I didn't review "Bloodborne."
That was a huge relief as I played From Software's action RPG. I could take my time, absorbing every warm fissure in its skies, every crooked row of tombstones lining its footpaths. I could die without worrying my deadline would ever do the same.
After finishing this phenomenal hell ride of a game, however, I started to miss the ritual of reviewing. I've found it acts as a personal record, a diary — and after 50 hours with the PS4 exclusive, I damn sure wanted an entry to document every harrowing one.
So, using the PS4's video sharing function, I uploaded my victories against all 17 of the main game's bosses to YouTube. I also noted how I beat them and how many times it took me to do so — perhaps a crude measure of the exacting difficulty for which From ("Demon's Souls," "Dark Souls") is now notorious.
Here's how they all went:
1. Cleric Beast
(NOTE: I didn't have the idea to record my "Bloodborne" boss conquests until my third, against the Blood-starved Beast, so my Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne videos actually come from my New Game Plus run.)
I really wish I beat this heavily tasseled monstrosity the first time, because it makes a hell of an entrance. Alas, I got stuck in the statues lining the bridge where the battle takes place. My winning strategy, like it was for most of "Bloodborne's" bosses, was dodging frantically and hitting it in the butt a lot. I did also use fire paper, but I'm not sure it made much of a difference.
2. Father Gascoigne
If you talk to the cloistered residents of "Bloodborne's" Victorian city setting of Yharnam, you might acquire a music box that makes this otherwise brutal fight just a little less brutal. I didn't use the box the first time around, so I learned its limits in the video. First, it stuns the human form of Gascoigne up to three times. Then he changes into a twice-bigger beast form, and the box becomes less effective. Once I stopped trying to stun the beast with it and committed to dodging his claw swipes, he became pretty manageable.
3. Blood-starved Beast
This flappy-mouthed fiend will really mess you up if you're not ready for its poison attack. Whether it's an outfit with high resistance, antidotes or just a lot of blood vials, you'll need something to ward off slow death as the beast's wild movements threaten a fast one. As always in "Souls" games, make use of the battleground's pillars to buy yourself time to heal or otherwise recoup. Much as I prepared, though, I succumbed to the beast's poison — literally a second after killing it.
4. Vicar Amelia
Another classic rampaging behemoth of a "Souls" boss, Vicar Amelia induces dread from the moment you walk into her massive cathedral and see what appears to be a blonde bride transform into a giant deer mummy. Mind its claws and you'll come through, but its echoing shrieks will remain with you until the end.
5. The Witch of Hemwick
This smoke-and-mirrors pushover isn't worth more than one sentence.
6. Shadow of Yarnham
I suggest first taking out the firebombing member of this trio of Nazgul-looking snake people. Once it's toast, dodge as necessary around the oversize tombstone to hack away at the two sword swingers. For ophidiophobics, however, I've got nothing — except to try not to look at the giant serpents being summoned out of the ground.
7. Darkbeast Paarl
To say I fought Paarl twice is misleading. I stumbled upon him once, after the jerk with the sack spirited me away to Unseen Village. And as soon as the boss's health meter appeared on the screen, I used a Hunter's Mark to escape with my blood echoes. That's because Paarl looks much deadlier than he is. The second time around, wearing the Graveyard set to maximize my lightning resistance, I could freely chip away at him with Ludwig's Holy Blade — especially when he just plopped on the ground for no apparent reason.
8. Rom, the Vacuous Spider
Attempts: I don't know, 10? Maybe 12?
Crowd control, crowd control, crowd control. Equip a weapon with a lightning blood gem, bring a bunch of vials and be patient because you absolutely have to take out this giant spider's little friends first. I didn't, and died a good 10 times as a result. Also, an outfit with high arcane defense against Rom's many magic attacks may not be a bad idea, either.
9. Celestial Emissary
A fire-infused cleaver and copious pillars made this walking mushroom and his clones pretty easy. Like Rom, crowd control is vital, especially once it reaches its supersized second form.
10. The One Reborn
Unless you're superhuman or your hunter is superhumanly leveled, you have to take out the bell-ringing witches on the balconies before going to work on this walking medical waste dump. Even then, making use of the environment is smart. I recommend jumping off the balconies and dive-bombing it for one of the more epic rushes in the game.
Like Paarl, this abundantly limbed Lovecraft fan art looks like way more of a nightmare than it is to fight. Contrary to "Souls" best practices, don't lock onto it — and stay right under its chest to hack at its upper arms and head to do it obscene chunks of damage.
12. Micolash, Host of the Nightmare
The most environmental battle in the game is also the easiest. You'll spend way more time chasing this cage-headed nuisance and dispatching the skeletons it summons than actually fighting it. And by "fighting," I mean easily side-stepping its one, tentacled attack, and otherwise butchering it in short order.
13. Mergo's Wet Nurse
Give this stalking, six-bladed reaper a wide berth and you'll be fine. Be especially wary of its spinning uppercut, which has a way of hitting you no matter how out of reach you think you are. And try not to come too unhinged at the sound of its nursery chime score, which may be the best boss music in a game brimming with it.
14. Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos
The most Lovecraftian monster in the game is also its hardest: It deals and takes a lot of damage. On top of that, it's one of the few bosses that hits you with "Bloodborne's" most confounding status attack, frenzy, which knocks your health down a good 90 percent when its resistance meter maxes out. So bring as much sedative as you have to keep said meter low. And stick close to Ebrietas' skirt for the best shot at avoiding its brutal physical attacks.
15. Martyr Logarius
Up to this point, Logarius is the boss against whom firearm parries are the most useful. I learned that late in my victory over him, when a lucky parry during one of his deathly scythe flurries set up a tide-turning visceral attack. Had I known it would deal so much damage against this oversize hunter with an infinite reservoir of magic, I'd have gone in guns blazing.
16. Gehrman, the First Hunter
God, this guy. The hardest boss in the game is, like Gascoigne, just another hunter who moves fast and hits ferociously. After 10 deaths, including a heartbreaking one-shot scythe throw kill when I had him down to one hit, I figured it out: Again, it's all about parrying. All I had to do was switch from my Ludwig's Rifle to my blunderbuss, which I could fire faster and more effectively since my Bloodtinge stat was so low. This video is actually my first time facing him with the blunderbuss, and I'd say it went pretty well.
17. Moon Presence
Immediately after Gehrman is this final boss, reachable only if you do some secret thing that I won't spoil outright. Your adventurousness won't feel so rewarded, however, because the Moon Presence is one of the least remarkable bosses in "Bloodborne." It looks cool, and the cranberry moon backdrop sure is inspired, but even with my hands still trembling from beating Gehrman, I had no difficulty here. Praise the moon!