Written by Jonathan Wojcik


Like its Souls Series spiritual predecessors, Bloodborne's bestiary has been the most requested for a review since the game debuted, and it's obvious why, because as you can plainly see, I make a surprise cameo appearance I don't even remember!

Completely meaningless jokes definitely written by a harmless two-eyed human aside, Bloodborne is a gorgeous and terrifying romp through a land overrun by ghouls, ghosts and things not of this world, with creature designs and direction by the amazing Hidetaka Miyazaki, who's taken tropes as tired as tentacled, multi-eyed space gods and made them feel fresh, fun and frightening again. Also like the Souls Series, I don't have the technology to play it myself, but I can read about it and I can watch videos, more or less how I experience almost any video game these days, and from even the most cursory glance through a wiki, I'm not nearly the only attractive thing players can enjoy being eviscerated by! For example:

The Messengers

Well, okay, our first monster doesn't eviscerate you at all. In fact, these tiny sweeties are more or less your friends; their origins and true nature are uncertain, but they willingly serve and even seem to admire "hunters" like yourself. Most normal humans can't even see them, but they're everywhere, and as their name implies, they'll carry messages from one hunter to another like the cutest little mailing system in the cosmos. They'll also bring you items they think you might like, and if you're so inclined, you can dress them in tiny clothes. I'm glad a game that aims to be so morbid still had time for putting adorable hats and ribbons on anything.

The Witch of Hemwick

This was the one monster revealed in the earliest promotional leaks of Bloodborne's conceptual artwork, and I think we all knew we were in for a treat when somebody thought a filthy old woman covered in eyeballs was a good first impression to make. With her face always shrouded, you get the impression she only walks in a hunch to give all those clustered eyes a nice, unobstructed view of her surroundings, but that's assuming they even still function. How does she keep stolen eyeballs looking so fresh and moist after sewing them into her rags? Mine only look this good for the first day or two.

The Man-Eater Boar

Pigs are creepy. It's a cute creepy, yet it's also a gross creepy, like a naked bald man got the end of his face bitten off after transforming half-way into a giant hot dog, and that's just a regular, actual pig. Make it humongous, keep the recognizably wretched squeals, and you've got a disturbing enough monster even without erupting its face into glistening, cartoonish fish-eyes, which they actually won't appear to have until you've racked up enough "insight," a game mechanic we'll be discussing more as we go along.

The Church Giant

There are a lot of unwholesomely human-like to actually-human enemies in Bloodborne, but few are more terrifying than these emaciated titans, employed by a "healing church" to track and retrieve runaway plague victims. It may sound like overkill, but in Bloodborne, a lot of diseases tend to turn people into mass-murderous demonoids, so they can never be too careful. Besides their jobs, their ominous garb and their clanging bells, the giants are creepiest for their pale, stoic and disproportionately normal-sized faces, their eyes either permanently closed or nothing but blind, shallow pits to begin with.

Patches the Spider

As a human, Patches actually appeared in both of the Dark Souls games, where he swindled the player character and nearly got them killed, but began legitimately selling items if confronted and shown some mercy. All of this remains the case in Bloodborne, except that his body has now become that of a Nightmare Apostle, a variety of twelve-limbed spider (counting its pedipalps) you'll encounter in large numbers. You'll also encounter less amicable human-faced varieties at one point, but it's good to know they're not all inherently bloodthirsty...or they are, but Patches just loves money very slightly more than he'd like to slurp out your intestines.

The Wrathful Stinger

It's just not a Souls game - or even a proper successor to them - without corpses fused together in unnatural new shapes, and that seems to be what these "scorpions" really are; constructs of rotten bone and shreds of skin. Who or what created them, and why? We can't know for certain. They appear only in the optional dungeons, and as if their glowing, venomous stinger wasn't enough, they also explode when they're killed.

The Blood-Starved Beast

There's a whole series of "beast" enemies in the game, shaggy and bestial things that used to be human, until a mysterious affliction began to transform them, not unlike lycanthropy. Beasts are basically the first monsters you encounter, and if you go into this game blind, you might be fooled into thinking it focuses on traditional monstrous archetypes. Some of these lycanthropes start to get a little samey for my tastes, but this one has a gorgeous style all its own, much of its raw, ragged pelt simply draped over its desiccated frame! I'm not sure I've ever seen a monster capture the qualities of far-gone carrion so well; it looks magnificently like something that's been smeared across a busy freeway and slow-cooked in the sun for a few days.

