Well, it didn't take long for me to get to the second boss of Bloodborne (the first mandatory one, if I understand correctly.) While I have not yet beaten it, it's not quite the ramp-up in difficulty I had been expecting from his reputation.
Father Gascoigne is found in a cemetery, having apparently lost his mind (you know, like everyone in Yharnam) and really demonstrating the self-defeating nature of The Hunt. Right out of the gate, it's clear that you've got to parry him. The biggest issue I've had is that if I miss a dodge or parry, it's really hard to get a free moment to heal. Obviously the regain mechanic is meant to allow you to stay more aggressive, but given that, unlike the Cleric Beast, Gascoigne's all about comboing you, it's much harder to get your full regain and not, you know, die.
I'm definitely feeling myself settle into the groove of the game - a bit like when I got to the Undead Parish in Dark Souls - no longer making tiny incremental progress through the area, but still certainly encountering some danger and frequent death.
The biggest frustration is when you encounter enemies you feel you'd mastered (like the brick-wielding brutes) and screwing up and even dying to them.
The good news is that the blood vials and quicksilver bullets are flowing much more freely now, so with every death to Gascoigne, I'm either breaking even or actually storing up more for later. The guy in the machine-gun wheelchair in the dark house not far from the Central Yharnam lantern is a godsend, always dropping four bullets every time you kill him. Given that I need at least three just to get to Gascoigne (three of the aforementioned brutes, though I might start just using the dark house to circumvent the first two) and then I use a lot of them on the boss, having this guy guarantee a nice bundle each time is quite useful.
I have the Kirkhammer now, and I've upgraded it once (need two more shard to make it +2.) My goal is to eventually get the Logarius Wheel or, should I get the DLC (and manage to get anywhere in it,) the Whirligig Saw. The game's been relatively generous with shards so far - I expected I'd have to get past a few bosses before I could upgrade anything - so I hope I can get all of them upgraded to decent levels.
EDIT: Beat him as well. The trick with Gascoigne is absolutely getting used to parrying with the pistol. Basically, you have to dodge backward for most of his attacks (sadly doesn't work on his own gunshots, but those only do a little damage.) You definitely have to be careful and make sure you've got plenty of space between you when you need to heal. But the massive chunks of health you can tear out of him with visceral attacks makes the parry method really, really effective against him. I think six or so of these attacks got him down.
The other trick here is making sure you start with a decent number of bullets. I highly recommend using blood bullets and just spending a blood vial to heal back up, as I'm finding vials much more frequently than bullets (except my favorite wheelchair-gunner guy.) Be liberal with gunfire (though, you know, still try to time it right) and you can parry both his human-form attacks and his werewolf-form attacks. Learning the rhythm for the latter is tough, as you'll be in the last stages of the fight and probably really desperate to get him down, but at that point one visceral and a few R1s should be enough to take him down.
I'm feeling far more competent after playing the game for a few hours. Like Dark Souls, a big part of the game is understanding your space. You need to know where you can go and where you're in danger of drawing more enemies to you.
Right now I've actually made it to Old Yharnam, but I'm checking online to see any questlines I might have missed. I seem to have missed finding Eileen the Crow in Central Yharnam, but I think I can start up her quests in Cathedral Ward.
The game is getting very generous with Bloodstone Shards, so I've got my Kirkhammer upgraded to +3, meaning it now needs Twin Bloodstone Shards. Thankfully that means that the rest can be saved for the Logarius Wheel or Whirligig Saw when I get them eventually.
I don't find myself using the transformed version of the Kirkhammer too much, though I have used it on occasion. I'm thinking a future character will probably go Skill and use the Threaded Cane as his/her starting weapon, but I'm definitely not far enough to feel ready to try out alts.