Bloodborne: The Old Hunters Review
From Software has practically made it a tradition at this point to release quality downloadable content for their Souls series games. Even Dark Souls II, occasionally panned by long-time fans of the first game, is generally considered much-improved with the addition of its DLC trilogy. And of course, Artorias of the Abyss is considered one of From's crowning achievements.
With Bloodborne, the first Souls-like game by From, the trend of downloadable excellency continues with The Old Hunters.
The player is thrust into the Hunter's Nightmare, a hellish prison made to entrap Yharnam's old hunters, who partook in the slaying of beasts until they grew drunk on their blood.
So begins The Old Hunters DLC.
In Review: New Items
This might be a strange thing to rate most DLCs by, but new items are undoubtedly a core factor in The Old Hunters. New equipment has always been one of the highlights in the Souls series, and where it was exciting to get a quirky weapon like the Dragon Bone Fist in the Dark Souls II DLC, it's even more exciting in Bloodborne. New weapons mean new move sets and play styles that can change how you play through the entire game.
The DLC offers players who can conquer its challenges a number of exciting items and abilities, some of which come as a total surprise.
New spells, new trick weapons, new guns, and...new forms? Yes, the most exciting part of The Old Hunters is that we get the long-awaited beast mode that was originally rumored to be a part of the base game.
While it's a little unscrupulous of From to put something that clearly should have been there from the start into the DLC, it was well worth the wait. Being able to go berserk on your enemies, online and offline, is a satisfying experience; one that fits perfectly not only within the gameplay, but the narrative itself.
But we didn't just get one form.
This strange cauliflower monster is actually a "kin" form that the player can take. Again, this fits amazingly into the Bloodborne narrative. Most of your enemies are trying to become weird alien things throughout the game, and it's great to give the player the same opportunity.
Among other favorites, the Moonlight Greatsword, an iconic weapon of every Souls game, returns in spectacular fashion. I actually felt a touch of disappointment when I received the blade, since my first run through the DLC was on my bloodtinge character, who simply couldn't wield it efficiently.
Fortunately, From clearly wants to give every kind of character build some new goodies to play with in The Old Hunters. There are eleven trick weapons for you to find in the Hunter's Nightmare; an impressive assortment, considering the base game offers only fifteen.
The DLC offers a wide selection of weapons. Among the many new options available, there's a blade that can transform into a bow, a pair of fleshy tentacles you can use as deadly whips, and a mace that can grow in size if you feed it your own blood. If you enjoyed playing Bloodborne for the variety of weapons, you'll be overjoyed by the equipment that The Old Hunters has to offer.
More importantly, by putting all of the weapons in such an enclosed area as the DLC, From is making it so that your future characters won't have to suffer without their new favorite weapons for long. Once you feel like your new character is ready, you can simply enter the DLC, clear to where your weapon is, and optimize your character towards it.
Of course, what would new weapons be without new places to demonstrate their power? While one of the core assets of the DLC is clearly the small arsenal you're being given, that says nothing of the love that went into the content that houses these items.
In Review: The Areas
One of the first things you might think after clearing The Old Hunters is that the areas you just cleared are relatively small. You'd be right. But I'd also be willing to wager that if you backtracked to those zones, there'd be more than a few things you missed - or places you couldn't access before that can now be unlocked with a key.
The Old Hunters offers zones that are rewarding for their varied aesthetics and the treasures they hold. I've already touched on items, but how those items are distributed throughout the few zones of The Old Hunters is immensely satisfying.
The DLC isn't interested in giving you the content you paid for on a silver platter. It wants you to explore and earn every last bit, same as in the base game. You may miss a great deal on your first run through the Hunter's Nightmare. There's a hidden boss, a few easy-to-miss side quests, and hidden areas that require you to return after you've progressed further into the DLC.
The Old Hunters can be a linear romp if you want it to be, but it rewards attention to detail, and offers players who want more than a series of challenging boss encounters something else to do with their time.
And that is saying nothing of the areas themselves: they're beautiful, and often grotesquely fascinating. Each zone is ultimately short, but the variety is refreshing. Moving from a place reminiscent to the Cathedral Ward in the base game to increasingly twisted environments helps intensify the feeling that you're really trapped in the Hunter's Nightmare.
Wherever you go, there will be quirky NPCs, mysteries, and chilling atmosphere that plays upon Bloodborne's morbid art direction.
In Review: The Bosses
The cornerstone of Bloodborne, much like Dark Souls, is the amount of love put into the bosses you'll encounter - for the most part.
There are five bosses in The Old Hunters, and two of them are lackluster. This is completely forgivable, however, because one of those fights is totally optional, and the other is a callback to the Celestial Emissary of the base game, in that it's a very minor boss before a legitimate boss fight.
Ludwig, the Holy Blade is the first boss encounter of The Old Hunters, and it is a home-run in both design and concept. Starting him off as a generic beast makes the fight seem rather run-of-the-mill, until the two-headed horseman regains a trace of his sanity and becomes a sort of monstrous paladin.
The dark majesty of this character serves as the perfect prelude to the rest of the downloadable content.
Lady Maria, pictured at the start of this section, is the second real boss. Her aggressive, practically Devil May Cry styled moves are reminiscent of the fight against her mentor, Gehrman, who was easily one of the most iconic and satisfying fights in the entire base game.
Of course, Gehrman didn't call up tornadoes of burning blood.
Maria is a satisfying callback to an aggressive and enjoyable endboss, but she has enough twists and tricks to make her into a unique fight that will force many players to up their game in a trial by fire.
The final boss is a nightmare - figuratively and literally: The Orphan of Kos, who is, perhaps, one of the most challenging fights in the Bloodborne series. He might not look like much, but given his position within the game's narrative, that's forgivable, especially considering his exceptionally strange entrance and his moveset. Not many enemies throw a fleshy yo-yo at you. The Orphan is an aggressive challenge and fitting conclusion to the downloadable content.
The core trio of bosses within The Old Hunters are all wildly aggressive and welcome, challenging additions to the already solid roster the base game had to offer.
What Bloodborne's DLC lacks in length, it makes up for in style. The atmosphere is top-notch, the three main boss fights are extremely solid, and the new items will give the game a substantial life extension when it comes to replay value and online play.
It's a shame that there are no future plans for Bloodborne DLC, because The Old Hunters delivers in almost every way imaginable.