Why Bloodborne Doesn’t Allow Fast Travel Between Lampposts/Bonfires?
Answer: The City of Yharnam
If you are a fan of the Dark Soul series developed by FromSoftware, you almost certainly hated it when FromSoftware took out the wrapping feature between bonfires in its 2015 title Bloodborne. The fact that one lamppost in Bloodborne only returns the player back to Hunter’s Dream, as a one way trip, and not to any other lamppost/bonfire, is almost nonsensical. Why would FromSoftware take out such a feature so intrinsic to the “Soulsborne” experience other than garnering negative responses from players?
The reason is not a technical one. Warping between bonfires, aka checkpoints, is a feature first introduced in Dark Souls 1 (2011), if you don’t count Demons’ Souls as an official installment to the series. There is simply no excuse for FromSoftware to suddenly say that they failed to solve a technical challenge that used to be a bug-free feature 4 years ago.
The reason is not one related to the story either. From what I have gathered upon the lore of Bloodborne, that is no mentioning of any diegetic reason that between-bonfire warping was disabled due to some mystic/supernatural forces. Besides, the one-way trip back from any lamppost to the Hunter’s Dream does not add anything new, in terms of side stories, to the main story bloodborne tells.
The only valid reason I could think of for the removal of the beloved feature is that by taking away the ability to warp between lamppost/bonfires, FromSoftware coerces the player into unlocking shortcuts between lamppost, thus making them explore the meticulously designed city of Yharnam, one that puts much more emphasis on connectedness between different parts of the city.
Yharnam’s landscape is much more vertical, cramped and convoluted than those from the Dark Souls series. In Dark Souls, players usually traverse relatively flat and vast landscapes without much of a chance, compared to the map of Bloodborne, encountering a shortcut connecting various parts of the map. On the other hand, players will more than often find themselves in buildings, or connected interior spaces of different buildings in Yharnam. Those interior spaces are intentionally designed to confuse the players as labyrinthe and difficult to navigate. Adding upon the depressing feeling of constantly being lost in the Victorian maze, The lack of bonfire warping forces the player to take mental notes of the path they took discovering a new bonfire from an old one, or explore, with great caution, those deceptively hidden shortcuts that make the journey more bearable. The payoff of this design decision takes place when the previously circuitous and convoluted paths in Yharnam become engraved in the mind of the player, and when the sudden discovery of shortcuts, albeit much slower than those in Dark Souls, connect two seemingly remote parts of the city. The general emotional arch of players’ relationship the Yharnam starts off with disgust, confusion or even repulsion (thanks to the horrific Cthulhu style), then most likely willed adaptation and acceptance (respawn due to death and re-walking of the same path leading to a boss), and finally a strong sense of achievement after conquering a boss and remembering every inch of the path leading to it, namely conquering the landscape.
The removal of warping between bonfires/lampposts in Bloodborne is a deliberate and well-thought out design choice that greatly respects and believes in the player. It not only forces them to come to terms with their patience, but greatly amplifies that sense of mastering navigating such a convoluted and grotesque environment and conquering its respective bosses, adding so much charm and character to the dyingly hideous yet enchanting city of Yharnam.
Design in this case ultimately serves the story and the narrative. So, everything, every decision FromSoftware makes, does have a reason then…