Starting out without a proper tutorial level, Bloodborne is a bit of a black sheep among the FromSoftware catalog with the way that it throws players into the depths right off the bat. However, as willing as the game is to send players to the Hunter's Dream in the first few minutes, it still manages to have teaching moments like the Cleric Beast to get players up to speed right from the beginning.
The Cleric Beast itself is a unique fight for FromSoftware, in that it manages to act as the tutorial boss for Bloodborne without making it a trivial encounter that most players will breeze over on their first or second try. This is a fight that can be tough to learn, but teaches how players need to approach combat against bosses through the design of its lengthy limbs and simple attacks.
One of the most notable changes from Dark Souls to Bloodborne was the way that the latter game pulled away from hiding behind shields and instead incentivized dodging as the primary way to avoid damage. This has been claimed to promote a more aggressive fighting style, alongside Bloodborne's Rally System which allows players to recover lost health by attacking enemies. However, against the common citizens of Yharnam that players will find in the first areas, dodging back and away can be good enough to avoid taking a hit.
The Cleric Beast is one of the first enemies to break that instinct, with attacks that will track and chase the player across the arena if they try to dodge backwards to avoid a hit. Instead, what players need to do to master Bloodborne's combat is to dodge forward, using their invincibility frames that come with the dodge action to step through attacks and both avoid damage while also being in position to counter. This is built directly into the design of the Cleric Beast, with his massive left arm telegraphing exactly where to move in order to best avoid damage, even if it might not be obvious at first.
Figuring out where to best dodge attacks in Bloodborne will later become the key to delivering a beat down to every boss from Martyr Logarius all the way to the Moon Presence. So, having one of the first bosses hold an engorged arm that draws the players eye in one specific direction is a great indication that there is a correct position to take during the fight. It creates a helpful mindset for the player to take from one boss to another as they continue to face off against similarly giant monsters.
Another major concept that the Cleric Beast introduces to Bloodborne is the way that large monster bosses can have their limbs broken for extra damage and staggers. This includes the giant left arm, which will quickly become the focus of most players as they follow the telegraphs for where to dodge and counter throughout the fight. Managing to get these limb breaks to activate even causes a glorious visual of Bloodborne's titular fluid to spray out in a massive burst.
Between the low HP on the Cleric Beast's limbs and the incentives to focus the player on one side, it's rare for new players to not manage to break at least one arm. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that all players will immediately recognize that this one spray of blood is different than any other and that the resulting flinch from the boss is a result of focusing down one limb. Still, as players continue to explore Yharnam throughout Bloodborne, the hints first dropped against the Cleric Beast are the first steps towards improving against later, harder enemies.
Bloodborne is available now for PS4.