The Brainsucker

Dungeons and Dragons long ago made brain-sucking, tentacle-faced humanoids almost a household fantasy trope, imitations of the Illithids cropping up with quiet regularity in the gaming world, but few do much to really distinguish themselves or build on the basic template. Bloodborne's offering makes a noble effort to pretend it's a completely different, original monster, featuring colorless, translucent skin, empty eye sockets, an excess of worm-like tendrils pouring from its toothless maw or poking through its flesh, and most peculiarly of all, a single massive, flattened tentacle sticking right out the back of the being. Check it out:

Apparently some sort of parasite sprouting from the monster's spine, this is what a brainsucker actually uses to suck brains, looking like an enormous, colorless leech, planarian or nemertean worm just piggybacking on the humanoid body. Most creature designers would have stuck this in the monster's mouth or stomach, and I commend this out-of-the-box thinking. I am 100% behind this troglobytic mind flayer having a giant killer head-doodle like an abyssal quail.

Darkbeast Paarl

Another exceptionally interesting beast, this one has lost even more of its soft tissues and organs, reduced mostly to bone with only a thin, tight covering of dried skin and a partial coat of thick, matted hair, which is all ghastly enough, but the whole thing also crackles with electricity, and I think we need to take a moment to step back and admire what this monster boils down to: giant, hairy, electrical skeleton. A monster you can describe with just two of those features wouldn't be that outrageous, though a hairy skeleton might raise a few eyebrows. All four of those things put together is just bananas. You're BANANAS, PAARL.

The Crawler

The crawler is sort of your standard "nondescript slimy swamp-dwelling invertebrate" monster, with tentacles arranged like arthropod limbs along a plump, leech-like body. What sets it apart is the sticky membrane it flares like the hood of a cobra...and which appears to imprison a large number of writhing messengers. The poor little guys are clearly stuck there, I guess serving as this organism's primary food source, unless it collects them for some other nefarious purpose. Perhaps they provide the crawler a stable conduit between realities. Or, perhaps, the crawler wants all those little hats for itself.

The Scurrying Beast

An elusive and challenging target, the Scurrying Beast is presumably related to the other "beast" enemies, but instead of a towering, slavering predator, this one is only a tiny, cowardly scavenger, and flees like mad the moment it spies trouble. How it forms is anyone's guess, since its body is a cluster of shrunken heads and decayed skulls on a set of withered, monkey-sized limbs. Does it begin as a single human, withering down to a rodentlike pest? Or does it congeal from scraps of carrion? Maybe it's a clot of tissue sloughed off one of the greater beasts, growing like a tumor or collecting its heads and limbs after it sloughs off and slinks away.

The Call Beyond "Phantasm"

This isn't a "monster" in terms of gameplay, but the item "A Call Beyond" is represented by a beautiful little mollusk clearly patterned after the real world Clionidae or "sea angels," albeit with dense rose of ciliated tentacles, a body shape recalling a more human figure and a view of the cosmos themselves through its gelatinous body. The item does nothing but emit a damaging explosion - and not an especially useful one - but its description alludes to "phantasms" used to commune with outer beings, and we can safely surmise this is one such entity!

The.........Slime Scholars

Haunting a library in large numbers, these unsettling beings appear to be humans only partially transformed into gelatinous, amoebic life forms, little more than heaps of protoplasm from the waist down with sagging, rubbery faces and highly elastic arms. That they still comically wear their scholarly hats lends a lot of personality to the design, and their habit of both crawling on ceilings to regurgitate all over intruders is especially unwholesome. From much of their behavior, we can surmise that they go on doing scholarly things when nobody's around to bother them. You'll even find a gaggle of them seated in a lecture hall.

...A couple of which are asleep in their chairs, and can continue sleeping through everything that goes on around them, including your intrusion and the subsequent massacre.

