Bloodborne: The Old Hunters starts out with you revisiting somewhere very familiar, but somethings not quite right. The landscape has become twisted and malformed and it’s now inhabited with foes you have not seen before. As you confidently stroll over to your first opponent, decked out in your best gear, you suddenly realize that conquering this expansion isn’t going to be easy as you had thought.
Those of you familiar with Bloodborne will obviously be aware of its intimidating difficulty and The Old Hunters certainly doesn’t let up in that department. You find yourself constantly duelling with the hunters trapped within this nightmare whilst watching in awe as their new shiny weapons tear you to pieces. The transforming weapons in Bloodborne were one of its defining features and created endless fun for players as they discovered just the sheer amount of offensive options at their disposal. With a new expansion comes new weapons and they are equally as ingenious and deadly as those seen in the original game. You’ll soon find yourself becoming acquainted with such devastating tools like the ‘Whirligig Saw’, or the ‘pizza cutter’ as most people are calling it, a mace like blunt weapon that plugs into a huge whirring saw blade that slices enemies like they were… pizza… The Old Hunters also does a great job of providing you with enough materials to upgrade most of these new weapons, with shards and chunks able to be found throughout the DLC’s first area. But please, don’t upgrade the Gatling gun. Its overpowered enough as it is.
When the Souls games released DLC it was always jam packed with content, full of new bosses, enemies and sprawling areas to explore. It’s fair to say, The Old Hunters follows this trend and there is so much content here it’s quite exasperating. In this new nightmare world there is a huge mix of re-imagined areas and brand new locations varying from ruined seaside settlements to dark underground laboratories. The area known as the research lab is possibly the highlight of the entire game. You make your way through rooms littered with potions and books dimly lit with a green hue. The only accompaniment you will find in this area are groups of patients draped in bloody gowns and swollen enlarged heads. Some of them will be extremely aggressive whilst others are simply lost and confused, one patient in particular sifts through a pool of water frantically looking for their eyes.
Obviously there a few re-used assets here and there but the game still manages to make them interesting. Your expectations are constantly being played with, areas and enemies you thought you knew leave you constantly second guessing. For instance, remember that old wooden house next to the Cleric Beast fight. The enemy in the wheelchair located in the back of the room doesn’t seem to be as active as he once was. However, you’ll soon realize the threat has been replaced with multiple delayed explosives and you can’t spam the roll button fast enough to avoid the dreaded “You Died” screen. There are multiple moments like this in The Old Hunters generating an edge of your seat experience most horror games fail to create.
Getting enough bang for your buck is definitely not an issue here but considering the base game was so long you may experience some Bloodborne burnout. It’s difficult to use this as a negative against this expansion as there is so much to do. But when you’re relentlessly slashing your way through another batch of crows you do start to feel familiarity setting in. This is only a minor niggle overall and fails to really detract from what is a great addition to the game. It’s may be down to the how long you spend hitting your head against the figurative brick wall that sometimes is Bloodborne but The Old Hunters does begin to feel slightly bloated by the end.
Now, excellent boss battles are an important part of any Miyazaki game and this is where The Old Hunters really delivers. There is a total of five bosses in this expansion with one of them being optional. Each of these bosses are unique in their own way and make sure that you have to be able to mix up your play style to defeat them. For players immersed in the Bloodborne lore and story, they will be pleased to know that a couple of big name players from the Bloodborne universe do make an appearance. One of them also holds a weapon that long time Souls fans know all too well, however he won’t surrender it easily. These fights also contain massive cinematic moments that are simply amazing. Not only are they accompanied with the regular dose of both intense and beautiful boss themes but the ways in which the fights change and develop is great to watch. During the fight with The Living Failures you’ll find yourself gazing into the cosmos itself as the room is shrouded in a dark vortex of stars and planets.
The Orphan of Kos also provides one of the most disturbing moments of the entire game, which is saying something, as he emerges from the filth of a beached carcass only to fight you with a barnacle encrusted blade attached only by sinew. In terms of the last boss of the game it would be easy to criticize the game for its copy and paste nature. However as previously mentioned The Old Hunters does a great job of playing with your expectations and those expecting a similar fight are going to be quite surprised. This fight also gives you a nice sense of closure to the game, depending on which boss you fought first, as everything almost comes full circle as your given a chance to reflect on your time within both the dream and the nightmare.
For fans of Dark Souls as well as Bloodborne there’s a lot here that seems to pay homage to anyone who’s played these games. One of the games new NPC’s known as Valtyr is obviously a reference to fan favourite Solaire from Dark Souls as he possesses both a similar appearance and enthusiasm for jolly co-operation. This character also allows players to join a covenant in which helping each other brings great rewards. With this covenant comes the ability to summon a variety of old hunters for support, not just new bosses and areas but those found in the rest of the game too. As the DLC is quite difficult to get to you may need some of this new-found assistance.
In summation Bloodborne: The Old Hunters is a fantastic addition to the base game and those still hungering for more beast slaying action will not be disappointed. The variety of new weapons, bosses and areas will give players plenty of new experiences whether this be through jubilation or frustration. New snippets of story and lore will also certainly excite those who seek it, adding new character and sub-plots and expanding on the disturbing tales of Yharnam. For anyone who deeply enjoyed the base game it’s hard to look past this being a must buy.