If you're not playing Bloodborne online, with and against other players, you're missing out on a big part of the experience. Playing with others and benefitting from their skill and knowledge enriches the game — and it also makes it a hell of a lot easier.
But getting into synchronous Bloodborne multiplayer can be a little confusing, just like the rest of the game's cryptic systems. If you're looking to do a little cooperative gameplay, whether you need help beating a certain boss or want to lend your talents to a friend, or even a stranger, we're here to help explain how that works.
The first thing you need to connect to other players in cooperative multiplayer is a Beckoning Bell. You'll get this early on, in the Hunter's Dream hub world. The Beckoning Bell allows you to send out a signal, broadcasting your interest in having another player join you in a co-op multiplayer session. When you ring the bell, the game will seek out other players who have graciously put themselves out there to offer assistance. You'll be the host in this type of multiplayer session.
To ring the Beckoning Bell, you need to spend one point of Insight. This is the stat that shows up in the upper right of the screen, below your Blood Echoes count. It's indicated by a little eye icon. Insight can be earned by meeting characters and encountering bosses. You can get one Insight point just by seeing one of the bosses, and you'll get two points if you beat him. You'll also be able to earn Insight by consuming an item called Madman's Knowledge (one of those can be found in the sewer section of Central Yarnham). You can earn a greater amount of Insight by consuming Great One's Wisdom, a more rare consumable item.
Given that summoning another player costs Insight, you might want to be careful how often you use it, because Insight also has other uses.
Once you have enough Insight, you can visit the Insight Shop — you won't be able to even see the bath messengers who control the Insight Shop unless you have at least 10 Insight. The Insight shop is located just outside one of the doors of the workshop in Hunter's Dream. It's is where you can purchase certain items like Blood Stones, temporary weapon buffs and other consumables, as well as some attire sets.
You can also purchase two more bells at the Insight Shop: the Small Resonant Bell and Sinister Resonant Bell.
The Small Resonant Bell is used to send a signal that you're available to join another player's game. Ring the bell, and you might be matched up with a player who has rung the Beckoning Bell in their game. Jolly cooperation ensues. It doesn't cost Insight to ring the Small Resonant Bell.
If you want to play co-op with a friend, you can actually do that in Bloodborne. You'll just need to go into the game's settings, choose Network and then set a password. Both players will need to input that password before ringing their respective bells. But keep in mind, you and your co-op buddy will need to be within 10 levels of each other to play together (your level 10 character can't connect with a level 32 character, for example).
When you join another player in cooperative mode, keep in mind that some enemies will be a bit stronger. Bosses will have more hit points than normal, but the fact that there's two targets for that boss instead of one can be a big help.
The Sinister Resonant Bell lets you invade another player's world, hunt them down and kill them if you're feeling, well, sinister. There are certain Oaths (Bloodborne's version of Covenants) in the game that encourage invasions of other players, so expect players to be motivated to invade you.
In order to invade another player's world, you not only need to ring the Sinister Resonant Bell, an enemy called a Sinister Bell-Ringing Woman needs to ring a bell in their world. She'll spawn in a player's game after they ring their Beckoning Bell — so they're opening themselves up to help and exposing themselves to risk of invasion.
You may encounter moments in Bloodborne when the Sinister Bell-Ringing Woman appears in your game even if you haven't rung the Beckoning Bell. She'll appear, seemingly randomly, as you play Bloodborne, exposing you to potential danger. The game will alert you if a Sinister Bell-Ringing Woman is nearby, however, so you can find her, kill her and shut down any potential invaders.
If you want to stop searching for another player to cooperate with or another player to invade, you can fire the Silencing Blank.
I recommend keeping some of these items — Beckoning Bell, Resonant Bells, Silencing Blank — in your Personal Effects menu. This is the inventory section that can be accessed by tapping the right side of the DualShock 4 touchpad. Saving your character's quick inventory slots — the stuff you use with the square button — for items like antidote, pebbles, Molotov cocktails and such, will probably save you some poking around in the menus.
Beyond the synchronous multiplayer, there are some asynchronous things you should know too.
As you've likely seen, players can leave messages for each other through the Messengers. These are little clues that are written with the Notebook (again, handy to keep in your Personal Effects menu). Not only can they be helpful to read for hints and strategies, they can be beneficial to write. If you write a helpful tip, other players can rate it "fine" or "foul" after they've read it. (This is done via the DualShock 4 touchpad.) If someone sees your message and rates it fine, you'll recover a portion of your health. So leave helpful messages.
Messages have been in From Software's Souls games from the beginning, but in Bloodborne, they get a little bit better. Now you can add gestures to your messages. That means you can add certain emotes to pump up other players, or use the pointing gesture to indicate where potential danger or treasure might be.
Finally, you can also see the ghosts of other players, called Specters, that show how they lived their last remaining moments. While Specters seem to be a bit broken right now, they can be very helpful for avoiding ambushes and deadly falls.
Bloodborne multiplayer should be opening up more as more players join in, make their way through the game's bosses, join Covenants and start experimenting with co-op and player-versus-player combat. Definitely give it a shot and if you have any questions, don't be shy about asking in the comments or bugging other players for help.
Polygon Video: Overview of Bloodborne