This weeks #TuneTuesday just so happens to be one of my favourite boss fight cues, in addition to being one of my favourite bosses in gaming. It is Ludwig, The Holy Blade from Bloodborne, composed by Nobuyoshi Suzuki.
Bloodborne is developed by FromSoftware, who are the same people who bought you The Dark Souls Trilogy, so you know that this game is tough as hell and has next to no plot with all the lore told through item descriptions, the environment and the occasional NPC who speaks in riddle.
The plot for Bloodborne is incredibly simple on the surface. You are a hunter who must hunt the beasts that are slowly taking over the people of Yharnam, the city/land in which the game is set. As the story marches on, dragging you through the mud and blood (which there is a lot of) you will find that there is a lot more going on than people being turned into monsters for you to be killed. Without too many spoilers, the world in which Bloodborne is incredibly Lovecraftian (the term being derived from everyone’s favourite racist author, H.P. Lovecraft) as you find many of these beastly monsters and creatures to have Cthulhu-esque designs, each with a strange connection to things that live in the stars that may well have been the study of many a scholar within the Bloodborne world. That is where today’s cue comes in.
Ludwig, a character who is mentioned every-so-often in the main game by NPCs and item descriptions, is a boss in the one DLC, The Old Hunters. He’s actually the first boss and one of the most unforgiving bosses in the whole game. He is also one of the most enjoyable (for me anyway) in the whole game. As you can tell by the thumbnail of the video and the header, Ludwig has become a beast, one that is best described as a monster/zombie horse lined with teeth and eyes. Like his visage, his theme is incredibly discordant, almost as if the entire orchestra is dying a slow and bloody painful death, led by a solo cello and almost screaming choir. I would usually hate something like this, but to analyse the harmonies and the deceptive rhythm (it makes the casual listener think it is in ¾ when it really is in 4/4) is just fascinating to analyse
Bloodborne was the first FromSoftware game the introduced bosses with multiple phases, meaning that once its health has dropped to a certain amount, the boss will unleash a new set of attacks. In the case of Ludwig, his second phase is separated by a cutscene filled with lore, which allows him to transform into a more majestic, and laughably easier, knight form (in the video, this is about the 2min mark). The cue still playing, transitioning into a more sinisterly noble theme, with the brass more prominent, far more frantic with more syncopation, now in the key of E minor, a tone higher (previously D minor) than before. It acts as a final send-off for the character, who is rather significant in Bloodborne’s lore, a brave hunter fallen from grace.
Even if you don’t bother reading any of the lore in the game, or ignore all of the NPCs, it would be hard for you not to feel some remorse slaying this mutated stallion, as he is one of the few bosses that talks to you during a fight, and the only one afterwards, where he has realised the monster that he has become and begs for you put him down.
As much as I enjoy the narrative and lore of Bloodborne, I am a huge fan of its incredible soundtrack, consisting of 6 fantastic composers, each one adding something amazing to this game. This cue is no exception, as we have intense gothic horror one moment before doing a complete 180 for an almost heroic brass theme, whilst retaining that distinct Bloodborne take on Lovecraftian horror.