Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Bloodborne guide: combat basics and advanced tricks

Bloodborne is all about combat. make sure you get the most out of it.


Bloodborne guide: combat basics and advanced tricks

Bloodborne offers pretty simple controls, but combat can be intensely difficult. Enemies hit really hard, and you are extremely squishy.

The trick is not to get hit, of course. Whereas previous Souls games favoured a combination of evasion and shield defence, Bloodborne is all about getting in first, by spotting openings. Dodge and attack are your best friends here; leave the sword and board at home.

General combat and secret moves

The basic attack controls are as follows:


As in past Souls games, R3 (clicking the right analog stick) is your best friend. It centres the camera, which is handy, but if there are enemies nearby it targets the closest one - even if you can't yet see it yourself. Locking on is essential, as manually controlling the camera during a fight can be quite tricky - but may be preferential if you end up facing off against a group.

R1 is your primary attack. R2, a stronger hit, is best left for when you've got a handle on things; it's a bit slower and can be harder to connect with.

If you take damage, try to hit the enemy back; the Regain system will allow you to restore some of the lost health if you are vengeful enough. Be aware that you can leave yourself open to more damage, however.

It's important to note that pressing L1 will switch between the two forms of your primary melee weapon, which will change your R1 and R2 attack timings and damage. This transformation is itself an attack, and be chained into a combo at any point.

Backstabbing is a little harder than in the Souls games. To perform a Backstrike, you need to hit an enemy from behind with a Charged Attack (hold down R2). As they collapse, strike again with R1 for a very high power Visceral Attack from behind, which does critical damage.

Firearms are activated with L2. If you run out of ammunition, you can tap up on the D-pad to sacrifice health to gain a few. This can bring your tally above 20.

Firearms are powerful but they're not damage dealers; use them to stagger your foes. If you fire on an enemy as it is winding up to attack, it will be stunned, and you can use R1 to enact a Visceral Attack from the front. This technique is called a Counter Shot, and uses less stamina than dodging and striking.

There are two other little techniques the game won't tell you about. The first is the Jumping Attack. This is hard to pull off: you need to press forward on the left analog stick at the exact same time you press R2 (strong attack). This leaping attack doesn't hit especially hard, but it can be useful for surprising foes and will break through shields.

The second is that dodging and evading are considered part of combos, so you can chain them together. Try rolling towards an enemy and pressing R1 or L1; you'll do a unique attack. Depending on the weapon you're using this can provide some interesting options, like ducking under a swing to attack an enemy low down. You can also do this with backrolls and sidesteps.

There are a couple of ways to evade. Tapping Circle alone will cause you to hop back a step. Pressing circle while pushing the left analog stick will roll you in that direction.

If you are locked onto an enemy and you hit Circle and the analog stick left or right at the same time, you'll perform a blisteringly fast sidestep dodge rather than a roll. The timing is a bit tricky, so practice on some low-level enemies to nail it. Depending on what you're facing, this can protect you much more effectively than a roll, and gets you back into the action to counter-attack much more quickly.

Remember that Bloodborne is all about aggression and offence; use your dodge and roll to get close to your foes as well as away from them.

Another couple of unadvertised moves related to terrain and falls:

  • On ladders, if you tap R1 you'll punch up, and if you press R2 you'll kick down. Humanoid enemies will sometimes follow you up and down ladders, so bear this in mind.
  • If you fall onto an enemy you can press R2 to do a powerful plunging attack. Falling on enemies in general will damage them.

Tactics for crowds and tough foes

You can carry two melee weapons and two firearms at a time; switch between them using the D-pad left and right. It's up to you how you wish to combine these at any given time.

Each weapon, and each of its forms, has different combos; try them out so you know what you're in for. There's no point swinging horizontally over the heads of small enemies, is there?

Stealth can really help you. Many enemies, especially large groups of Henchmen, have a very limited aggro range. Enemies will aggro to you at greater range if you run or roll; walking can get you much closer.

When a group of enemies is walking away from you, jog until one or two turn around and runs at you, then backpedal so the others don't also twig. Rinse and repeat. You can also use pebbles to aggro a specific enemy, or at a greater distance, a long range firearm like the Hunter Pistol. Correctly aimed and executed, both will cause a single enemy to move away from the pack towards you, even if they all turn at the noise.

One excellent advanced technique is to not use lock on in group battles, but instead aim your attacks manually. It can be harder to hit enemies, but having manual camera control and being able to change direction immediately can be a lifesaver. Think of this as a twin stick shooter, where your Hunter is the ship. Watch your ship and move it between the projectiles, then attack during the openings.

If you run out of Quicksilver Bullets you can tap the D-pad up to sacrifice health and gain five - it also works if you have plenty, giving you an extra stash of five on top of your maximum. The best bit is if you then rush in and melee an enemy you can Regain that health back immediately.

Speaking of Regain, it continues for a few moments after an enemy dies; while the animation is ongoing (ie, before they ragdoll), you can keep slashing away to gain more health.

You can use items mid-combat but be wary of the animation length; you will be briefly vulnerable. That said, you are expected to heal on the regular, including in combat. if you face an enemy who can heal (Hunters, PvP invasions), try shooting them when they start the animation.

Now two related tips: if you are grabbed by an enemy, you can alternately tap L1 and R1 in rapid succession to shake free a little faster. If you are knocked to the ground (where you can take damage, you can roll to recover much faster than the standing animation.

Finally, here's a few take home messages: the best defence is a good offence. You don't need to take on everything you see. Groups of enemies should always be broken apart before engaging where possible. Good luck, hunter.

Back to Bloodborne guide.

Read this next