Disclaimer: this article contains names of locations and enemies in the original Bloodborne and the Old Hunters content that could be considered spoilers; read at your own risk
When Bloodborne was released in March of this year, it quickly established itself as one of the PS4’s most essential titles. Even if you had no interest in the Souls series before, From Software’s nightmare world provided the same gripping combat and incredible atmosphere of those games, whilst also tweaking the more cumbersome and obtuse gameplay mechanics to make the overall experience much more immediate and enjoyable. Eight months later, The Old Hunters is upon us – a downloadable expansion to the game which offers new environments, characters, weapons, enemies, bosses and more. After downloading the expansion, a bit of online research reveals that if you’re at a point in the base game where Vicar Amelia has been defeated, you can go to the Amygdala in Cathedral Ward to trigger a cutscene that will take you to the DLC’s first new area, the Hunter’s Nightmare. It’s an area that, at first blush, seems to mimic the layout of the original Cathedral Ward. However, as you progress and try to find old landmarks you remembered, The Old Hunters soon forges its own identity.
Human enemies can be firing minigun-like weapons or swinging giant chains, the gross Bloodsucking Beasts from Forsaken Castle Cainhurst are a greater presence here, giant foes carry enormous cannons unlike anything seen before, and plenty of other opportunities arise for the new content to defy your expectations. The Old Hunters is the kind of expansion that isn’t afraid to have a boss from the first game presented as a regular enemy lurking in the shadows of a cave you find yourself exploring in the expansion, and the fear of what might lurk around the corner is always offset by the giddying sense of excitement when you see something cool and new and unlike anything in the original game.
Adapt or die
Everyone who is a fan of Bloodborne will have their own anecdotes to share from The Old Hunters, and I’ve already played through moments that are better than anything in the original game. One location, the Astral Clocktower, is home to a boss battle that is one of the best duels I’ve ever experienced in Bloodborne – a pure test of skill and reactions where you can’t hesitate for a moment; a battle that leaves you as breathless as you were after your first hunter duel in the original game. And if The Old Hunters isn’t wowing you with new battle sequences, it’s casually dropping you into environments that are as jawdropping as ever. At the same time, certain bosses or situations can still prove frustrating if you’re retrying them a lot (and going back around old areas to farm for more blood vials), but eventually you learn to adapt and make the most of the tools you have.
One thing that needs to be stressed about The Old Hunters is that the content isn’t for players who only have two or three hours on their save game. The DLC areas can be as hard as the endgame content of Bloodborne, and even though I had built up a new character in preparation for the DLC (getting as far as I could in the game without completing it and slipping on to New Game+) there are still plenty of formidable encounters and bad situations that quickly become worse, leading to panicked mistakes and quick deaths. Nevertheless, The Old Hunters is an essential download for anyone who fell in love with the original game and is looking for another challenge. It takes everything that makes Bloodborne great, moves it to a new location and hides plenty of surprises for players willing to set foot into the Hunter’s Nightmare.
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters is available now on the Playstation Store for £11.99. Find out more about Bloodborne at Playsation.com