Like many video game characters, your Hunter can run faster, leap farther, hit harder and endure staggeringly more punishment than a normal human, but of course, in the context of Bloodborne, you stopped being a normal human before the game even began. You've been a Hunter, you've been using beast blood, and the game properly begins when you're given a transfusion of it straight into your veins.

A few enemies and bosses are capable of dropping centipede-like "vermin" if you have the Impurity Rune equipped. These are primarily part of a sidequest that involves co-op play, but it's usually hunters or ex-hunters, including beasts like Ludwig, that have these parasitic creatures in their blood, and it's implied that you've contained some of your own all along.

You can, of course, also take on Phantasm Parasites as spells and weapons. We've seen the Call Beyond parasite that gives you similar powers to the Celestial Emissary. There's also the Augur of Ebrietas we looked at early on, which actually summons Ebrietas's tentacles as an attack. Another is the Kos Parasite, a living weapon primarily obtained from defeating the Orphan, which initially just looks as if you're fighting bare handed and isn't all that powerful.

If you equip the Milkweed Rune, you become a bizarre sort of Kin with a head of Lumenwood that "peers towards the sky, feeding phantasms in its luscious bed." The true, hidden advantage of this transformation is that it significantly increases the power of the Kos Parasite, transforming your limbs into deadly tentacles. It also bears mentioning that when these two are equipped together, some of your character animations look as though something invisible is lifting and moving you like a doll.

These are all just examples of how far you might stray from humanity over the course of your hunt, and even if you abstain as much as you can from the abuse of brain parasites or werewolf juice, you still can't progress your adventure without amassing insight, until the inside of your head almost certainly looks more like one of the Winter Lanterns than it does a human brain.

Superficially, Bloodborne is about a monster hunter attempting to exterminate a bunch of werewolves and cthulhus. By the end, it's more accurate to say this is a game about your ascension to a Great One yourself.

This reaches its logical conclusion - possibly? - only if you defeat the Moon Presence, and one detail I saved for this entry is that you can only fight Flora at all if you've consumed three pieces of Great One umbilical cord. Why did you do that, actually? What canonically ever possessed you to put a space monster's afterbirth...in your mouth? Is that what you do? Is that what "consuming" them means?? Good lord, even the umbilical cord has eyes all over it. You saw that and said "mmm-mmmm, hop on in, little buddy!"

The different cords you can obtain each have different descriptions, putting together more of the puzzle:

"Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate. The Third Umbilical Cord precipitated the encounter with the pale moon, which beckoned the hunters and conceived the Hunter's Dream."

"Provost Willem sought the Cord in order to elevate his being and thoughts to those of a Great One, by lining his brain with eyes. The only choice, he knew, if man were to ever match Their greatness."

"Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate, and Oedon, the formless Great One, is no different. To think, it was corrupted blood that began this eldritch liaison."

"Every Great One loses its child, and then yearns for a surrogate. This Cord granted Mensis audience with Mergo, but resulted in the stillbirth of their brains."

So maybe you're full of slugs and maybe your head is a vegetable. At bare minimum your blood is full of bugs, your head is full of eyes, and you've absorbed the dried-up remnants of at least one stillborn godling when you murder poor Flora, and that's when the following finally happens:

This ending is called Childhood's Beginning, and the scene consists entirely of the Plain Doll lifting a darkly colored, tentacled slug as she simply says "are you cold" and then Oh, good hunter!

Flora's defeat is, apparently, the final push you need to metamorphose into a brand new, full blown Great One, to be raised by the Doll in what was most likely her true purpose all along. At long last, you have it all: the secrets of the cosmos, nigh-immortality, an undying maneqquin mom, and most importantly, various tendrils.

By the time Bloodborne was ever on my radar years ago, I'd seen the Winter Lantern first thing. But I can't imagine how fun it would have been to have no idea what I was in for, start playing a game about hunting a wolfman infestation, and end playing a game about eyeball brain gods from beyond the stars. Let's summarize, one last time, everything we've learned about the premise of this story:

-Werewolves and other classic monsters exist, but they're just a glimmer of the influence of something much more alien.

-They're all tied to the full moon because that is also something more alien than you thought it was.

-The alien forces are a pantheon of Mythos-inspired tentacle gods.

-They're tied to invertebrate life, logically because worms and slugs would have been around much longer to influence.

-They're tied to the oceans, because those are portals to the cosmos.

-They aren't evil, but they're fascinated by us or find us useful, just as we do other animals.

-The entire setting might actually be an interconnected pocket universe of dreams and nightmares.

It can all look like an ecclectic mess of tropes at first glance, but if Bloodborne has a core underlying thrust to it, it's more or less a world in which all possible horror tropes are woven together as neatly as they ever really could be. And while your quest is ostensibly to fight back against the tyranny of werewolves, vampires, ghouls, mutants, mad scientists, cosmic cults, space invaders and interdimensional god-beasts, the truth is, you've just been ranking up and proving your worthiness to join in on the fun.