Release Date: November 24, 2015Platform: PS4Developer: From SoftwarePublisher: SonyGenre: Action role-playing
Bloodborne’s deep and distressingly difficult DLC expansion, The Old Hunters, is exemplary of what good add-on content should be like. It checks off all the right boxes, providing challenging and lengthy new locations for players to traverse and a rewarding sense of connectedness to the main game. It will also instill the fear of God in you when confronted with its maniacal and exhilarating boss fights.
The new locations in The Old Hunters are as dark and desolate as ever, and I was particularly infatuated with the first one, which remixes familiar assets and architectural structures from the main game’s Cathedral Ward and places them in a hellish new sequence. Many of the regular enemies and hunters throughout these environments are so punishing that they may as well be bosses in their own right.
Thankfully, one of the most important new additions in The Old Hunters DLC is the ability to summon other players or AI-controlled NPCs for co-op help at the cost of one Insight point per summon. You’ll also find a new batch of intriguing transformative weapons and a few eerie NPCs and quest lines, as well as some fascinating bits of lore for those interested in piecing together Bloodborne’s mysterious story. The exploration is constantly harrowing, but the rewards for investigating every last shadowy corner are well worth it.
I’ve often found From Software’s DLC expansions to be much more difficult than anything that’s included in the base game, and The Old Hunters is no exception. This is because, though the new areas can be accessed at a relatively early point in the game, their labyrinthine corridors and grotesque monsters are clearly designed as endgame content, which essentially suggests another playthrough of Bloodborne up until the final boss to properly level up your hunter so you can more easily take on this new test. I first stepped foot in The Hunter’s Nightmare at the start of my New Game++ cycle and routinely got my ass handed to me throughout the merciless 15-hour experience.
The five additional bosses in The Old Hunters are easily some of the most difficult encounters in all of Bloodborne, thanks to their relentlessly fast attack patterns and unexpected phase changes. The bosses easily steal the show here, even though one is basically a re-skinned version of a boss from the main game and another emulates some familiar move sets (though each has their own unique and surprising twists as well). My favorite encounter of the five is set at the top of a quiet clock tower, in a creaky wooden room where I learned the hard way that blood and fire can cut deeper than a knife.
I’m pretty sure I say this every time I review a game in the Souls universe, but the feeling of intense accomplishment that comes from defeating a boss that’s killed you thirty or forty times, when you’ve run out of healing blood vials and barely manage to land the killing blow, is simply unmatched in gaming today. That pulse-pounding, hands-shaking adrenaline rush is still as rewarding as ever here in The Old Hunters. There is really little else like it.
The Old Hunters is a substantial and essential addition to the overall Bloodborne experience, and it works as both a supplement to the core content, as well as a singular expansion for those who want an excuse to dive back into the hunt all over again. Robust in all the right ways, it serves as a blunt reminder of why Bloodborne was one of the best games of 2015. Just be prepared for it to ruthlessly beat you down, time and again, or at least until that beating stick is passed on to Dark Souls III next year.
Joe Jasko is a game critic.