I’m back playing Bloodborne for my sins, and have just made it to the base of Old Yharnam. I’m standing before a familiar fog gate, its glistening yellow hue stretched over the crumbling church’s arching doorway, reflecting deep shadows back onto the cobblestone path I’ve just wandered down. I pretend not to notice the burning effigies hammered into the dirt on either side, but they’re hard to miss. As always, I have butterflies in my stomach.
Why? Because the bastard that lives on the other side of where I stand has tortured me. In this twisted world where blood is currency, the wretched monster that resides deep within the filthiest bowels of Old Yharnam is as shrewd as they come. Blood-starved Beast. Even writing its name, after all this time, sends a shiver down my spine.
Enemies in FromSoftware games, as you might be aware, can be grueling. Father Gascoine is often cited as one of Bloodborne’s most difficult early boss encounters, but I’ve always struggled with Blood-starved Beast. Its attack patterns are fast and unpredictable. Its penchant for poisoning – fast and slow, depending on how close you get, and for how long you linger in its immediate vicinity – can be devastating. It’s weak against fire, sure, but it’s also strong against arcane and bolt damage; and with three phases of combat, it gets steadily more aggressive and volatile in attack, yet no less formidable in defense.
Blood-starved Beast is, by all accounts, a nightmare. But, hold the bus, Pungent Blood Cocktails do what now?
I’ll drink to that
To the Bloodborne devotees out there reading this: I’m sorry. I can practically hear your eyes rolling from here. My defense in these situations is always that part of my enjoyment of FromSoftware games comes from steering well clear of wikis and guides for as long as I possibly can. And while I’ve definitely leant on expert advice at various stages during my time scouring Yharnam and beyond – across two full playthroughs before this one, since the game’s arrival in 2015 – I’ve clearly not mastered the use of certain items.
Whenever I’ve faced-off against Blood-starved Beast (an optional main story boss, but required to unlock two chalice dungeons, and/or reach the Hypogean Gaol), I’ve struggled. In fact, for the longest time during my first playthrough, I’d have described the boss as impossible; often drawing the foe down a sliver of health before failing to dodge a flurry of its stage-three, poison-spouting attacks in the final stretch. No matter how many antidotes I swallowed, how many fire papers I torched, or how many times I managed to stagger the bastard with a quicksilver bullet before landing a visceral attack, I kept coming up short.
Even now, with my wealth of Souls series experience, and literal hundreds of hours spent in Elden Ring, I reckon the Blood-starved Beast is up there with FromSoft’s most challenging boss battles in standard NG – alongside the likes of Malenia (Elden Ring), Isshin (Sekiro), and the Orphan of Kos (Bloodborne) – just given how early you face-off against it. That is, assuming you don’t use a Pungent Blood Cocktail. If you do use a Pungent Blood Cocktail, it may be one of FromSoft’s easiest bosses.
Let me read the Pungent Blood Cocktail item description verbatim:
“Mature blood cocktail that releases a pungent odor when thrown that attracts blood-thirsty beasts. A precious tool in sadly short supply. In Yharnam, they produce more blood than alcohol, as the former is more intoxicating.”
And now let me describe my newfound tactic: wander down the aforementioned cobblestone path, ignore the aforementioned burning effigies, enter the aforementioned yellow fog gate, toss a Pungent Blood Cocktail into a corner, and while the Blood-starved Beast proceeds to ignore my presence entirely, hammer him from behind. Once the boss returns to face me, I fire out another Pungent Blood Cocktail, and repeat the maneuver all over again.
I know this is old news for many of you, but, shameful oversight aside on my part, it also speaks to one of Bloodborne’s – and, indeed any FromSoftware ARPG of the last 14 years – best features: light-touch narrative. In lieu of lengthy cutscenes or dialogue-heavy exchanges with NPCs, much of Bloodborne’s world-building and narrative development derives from player interpretation. Item descriptions and the placement of weapons, armor sets and key artifacts are rarely coincidental or for show – they often speak directly to the game’s history and story.
In this instance, Pungent Blood Cocktail spells it out pretty explicitly, but given pretty much every enemy in Bloodborne is after blood, I failed to make the direct connection to the Blood-starved Beast boss fight… clearly. Call me what you will, I deserve it, but know that I’m more than willing to take the sticks and stones if it means peeling another layer of intrigue from a game now the best part of a decade old. And for those of you reading this whose minds have been quietly blown, fire up your old save, take a trip down to Old Yharnam, and let loose with a few Pungent Blood Cocktails. You lot can thank me later.