It’s no secret that Bloodborne is a challenging game, consistently knocking players on their asses and taking away their progress for every mistake they make. But these insanely difficult games have been with us for years — challenging us with intense battles, downright painful mechanics, and unfair boss encounters. Not only do they make us think and scream with rage, but they make us feel like we actually accomplished something in our game — and Bloodborne’s latest expansion, The Old Hunters, offers plenty of challenges that satisfy that craving for accomplishment.
Set during the base game, The Old Hunters takes place within the Hunter’s Nightmare, another dimension where many of Yharnam’s original protectors have become trapped or enslaved due to their horrible acts and associations. Set to guard the secrets of the past, these individuals are doing their best to keep people like you out — and it’s your job to put them in their place, uncovering all the secrets they’ve fought for centuries to protect.
What’s more interesting though, is how each of these environments directly contributes to the narrative of Bloodborne. Take the Research Halls for example, which are filled with failed experiments and canisters of blood — directly showing that one of the game’s main organizations, the Healing Church, focused on experimentation instead of healing those afflicted with illness. The Research Halls, and the other locations within The Old Hunters, serve to fill in the lore gaps Bloodborne players have been waiting to figure out; resulting in compelling environments throughout the entire DLC that are worth exploring to your heart’s content.
These environments are littered with a plethora of new enemies as well, with traps and tricks to hurt you around every corner. Unlike the base game, The Old Hunters has a much greater number of hunters across its landscape — which are more dangerous this time around due to their placement. Church hunters with spells occupy narrow hallways, limiting your ability to dodge their magic and mutated hunters block exits with cannons, keeping you locked down unless you manage to time your dodges perfectly. Often I found myself being attacked during my weakest moments, such as in dark areas or when I had limited space to dodge, and it only added to the thrill of exploration. Once again exploring feels dangerous in The Old Hunters, thanks to these new enemy NPCs and their clever placement, although that will wear off the more players replay each section of the DLC.
The Old Hunters also brings five new bosses to Bloodborne, which are some of the most challenging to date. Each has a diverse set of moves featuring new mechanics and hits very hard. During my time with The Old Hunters I found myself getting killed in one or two hits from each boss and that’s on the original NG difficulty. Now, at this new difficulty? I found that bringing along friends helped drastically in some of the boss fights, namely Ludwig and Lady Maria. So be sure to take advantage of the new faction added right before the Old Hunters released and get some cooperative buddies alongside you if you’re having a difficult time.
These DLC bosses also have an added value, mainly because they hold a place within the game’s lore that we finally get to witness firsthand. Take a look at the expansion’s first boss for example; Ludwig, The Holy Blade. Not only was Ludwig respected by many, but he was the first hunter of the Church who trained hundreds of others to fight back the beasts. Now? We see him as a corrupted, malformed beast himself — consumed by the blade he thought would keep him safe from being transformed.
Alongside of the enemy and boss roster is an impressive gear collection, filled with a plethora of weapons and armor for players to dig into. The Old Hunters offers 18 new weapons and 9 new armor sets, each revolving around the primitive theme of the DLC. As such, most of the weapons are brutal and efficient, like the Whirligig Saw — which is basically a giant chainsaw that looks like a pizza cutter. There’s also a few unexpected weapons too, such as Simon’s Bowblade — which turns into a bow when transformed. Apparently it was made for an old hunter who hated guns and many others made fun of him for it — but it put down beasts just as well when I was using it.
Each of these weapons performs really, really well — almost too well. While they don’t seem broken in terms of power, some weapons like the Whirligig Saw are able to plow through enemies and bosses health bars without effort, which may be fixed later down the line or with the increasing difficulty of NG+. For now though, they’re a pleasure to play around with and are encouraging Bloodborne players to roll new characters with new builds just for the sake of using the new weapons.
As a package, Bloodborne’s first and only DLC is a resounding triumph that adds heaps of content to the base game in a meaningful way — which is something many popular titles don’t seem to focus on these days. The Old Hunters contains a great collection of bosses, weapons, and enemies all wrapped into some truly fantastic environments — and is absolutely worth returning to Bloodborne this year for.