Warning: The following article should only be read by those who have already finished Bloodborne. If not you should turn back now, pick up your weapon and continue hunting.
Last chance, don’t say I didn’t warn you afterwards
Players who got the time, or pushed everything off so they had time, have long finished Bloodborne and thus have an idea of what an astounding final boss this game has. Just to clarify: I consider Gehrman to be the final boss, I view the Moon Presence as a rather gimmicky fight, more kin to the “final” boss (True King Allant) of Demon’s Souls than an actual challenge.
The trope of having to fight an NPC who has been around since the very start of the game may not strike you as all that original, and neither did it strike me. But and that is pretty big but, the execution makes more than up for it. So let’s dig deeper shall we:
Gehrman, as his boss title suggests and the story reveals, was the first hunter of beast and not a bad one at that. Thus it is a fitting to conclusion to end the dream by killing the one it all started with. The full-circle motive gives the fight the feeling of “this is the end, no really, I can feel it” before it even starts. This is further supported by the fact that the fight the takes place in your safe haven, the Hunter’s Dream. Turning your only point of refuge into a battleground makes for a nice twist, while not sacrificing originality. It truly marks the end of the dream and as such you must end the existence of the dreamer. You, the player that is, are merely a humble visitor who came along and messed a lot of things up.
The actual arena stays locked off to you, until the very end and is a beautiful flower field, but who am I telling this, you fought him already. The thing to point out here is the stark contrast to the game’s aesthetics. Bloodborne thrives in the dark and gothic environments. It is built on grotesque creatures and twisted locations. Yet, the final battle does not take place between a multi-eyed and limbed monstrosity in a torture chamber while blood fills up the room until you can hardly move. No, it’s a bitter sweet fight in a flower field. Gehrman himself, upon entering, rest beneath a great tree, just in the middle of the burning Hunter’s Dream and the moon. Both important to the game’s lore and reminiscent of the two endings you can pick. Will you submit your life and wake up from the harrowing nightmare (burning house)? Or slay the host of the dream and ultimately replace him as a surrogate for the nameless Moon Presence? It’s a very simple, yet effective use of enemy placement.
Let’s talk about Gehrman’s attire. He wields the Burial Blade, a weapon forged to kill instantly, to release his pray from its suffering the instant he strikes. This just proves that Gehrman does not intend to kill you in cold blood or trick you into being killed by him. It simply is the most merciful way. He is aware of the pain his existence brings and does not want you to suffer the same fate. His entire attire resembles this even more. People wonder why he does not wear his unique set you can later by form the bathmessengers. But in combination with the weapon and his now present foot that is usually replaced by a peg leg we can see that this is Gehrman in his prime. He truly is “the first hunter” when we fight him. The cape has an almost ceremonial aura to it, since it would not have been that helpful or rather necessary when fighting in the Pthumerian dungeons.
The battle itself becomes then a fight between equals. Not beast vs. hunter. I will always defend the positon that a fight between a character equal and similar to the character you are playing is the best possible boss fight. A battle against yourself if you will. Noteworthy examples include: Vergil (DMC 3), Jet Stream Sam (MGR: Revegeance), Jeanne (Bayonetta) and so on. Having refused Gehrman’s offer he is still willing to save you, even by force. The line “Tonight, Gehrman joins the hunt” has to be my favourite line in the entire game. Short and sweet, but with tremendous implications. Instilling a feeling of “this is something to be afraid off” in your mind, while at the same time pumping you up for the battle.
Gehrman walks slowly towards you, never runs, he only dodges using something similar to Quickening, a skill usable through the Hunter’s Bone. Yet he is still limping, suggesting that he must have been severely injured in the past, even all the power granted to him cannot fully heal it. And while we are on the subject: who does grant him power? He answers this question himself. After dealing a certain amount of damage he recognizes you as the threat you are and draws additional power from the moon, presumably granted by the nameless Moon Presence that later seeks to replace Gehrman with you.
The sombre and subtle music throughout the battle is not only fitting, but also in stark contrast to the loud and orchestral tunes for the other boss fights. When Gehrman hits his final phase, however, they go even further and add a choir that sings a lamenting chant. Combine this with the crosses and the flower field and you know you are battling on a burial ground. The other crosses suggest that this is not the first time Gehrman had raised his blade against another hunter.
Having died to him multiple times, no shame in admitting that, I was quite familiar with his line “you must accept death. Be freed from the night…” and how fitting his death posture then becomes, should you be able to best him. With open arms he falls to the ground literally embracing his defeat.
I will most certainly write more about Bloodborne in the future, but I wanted to start with my favourite fight from the entire game. No matter which ending you choose, it presents a fitting conclusion to the game. When the credits role, should you not have chosen to also fight the Moon Presence that is, you can relate to Gehrman’s last words. Just like his struggle throughout the ages, we have gone through our own. Slaying beast and hunters alike. Suffering defeat over and over again, until the sweet blood sang to us and the enemy fell before our feet. Exhaustion might have slowed our movement sometimes, yet our persistence was unwavering and finally we have reached the end.
“The night, and the dream, were long…”