The Fluorescent Flower Centipede

It's worth noting that not all of these enemy names are "official." In many cases they're entirely fan consensus, and these things have gone by both "fluorescent flower" and "flower centipede." I like both, and I like a middle ground even more. Tipped with a luminous, false flower blossom, this monster's true body is an elongated stalk lined with rippling, feathery legs and a vertical, fang-filled maw mid-way down its length, a bizarre anatomical arrangement done little justice by the "centipede" comparison. It attacks primarily by spitting fireballs, and can spew a grey, toxic fluid from its maw. Interestingly, the tiny flower is a weak point, implying it really is the monster's "head" or houses something similarly vital. It's also the only thing left behind when the monster dies...the rest of its body collapsing into some sort of dimensional sigularity.

The Son of Antiquity

A cheesy as hell name, but appropriate for something that guards over an equally and lovably cheesy haunted castle, complete with headless ghosts and resident vampires. An otherwise "normal" looking, bearded old man creeping around on his gnarly bat-fingers is grotesque enough, but these horrible things also sit as silent and dead still as statues, essentially Bloodborne's take on gargoyles.

The Silverbeast

Nicknamed for the color of their wild hair, these are often compared to H.P. Lovecraft's "gugs," which were described as shaggy, quasihumanoid brutes with horizontally-opening maws. Gugs, however, had burly, gorilla-like bodies and symmetrical facial features, an eye and a nostril to either side of their mouth. These beasts have lankier frames, and as you can see, it's not so much that their mouths open sideways as their entire heads are twisted around, like a flatfish!

The Bloodlicker

Even those "vampires" I talked about get interesting, or some of them do, anyhow. Like a great number of actual, mythological vampires, these sanguivorous ladies feed through a long, sharp tongue rather than a set of fangs, which plays quite well with their insect-like countenance. It's not that they have any extra appendages or even an exoskeleton, but their emaciated, hunched figures and bristly tufts of hair give them an unmistakably flea-like appearance, not to mention the way their stomachs swell with blood to obscene, even physically encumbering proportions! This is honestly one of my favorite ways to make a larger monster out of an "insect," and I love seeing artists play with just how little you actually need in order to make a humanoid physiology seem more like an arthropod.

The Parasitic Maggots

These are more or less a returning monster from previous Souls games, where shorter, more stunted but similarly fanged maggots continuously emerged from infested egg-carrying human hosts. In Bloodborne, these sleeker, more serpentine worms are parasites of beasts, and emerge most notably from dead Silverbeasts. Are they an accidental by-product of the beast disease, or are they in fact carriers?

The Snakeball

Just by putting them in one big, rolling ball, Bloodborne turns something as ordinary and innocent as a snake into a menacing and abnormal monstrosity. These aren't any ordinary snakes, either; you'll also encounter humans "infested" with these serpents like parasitic worms, erupting from their heads not unlike the Plagas in Resident Evil, or the monsters from the manga Parasyte, which the Plagas were probably rip-offs of to begin with. We can probably assume the parasitic stage comes first, before the serpents roll themselves up into a ball and begin their quest for a mate, or maybe just scatter eggs around like a reptilian tumbleweed.

What really strikes me about these snakes, though, is a detail that even makes me squeamish, and on all of google, I can't seem to find anyone else who's noticed it...

Guessed it, yet? It might help if you're a veterinarian, or an outdoorsy type who's seen a lot of wild reptiles. While I'm not extremely eager to make you look at an animal in distress nor make you itch for the rest of the week (okay, maybe the second part isn't entirely true), THIS is what a snake looks like encrusted with ticks. Happy holidays!

The "Labyrinth Mole"

You especially have to love a game packed with enough monsters for any of them to remain undiscovered by players for months after many have already beaten it, and not even some carefully hidden, optional boss or anything. Just a weird, unexplained slimy critter that happens to be a little reclusive, that's all. Found only rarely and only in the optional dungeons, it resembles a cross between a maggot and a giant tardigrade, which wouldn't be the first time Miyazaki has taken inspiration from a water bear, though he also gave this one a tentacled face reminiscent of a star-nosed mole, and what's really funky is how it can pull that whole writhing feeding module into its body and shove it out the opposite end if you try to strike it from behind. Just like mine!

