RIP PS5 PlayStation Plus Collection, which introduced me to one of my favourite games
“So there’s this stat in Bloodborne called Insight,” I’d tell anyone that would listen. “It governs the amount of inhuman knowledge you’ve gleaned from the world as you slaughter unnatural abominations.” So far, so videogame-y; you kill something, or use an item, and numbers go up. So what? “But Insight isn’t just used to summon other players and stuff – it changes the world. It’s maddening. Frightening.” By this point, the strangers at the bar I’m in have wandered off, circling their fingers next to their temples to indicate I’m nuts to their giggling friends. And maybe they’re right – Bloodborne really got in my head.
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
But that Insight stat… I’ve never come across anything quite like it. Every major boss you’d kill would confer a little more Insight to you, and if you went out of your way to explore the game and break the loop a little away from the expected path, you could very quickly gain a significant amount of knowledge about Bloodborne’s dying, fucked-up world.
It manifests passively – maybe certain enemies become more powerful as you begin to understand their real function in this world. Maybe certain NPCs start mumbling apparently innocent nonsense. Maybe you start to see the creatures that are really in charge of the world, clinging to the belfries of cathedrals or skulking about in the shadows. Maybe otherworldly abominations start singing, wretchedly off-key, whenever you’re nearby – cooing bastardised hymns to the terrors beyond all that we can actually see.
And you’d never know about any of this if not for online guides, nudging you towards the new stuff that starts happening when you’ve accrued 40 Insight, say. Getting up to 60 provides a fascinating extra bit of lore about the game’s real ending, and all this weird stuff starts to get in your head as certain things happen to you, player, no matter where you are in the game. It’s maddening, it’s compelling, it’s FromSoftware at its sadistic best.
And I only played it in 2023. I’ve tried to get into Bloodborne about five times before that – but it never stuck. When I saw it had been added to the PS Plus Collection (despite already owning it thanks to a PS Plus offer, many months ago), I gave it another go – this time bolstered by the fact the PS5 all but eliminated loading times. This time, I managed to scrabble beyond the cobbled streets of Yharnam. The game’s uniquely aggressive and momentum-based combat properly clicked in my head as I took on the Blood-Starved Beast. I excavated the depths of the Chalice dungeons (with a little help from the now-infamous ‘*** dungeon’).
From there, it was perfectly natural – grabbing me in a way games rarely manage to do these days. Staying up until 3am, killing everything I saw, tentatively edging my way along every path I could find, going full lore goblin and reading everything I could get my hands on, poring over Wikis, watching every second of the videos the excellent VaatiVidya makes… Bloodborne had cast its spell, and the Old Ones were in my head, grinning as I maddened, maddening as I bloodened.
“Grant us eyes, grant us eyes,” chants one pathetically mutated NPC, desperate for the knowledge of the Old Gods infecting this world. “Plant eyes on our brains, to cleanse our beastly idiocy.” He’d gone mad from knowledge, you see – he knew enough about the real state of the world to want to ascend, but he did not know enough to truly understand the nature of those he attempted to commune with. A hellish limbo, aware of his own ignorance. Around him, in the damned abode he chose to dwell, you see humans swelling with eyes – whose brains literally took on ocular organs with which to try and peer in the nether. It killed them, horrifically. But you and I, we’re smarter than that, aren’t we? We have the Insight to prove it.
Not that the stat really does anything. You really need to go out of your way to make it swell as much as you need to hear the end-game bonuses, and all it does is slightly amend the state of the world – you can’t use it for anything other than summoning other players (something Elden Ring later streamlined and simplified). But I think that’s why it’s so impactful; all these tiny little changes that alter the world if you’ve got the agency to see it as a player, everything implicit, everything told in the gutters, in the dirt under the fingernails of Yharnam.
It took me nearly a decade to finally understand the appeal of Bloodborne, but once it got its trick claws into me, it would not let go, and I instantly came to understand why everyone else went on about it all the time. More than that, it began my current FromSoft obsession – where I’m dedicated to earning a Platinum or 1000Gs in each game available on modern platforms before the end of the year.
So that’s why I wanted to write this today; to pay homage to the beauty of the PlayStation Plus Collection, and thank it for finally giving me the tools and motivation to play through one of the best games I’ve ever had the pleasure of being abused by. It gave me a new appreciation for the PlayStation 3/4/5 exclusive library – something I have previously been fairly cruel and dismissive about. If you’re coming to this in time to pilfer whatever you can from this dying service, I recommend it: you never know quite what you’re going to find.
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