Bloodborne has easily been one of my favourite games released this year. Being released on March 24, 2015, this game received a rather impressive review score of 8.1 from DYEGB editor Kieran Stockton, though personally I consider the game worthy of a score of 9. On September 15, Bloodborne’s first DLC, The Old Hunters, was announced and ever since then I have been itching to get my hands on the first expansion to one of the best games of this generation. After sinking about 30 hours into this DLC I can say that it is not only a worthy addition to the fantastic base game but well worth the $30 price tag.
Cleric Beast, is that you? Why are you on fire?
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters is set in the Hunter’s Nightmare, a cruel and nightmarish (what are the odds?) world where hunters from the past are trapped. Only specific hunters who have become drunk with blood are admitted to this cruel dystopia. This expansion offers an extremely challenging quest line which has a myriad of secrets hidden throughout its environments. Meeting NPCs such as Simon, The Harrowed offers explanations as to what is happening around you and where you should go next, however in typical FromSoftware style you shouldn’t expect to have your hand held in this regard. As you traverse a river of blood and try to reach an astral clock tower, you’ll attempt to uncover the mysteries of the nightmare all while trying to survive its hostile inhabitants. The story is fairly vague however being observant of environmental clues and item descriptions will inform you as to the complexities of your surroundings and the game continues to draw on the wonderfully detailed lore established in the base game. The grotesque bosses you come across also offer some insight into some of the characters which are mentioned in the base game. The fates of characters like Ludwig and Laurence (The First Vicar) are detailed as you encounter them in this eternally shifting nightmare, so listen and watch well as no detail is incidental, it’s all part of a greater tapestry.
The expansion offers a fair amount of challenge, even for seasoned veterans. AI-controlled, blood-crazed hunters definitely prove to be troublesome as they are immediately in your face the minute you start encountering enemies. These maniacal hunters are unable to discern between you and the horrid beasts which roam the lands and will attack all on sight. Bosses are also incredibly nimble and as always they will refuse to take any sort of mercy on you. There is a satisfying amount of these encounters too and all are likely to push your skills and patience to the limit.
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters also offers fifteen new weapons, five of which are left-handed weapons. Amongst these is the Church Cannon, which fires a cannonball that deals raw damage instead of light damage and like other firearms gives you the opportunity to mount a devastating counter attack (named a visceral attack) if timed correctly. There are also two new hunter tools and eight new armour sets. Alongside all of these additions you can finally become a proper beast (like actually transform into one) once you collect a specific Caryll Rune which also adds a new and unique move set for the Beast Claw, nice to finally be able to unleash it here. There are also two new covenants for you to join as well as The League, which was added into the base game with the major patch that dropped just before this expansion launched. Like in the base game however, who you choose to ally with has relatively minor impacts on the gameplay or story. The only noticeable difference being that in one of the fights, Valtr, the Leader of the League, will come to aid you if you are aligned with this particular covenant.
Visually, this game is just as good as ever. The river of blood looks fantastic, matching the thick lashings of it that cover your armour and weapons perfectly. The atmosphere is dreary and foreboding and the environments are diverse yet easy to navigate. Some environments however may seem a little familiar from the base game but they have all been aesthetically changed to fit the Hunter’s Nightmare theme. Any familiarity is false comfort though as entire sections have been changed and you will be punished for being reckless. You’ll recognise areas you’ve been to before, but traversing them will be quite different as paths have been changed dramatically, allowing for the whole thing to feel like a new experience. Enemy placements are intricately designed so that you are constantly guessing as to where enemies will be lurking. As always there are enemies waiting in preparation to ambush you for any of your misguided anticipations so it pays to take it slow and steady. As well as having great visuals, the sound design is also superb. Footsteps add to the atmosphere, especially when traversing through the river of blood, as the typical sound of footsteps on stone is replaced by a vivid sloshing which depicts the true depth of the blood dispersed underneath your feet. Bosses like Ludwig, The Accursed also have horrifying sounds threaded into their attacks which add to the terror which are these bosses.
The music which accompanies your entire play through of this expansion is fantastic. Gradual builds add to the intensity of boss fights, beautiful melodies which invoke emotion are contrasted by pieces of eerie dissonance inspiring terror and intensity. It all combines with the visual atmosphere to make you extremely uncomfortable and give you the overwhelming sense that you don’t belong there. Instrumentalism in this expansion’s soundtrack is perfect, with each instrument coming in at just the right moment to add to the experience.
With its beautifully written music, impeccable visual and sound design and challenging boss encounters, Bloodborne: The Old Hunters seeks to provide die-hard Bloodborne fans with a fantastic piece of content while also kicking their arses for getting comfortable with any sort of formula. The expansion doesn’t wait to throw you into the fire, with the first boss encounter being one of the hardest I’ve ever played. For Bloodborne veterans, you will find this content expansion to be one of the most enjoyable experiences so far in Bloodborne, and the story continues the development of the deep lore. Those who thought that the original game was too challenging will likely find this much harder, but as always… nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Reviewed on PS4