The Garden of Eyes

We've already seen one beautiful shot of this monster, but here you can even further appreciate its stunted, fin-like wings, ecclectic collection of insect legs and segmented tail, an obvious hybrid of human and insect - most likely Diptera. These monsters are said to be the result of twisted experimentation, the goal of which was presumably to unravel a surer path to insight. What IS this "insight" all about? What would it have to do with a giant fly-man? You're gonna love the answer.

The "Giant Lost Children"

I said earlier that "few" humanoids are scarier in this game than the Church Giant, and this is what I had in mind. Like the giants of yore, these are hulking, muscular, dim-witted brutes whose foremost attack method is to hurl boulders your way, which doesn't usually describe a monster you expect to be either heart-wrenching or horrifying, but with scarred, scabrous skin and anguished, deflated-looking faces, you can tell at a glance that existence is pure hell for these things, and what's worse, they've got whip marks on their backs, implying they were originally kept and perhaps deliberately created to be slaves.

The meaning behind many of these monsters is left up to the player's imagination, but a pretty major factor to the story involves certain entities repeatedly attempting to reproduce through human surrogates, and there's a distinctly alarming number of empty carriages and other discarded child-rearing items scattered throughout the city, though not all of the missing infants would have turned into these pitiful oafs. It depends, of course, on what the parents looked like...

The Winter's Lantern

The great thing about these horrors is that they look like relatively normal humans until you build up enough of your insight to see them for what they really are, host bodies to huge, multi-eyed brains, and if you gain even more insight, you can hear them singing. Reeling you in with their tentacles, they gnash at your face with a number of snapping beaks concealed beneath their grey matter, and if you look closely, the remains of messengers are melded to them.

So, what's really the deal with this "insight" anyway? You already know it's a means of breaking through the confines of conventional reality, but the terminology for it is deliciously more literal than you may have guessed. "Insight" is achieved primarily by the development of new eyes - eyes equipped to peer beyond the veils of time and space as we know it - which must be grown directly on the brain to function.

Get it? IN-sight? I'm not sure a pun has ever been more horrifying, and I'm acquainted with a lot of horrifying puns. I am a horrifying pun.

Many monsters we've seen are a mere by-product of those seeking to force this forbidden evolution. Others are natural organisms whose insight has increased by mere exposure to things Not of This Earth, which brings us to...

(Spoilers Throughout!)

The Brain of Mensis

The "Great Ones" are the big bosses of Bloodborne, entities whose corruptive presence is responsible for all these eyeball people and shambling corpses. There's much more to the story than you might think, and we're not going to spoil it completely, but it's going to be difficult to talk about these monsters without giving away some interesting and surprising details, so you've been warned.

Related, as you can probably tell, to the Winter's Lanterns, this beautiful tragedy is little more than an elephantine, eye-covered tumor with a malformed limb or two, initially suspended in a specially constructed tower like a more tasteful church bell, driving mad all who meet its gaze from even miles away.

That's creepy enough, but the creepiest part is that the Brain of Mensis doesn't do anything else. Once the player frees it from its chains and drops it down into a pit, it can't do much but just sort of lie there, throbbing and twitching, while you hack away at it and put it out of its apparent misery. Like I've said many times in the past, the scariest monsters aren't always aggressive...helplessness can make something much more disturbing than violence.

The Celestial Emissaries

These arguably aren't truly "Great Ones" themselves, as it's implied that humans, most likely babies, can be transformed into them through unknown means. It's also implied that they serve as communicators between us and the Great Ones proper, but whatever their origins and whatever their mystical-sounding name, we all know space invaders when we see them. They're basically like many other hypercephalic, telekinetic, luminescent extraterrestrials out there, but a lot of subtle touches make them exceptionally creepy among their contemporaries, like the gnarled, clawed hands, indistinct mouths, coldly glowing eyes and the way their heads evoke a bit of fungus and a bit of deep-sea squid...especially when those heads erupt with blue tentacles like a ghostly sea anemone.

