Bloodborne: The Old Hunters Review – A Harrowing Evening


Bloodborne is back, exploring what happened to the old hunters. A hunter’s nightmare results in a dreamlike expansion for the player.

Developer: From Software

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Platform: PS4

Release Date: November 24, 2015

(This review of the Bloodborne expansion, “The Old Hunters,” is intended to be spoiler-free, but will make passing references to the base Bloodborne game and its narrative roots.)

The From Software action-RPG formula is so particular and calculated in its machinations that pretenders who try to copy it fall to the wayside in obscurity. Nobody else captures that unique style of world-building that doesn’t so much as “show, don’t tell,” but “we have something to show you. Now find it.” More than a half year later, Bloodborne returns with its first and only (planned) expansion, offering some answers at lingering questions that couldn’t be answered without venturing into a mythical past. Near a dozen or so hours later, I remain hungering for more.

Bloodborne: The Old Hunters managers to invigorate the familiar and inject it with something new. Players enter the Hunter’s Nightmare surrounded by a familiar Cathedral Ward interior, but once the first steps are taken outside the Yarnham players once knew takes on an unpredictable passage. Interwoven streets, passageways and Victorian-era urban sprawl have been twisted, transmogrified and decayed in an unsettling manner, setting the stage for the harrowing adventure ahead.

From Software doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to designing their level layout, taking the best features of vanilla Bloodborne and adding on them. Not only does the wonderful shortcut discoveries thoughtfully implemented, but often include or hint to important narrative beats that set up future encounters. There is an air of mystery in discovering what brought about the untimely demise of hunters past, yet even the locations of enemy placement reflect the forethought put into each enemy’s design, weaving together its own mini-story based on the inner conflicts of man and beast, alike.

It’s that style of storytelling that allows combat and gameplay mechanics to play beyond input means to an action’s end. Why do werewolves cower at you, yet run towards gruesome enemy hunters? What kind of tainted monstrosities would harvest in rivers of blood? Why must one fight gigantic creatures amid piles of corpses? Pay attention, and you will discover that there is an answer or two for everything, including the origins of characters from the past and present.

The measures to improve player defense still don’t go far beyond naturally leveling up.

As with most types of DLC add-ons, it’s not just the story of Bloodborne that gets expanded in The Old Hunters. There are roughly a dozen and a half new offensive options at your character’s disposal, with the collection offering a fair balance between character customizations. Taking the manifestation of swords, clubs, polearms, rifles and cannon-like offerings, these new weapons present players with a plethora of exciting new ways to play with AI and human combatant, alike.

A complaint I had in the basic version Bloodborne was there just wasn’t enough variety in the types of weapons available to improve beyond what we’ve seen in the Souls series’. Not only has that issue been squashed, but Bloodborne now sits among one of my favorites when it comes to PvP engagement. The cat and mouse style of combat options available now, including short to long range setups, heavy hitting to swift jab strikes and even between traditional trick weapons and Lovecraftian guttural magic presents a PvP system that suits each player’s desired playstyles.

The one area of character optimization that continues to be lagging behind is the armor system. Bloodborne: The Old Hunters offers close to ten sets of armor, ranging from regal to brutish, but beyond lore background they provide few options for players to improve and prepare for upcoming encounters. I have a deep respect for the “Fashionborne” community, dressing their player avatars in outlandish, stylish or intentionally unpleasing manners, but there are few choices in upgrading any of these sets. Outside of specific anti-poison or anti-frenzy needs done in a pinch, the measures to improve player defense still don’t go far beyond naturally leveling up.

While The Old Hunters crafts a brilliant story told through a rewardingly frustrating, difficult handful of hours, the improvements brought to Bloodborne expand beyond the standalone areas. At least one new covenant, The League, has been added to bring depth to the shallow, mostly hidden faction system previously available. Co-operating with your fellow man and woman to defeat local bosses restores the much-needed reward system from the Souls series while maintaining the convoluted (but intriguing) faction-based setups for PvE gameplay.

You’re going to need help from The League for The Old Hunters’ bosses. I’m not joking; the very first boss is one of the most difficult challenges in video gaming I have overcome. Bloodborne’s expansion gives players a fair number of bosses, spread out over several locations. They represent a strong balance between humanoid, kin and beast-like entities, making sure to avoid the problems Dark Souls II encountered. Each presents a mentally tasking difficulty, requiring the most precision, timing and patience of any set of bosses from a piece of DLC From Software has released.

The monsters, the music, the remarkable detail to the environment; no part of the setting feels undeserving in its reverence.

Perhaps the reason I encountered problems was because of the difficulties presented with New Game +. You see, once you go through the story of Bloodborne once and defeat the “final” boss, you are immediately thrown back into the beginning of the story once more. The problem isn’t in finding out where to go, but the fact that most players who buy the DLC will go in on an increased difficulty strain, one that doesn’t tailor to where the player should discover it in a natural setting. It puts the player in an awkward position, as the multitude of new items and weapons can only be maxed out in a very particular manner already explored and capitalized on in a complete scenario playthrough.

Finally, I must bring up companions. There are a few AI buddies you can bring along with you if a boss is too tough, but no character brought into the game can make up for a continued oversight in how they interact with enemies. They all present problems when interacting with enemies, often going in guns a blazing with little regard to strategy. Additionally, especially on NG+, their stats don’t nearly tailor to whatever you have to offer. Whatever From Software has in store for this series (if it continues), this area of design needs major reworking.


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At the end of the day, the disappointments in the implementation of minor details cannot overcome the wonderful dread that is Bloodborne: The Old Hunters. Despite a layoff of play more than seven months long, as soon as you pick up the controller and enter the dilapidated, run-down locations wielding your weapons of choice, you can’t help but remember how exciting it is to fear the old blood once more. The monsters, the music, the remarkable detail to the environment; no part of the setting feels undeserving in its reverence.

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.