Bloodborne is scary. Nobody denies that. A certain sense of horror comes from the game, such as in the moody city of Yharnam; dark, wet, dreary, with winding streets that lead end on themselves, decrepit gothic buildings that seem to have decayed over millennia, and crazed people laughing nonsensically from places unseen. It comes out in the beasts, which sometimes take the shape of barking crows and werewolves, while sometimes taking the shape of hideous abominations that are gangles of blood, flesh, and mashed body parts, or tentacled beasts that defy description.
Yet that’s not Lovecraftian horror. Eldritch horror is a strange thing to capture, as it in itself is based on strange and vague entities that aren’t ever intended to be understood. Games have frequently struggled with the use of Cthulu mythos and Lovecraftian storytelling. Drawing from the renowned and controversial horror writer of the early 20th century seems to be a struggle for games. Games like Call of Cthulu attempt to draw from Lovecraftian storytelling, but fail due to their reliance on game mechanics. Most game mechanics, particularly in the action genre, are all about empowerment; you’re meant to feel strong, and become more cunning over time, and be able to beat larger foes with even more ease.
This all may sound oddly similar to Bloodborne as well. However, as is shown by SuperBunnyhop’s latest video, the manner with which Lovecraft is brought out in the details and fascinating, deliberately vague storytelling is almost perfect in its execution.
The practitioners of Lovecraft’s “evil” are described as isolated, backwoods people who the author intends to be susceptible to superstition. And I’m bringing that up for a very particular reason: a reversal in that concept makes for the biggest twist in how Bloodborne uses Lovecraftian horror […] Because in Bloodborne, the worship of those massive alien sea-gods is practiced by the majority. That doesn’t usually happen. What would be a secret cult in any other fiction is the dominant religious institution in this society. And the Eldritch truth – that a bunch of horrifying alien sea-god things existed inside of a wide world outside of humanity’s capabilities – was not exactly a well-kept secret here. And spreading that knowledge around was a terrible idea.
The video does a fantastic job of drawing out the Lovecraftian bits from Bloodborne and highlighting them in a way that has not really been analyzed. It also shows a comparison between the narrative sections of the game that draw on the mythos of the Old Gods as well as how those same aspects of Lovecraftian horror are brought out directly through the gameplay. It’s a great dissection, especially if players have already worked their way through the majority of the late game so that they won’t encounter any spoilers.