed. Instead, what you want to do is learn the limitations of your loadout and character: how many attacks can you land before running out of stamina? What's the reach of your current weapon? How many foes do you feel comfortable dealing with at once? In addition to this, you need to know a bit about your enemies, too: their attack patterns, their health, their damage attributes. Soak all of this information up, and through patience and perseverance you will eventually get the upper-hand. It's not going to be easy and you will die, but try not to be disheartened – we're all in the same boat.

How do I level up in Bloodborne?

Here's the thing: Bloodborne is so darn brutal that it won't allow you to level up until you've fought the Cleric Beast boss at least once. Assuming that you die during this battle – you might not, but you probably will – you'll wake up in the Hunter's Dream, where you'll awaken the doll. We won't delve into too many specifics for fear of spoilers, but she's where you'll need to take your Blood Echoes in order to purchase all-important stat boosts. If you're just starting out with the game, we'd recommend awakening the doll as quickly as you possibly can before exploring all of Central Yharnam, as you're going to want all of the Blood Echoes that you can get.

What the heck is Insight and how can I play multiplayer in Bloodborne?

Much like Blood Echoes, Insight is a secondary currency in Bloodborne which you'll earn by beating certain enemies as you progress. You can spend this on the Beckoning Bell, which may – but won't always – invite another player into your game. Similarly, the Small Resonant Bell, which doesn't cost Insight, will offer your services to other players, so if you're feeling helpful, give it a tug. And if you just want to cause mayhem, the Sinister Resonant Bell will find you a competitive match without using up any Insight. One thing to be aware of is that the more Insight you collect, the more the game will change – including things such as enemy attack patterns, and even what you see.

Why do I have so many rocks and pebbles in Bloodborne?

Taking on big groups of enemies is a big mistake in Bloodborne – you'll want to separate them and take them on one-on-one if you can. Rocks and pebbles – which can be equipped using the down button on the d-pad and thrown with square – will allow you to get a foes attention, thus making combat encounters that little bit easier.

Are there any shortcuts in Bloodborne?

Back tracking may sound like the worst thing in the world, but Yharnam is riddled with shortcuts designed to make your journey easier. Make sure that you're exploring the environment fully, and you'll likely happen upon these naturally. Obviously, it's important to interact with any shortcut opening objects as soon as you get the chance, because you never know when an enemy or trap will take you out.

Have you got any other beginner's tips for Bloodborne? How are you getting on with the game so far, and are you enjoying what you've played? Leave us some Blood Echoes in the comments section below.