What you may have also noticed, however, are the plants. The whimsical, giant green flower buds all facing towards us like a field of haunted sunflowers. Yes, those seem to be where baby emissaries come from. Other games might shy away from dropping martian pod people into a grimdark gothic horror setting, but Bloodborne is willing to step up to the plate and show them how it's done.


image by Harryninetyfour

A contender for my favorite design in the game, Amygdala is an immense, multi-limbed humanoid with the scuzzy, hairy, bony aesthetic I talked about earlier in the Bloodlickers, her insectile feel furthered by her plethora of yellow eyeballs, though these eyeballs usually aren't even visible. Only when she's about to unleash her beam attack does her gnarled, chitinous brain-head momentarily bubble and boil with eyes, just like one of those gore-filled rubber squeezey toys we all so dearly treasure. What's more, Amygdala will eventually tear off her own arms to clobber you with as she gets low on health. Adorable and hardcore!

What's truly frightening about Amy, and this is one of those SPOILERS you might want to leave a surprise, is that she's really just a baby whatever she is. When your insight has increased enough, you'll finally start to see much bigger Amygdalas, otherwise differentiated only by the addition of tentacles to their faces, an adittion which, honestly, wasn't really necessary to the design and almost takes away from it a little, but I digress. These creatures were a presence all along, clinging like spiders to buildings you've frequented since the beginning of the game, and you can't even really fight them. If they want to harm you - and sometimes, they do - you're pretty much at their mercy, and you're just lucky that you're usually too far beneath their notice.

Rom, The Vacuous Spider

Actually shaped more like a fat, many-legged worm than a spider, Rom was supposedly once a human woman, who achieved total insight and became a Great One devoid of any further thought. Designer Hidetaka Miyazaki mentioned Rom as one of his favorites for her "cute" movements, probably referring to the innocent, carefree way she seems to scuttle around like an isopod and the pitiful flailing of her tiny legs when she falls over, not to mention that she'll actually never ever attack you if you don't hurt her first, which you'll unfortunately have to do in order to progress the game. She hasn't an aggressive bone, or possibly any kind of bone, in her whole wormy body. She's just a big, googly-eyed, roly-poly cuddlebear until you show up and stab her in the face like a shitheel. Once she's injured and frightened by your merciless bullying, she'll even start to spawn little offspring - with actual spider-like bodies - who imitate the movements of their "mother!" HOW COULD YOU.

Mergo's Wet Nurse

Mergo is an important Great One we never actually see, exactly, but we do see the being supposedly nurturing it, and Bloodborne is apparently a world where motherly love is punishable by death, so we can't let her get away with this for long.

It's almost impossible to find a readable screenshot of the wet nurse, but trust me when I say she has a long neck, a serpentine body, multiple arms and a pair of wings, or at least, that's as much as we can infer from the tattered, black rags and elaborate decorations she wears, because she's totally invisible underneath. Surprisingly, while I can recall plenty of other invisible beings whose shapes are betrayed by their clothing alone, I can recall almost none who weren't humanoid.

It's also quite nice to get a setting where such a large portion of the "cosmic horrors" are canonically understood to be feminine. Even most of Lovecraft's unique, named entities were referred to as "he" and "him." Even the ones that were just giant radiation storms in space.

Moon Presence

One of the game's possible final bosses, Moon Presence is an enigmatic entity speculated to be the true, ultimate source of the "nightmare" reality and possibly the purest of the great ones. It's also involved in an ending I cannot in good conscience spoil here, so we'll just have to stick with a design review.

The highest-ranking monsters in a given narrative are often among the plainest, and by Bloodborne standards, that remains true here. Moon Presence is nothing more than a huge, distorted skeleton with a mass of tentacles for a head, but it says something when a huge, distorted skeleton with a mass of tentacles for a head can be considered relatively plain. Moon Presence at least has some additional boneless limbs branching from its arms and legs, and its face is a lovely collection of nondescript, gaping orifices oozing with blood. The idea that we might be looking at a true Great One clashes a little with its humanoid, decomposed looking body, but maybe we just still can't quite see what it really, fully looks like.

