It was a couple of months ago that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the mastermind behind Dark Souls and President of From Software, announced The Old Hunters would be the only expansion that would be released for Bloodborne. The original plan was to make two expansions packs, but in the end they were combined into a single one. A few weeks ago, Miyazaki also announced Dark Souls 3 would be the final game in the series, at least for a while. And yes, that includes Bloodborne. His reasoning being that From Software don’t want to get stuck making the same type of game over and over, and would rather focus on doing something fresh for a change.

Maybe that’s why The Old Hunters feels like closure. Like a farewell letter to the city of Yharnam and its hidden mysteries. And trust me: Bloodborne goes out on a high note.

BLOODBORNE – THE OLD HUNTERS

Developer: From Software
Published by Sony
Available on: PS4 

Curse the fiends, their children too…

There’s not really much to talk about as far as story is concerned: Due to mysterious circumstances, our player Hunter reaches the Hunter’s Nightmare, the place where Hunters consumed by their thirst for blood end up. The cryptic and impenetrable approach to lore from the main game is present in full force in The Old Hunters, which provides some interesting story revelations that will leave the most rabid of fans speculating online for months to come, while everyone else will be left scratching their heads, asking what the hell just happened.

The DLC comprises three new areas and five new bosses (one of them optional,) while also adding around 20 new weapons to the game. Beating the expansion takes about 10 to 15 hours if each area is thoroughly explored for secrets. Not bad at all, considering your average Bloodborne playthrough takes about 35 hours. Each new area is markedly different from the last as far as scenic and level design goes, starting in a twisted version of Central Yharnam and moving into exponentially creepier places, each one ramping up the horror factor while the line between reality and nightmares is blurred. As always, From did a terrific job at giving each zone a distinct visual identity, with the only downside being the big amount of recycled assets from the main game in the first one, although it makes sense, considering the way this place fits into the game’s lore. Souls veterans will squeal with delight with a level that feels like a spiritual successor of the Duke’s Archives from the first Dark Souls, and that is home to some of Bloodborne’s most twisted horrors.

The new weapons introduced in The Old Hunters are probably the best in the whole game. From the Whirigig Saw (a circular saw attached to a cane, which was first revealed in the first trailer,) to the amazing Rakuyo, a lightning-fast double katana (and the weapon of choice of one of the DLC’s best bosses,) and including cannons, hammers and gatling guns, weapons in The Old Hunters are as deadly as they are creative, and you’ll really want to spend time getting to know every one of them, exploring all of their potential and learning their movesets.

“Excuse me, Sir. Do you have a moment to hear about our Lord and Saviour Simon’s Bowblade?”

On the flip side, most of the new weapons are best suited for Strength-based character builds, and having played through the expansion with a Skill-based character I was only able to take full advantage of a few of them. Well, that, and the fact that the best Skill-based weapon is locked behind the hardest optional challenge in the whole game.

And speaking of difficulty: From seem to have taken the criticism about the main game’s difficulty to heart (Bloodborne is widely considered among the fans to be the easiest Souls-like game to date,) so The Old Hunters is, hands down, the hardest Souls-related content to date, providing a level of challenge that towers above the likes of DS1’s Artorias of The Abyss or DS2’s The Lost Crowns trilogy. While the recommended level for the expansion is 65 for a new character, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty at times, and only once I reached level 90 I felt the DLC was finally giving me a fair challenge. The first and last boss especially gave me a hell of a time, more than anything in the game had done up to that point. And if that’s not enough for you, the final area of the DLC is a difficulty spike on itself, on top of the DLC being a difficulty spike in regards to the main game.

xzibit-wtf

You probably thought you wouldn’t see an ancient meme in this review. You thought wrong.

I gotta say: creating a new character to play the expansion,  have this character steamroll some of the hardest bosses in the game, only to get my ass handed to me repeatedly by The Old Hunters made me feel humbled, in the best possible way.

 …and their children, forever, true.

But fear not, because The Old Hunters adds a new key component to the game for those who need help to overcome its biggest challenges: included in a free patch for everyone, but technically still a part of the expansion, The League is a new Covenant that will allow us to summon NPC Hunters to help us during boss fights, by using a new item called the Old Hunters Bell, located in the Hunter’s Dream. These NPC Hunters are actually pretty competent and summoning two of them to fight a boss can make the fight trivial. Of course, you still need to play your part right. While being a member of the League (which also gets you a sweet cane, by the way) you’ll also want to play some coop, since helping another player beat a boss in their game will reward you with Vermin, small bugs that live in the beasts’ blood and are the source of the plague, at least according to Valtr, Master of the League, a lovable nutjob with a bucket over his head. Definitely the type of man you can trust. Crushing Vermin under our feet will help us climb up the League’s ranks.

It’s my opinion that the addition of The League is an excellent compromise to provide an optional “easy mode” of sorts for those who want to experience Bloodborne but are put off by the (vastly overstated) extreme difficulty. Meanwhile, experienced players can just ignore these additions and play through the game normally.

By the way: the “League Oath” salute is the new “Praise the Sun.” Mark my words.

The Old Hunters is Bloodborne going out with a bang. From Software took the best aspects of the main game and then ramped them up to 11 for the expansion, giving us a final episode full of content and of tremendous difficulty. While it suffers from some balancing issues, and the recycling of assets and ideas from the main game may bother some people, one more time From has shown everyone else in the business how to make DLC right. If this is really the last we’ll be seeing of Yharnam, then I couldn’t have wished for a better way to say goodbye. I miss you already, Bloodborne.

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