As far as "eldritch horrors" go, Moon Presence is a cool one, but it doesn't offer many physiological features we haven't gotten elsewhere in the same game, and it's far outclassed by some of its peers. One peer more than others:

Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos

This, THIS right here, is how you design an indescribable cosmic abomination. More than one description has compared Ebrietas to Cthulhu, and that's almost insulting to both her unmatched beauty and Miyazaki's imagination. She has a vast, humanoid body with tattered wings, flailing tentacles and a polypous face, but that's where loose, superficial similarities end. Few depictions of the big bearded sea cow have ever come close to the surreal majesty of Ebri's writhing, multi-layered visage, her two beautiful green eyes a lone, hauntingly anthropomorphic dash of spice in a mass of gasping, pallid tubes, fleshy folds and angry sores.

That this squirming mess tops a human body is something of an overdone trope in itself, but in this case, it works. It REALLY works. The dissonance between her familiar and unfamiliar features is extreme enough to genuinely make the whole effect even scarier. The design is more or less a giant, slimy-skinned "angel" with a face sincerely like nothing of this Earth, and that's something I can more readily accept driving mortals to madness than, say, a fat green bat with a scowling octopus on its head.

For all her grisliness, however, Ebrietas is no more aggressive than Rom, and in fact...

When we first meet Ebrietas, she's in mourning, face to the floor, weeping over the corpse of what looks very much like Rom, who may in fact have been created by Ebrietas herself. She's dragged the corpse to an altar usually capable of raising the dead, but it seems like Rom is gone for good, and she won't stop crying about it until you start kicking her while she's down. Maybe the altar isn't potent enough to raise an entire Great One, or maybe you murdered sweet, innocent Rom just too hard for anybody to fix it, you utter garbage.

The Celestial Larvae

Our very final Bloodborne monster isn't one of the Great Ones, but it is another of my favorites, and it's appropriate to come after Ebrietas, because you may have already noticed a family resemblance and you may recall me mentioning something about surrogate children. Ebrietas, like many of the Great Ones, is a mommy, but can't gestate viable offspring in her own body.

So, the Daughter of the Cosmos makes do with the wombs of fragile human hosts, and the results are pitifully stunted, but that doesn't seem to discourage her. She just keeps trying, and the city slowly floods with her gooey, slug-like embryonic children. I've seen and enjoyed a great deal of embryonic monsters in my day, and pathetic, embryonic god-spawn are nothing new either, but I appreciate the way these creatures reflect their mother in a crude, simplified fashion. They've got vestiges of the same bivalve-like facial flaps, four stunted cranial tubes and even barely-formed little angel wings. Tiny and very weak, they serve as more atmosphere than threat - my favorite function for a video game monster - and they even tend to make cute little baby noises while they wave their blind slug-faces towards their real mom's abode.

Their real mom, who was crying over her dead friend when you PRACTICALLY broke down her door and pissed in her eye. You ROTTEN SKUNK.

In Conclusion...

The previous Souls games already graced the world of today's modern, high-res violence simulators with some of the most inventively grisly monsters it's seen since the better day of Resident Hill, but in terms of variety, originality and flair, Bloodborne blows them far out of the water. It's barely even a contest. My Souls review found only about twenty creatures weird enough to wow me across both games, and it probably says something about current games that I still regarded it a fairly decent number. Here, I squeezed out something to say about an ideal Halloweeny 31 of them, in one game, and that's still not every single monster on offer. It's every monster I find immediately interesting, but I've left out most of the beasts, humans, humanoids and undead, many of which are still strikingly stylized and may yet offer some horrific surprises if you're yet to play this one.

What we've seen on this page, in fact, damn near brings a tear to my eye. Where was this game before I virtually gave up on personally gaming at all? When I was absolutely bored to pieces by what passed for "horror" and craved nothing more than a title crawling with bizarre new creatures to encounter in unsettling locales?

Only after digging through this content second-hand does it actually sort of pain me that I couldn't have experienced the game itself and discovered its denizens all on my own. Had I even been given the opportunity and implored to do so, I'd have probably turned it down or set the game aside fairly early, certain nothing could have impressed me enough to not just read through its wiki entries and watch a few videos.

The next time Miyazaki heads a monster-filled adventure, I might actually, finally wait for the chance to play it on PC before spoiling its every last creepy crawler, and I definitely hope I'll get that opportunity, whether he crafts another Souls game or spins off something else entirely new. Maybe even a pure blooded "horror" title? Not just a hack-and-slash with a whole lot of horror motifs? Pretty please?!