There are quite a few notable games releasing in the coming weeks but I am still confident that Bloodborne, released way back in March, is one of the year’s best games. Bloodborne comes from the beautifully deranged minds of From Software; the developers of Dark Souls, with series head Hidetaka Miyazaki at the helm. Whilst it isn’t a sequel, nor a spin-off, it shares much of its structure, atmosphere, gameplay and infamous difficulty with the Souls series. The first (and sadly only) expansion to Bloodborne, The Old Hunters, serves to deepen the rabbit hole. So, once more do I venture into the world of Yharnam, to rejoin the hunt.
Access to the new expansion is, of course, typically cryptic – a hallmark of From’s design philosophy. The hunter finds himself in The Hunter’s Nightmare: a world infested with yet more ferocious beasts and even more ferocious hunters, driven to the brink of insanity by their lust for blood. Returning players may be slightly disappointed that their first sight is a redesign of an early game area. However, we find it ensnared in a tangle of tree roots, changing the area enough to keep it interesting whilst still retaining the interconnected feel. Many of the following areas follow this approach, taking elements of areas found in the main game and adding to them just enough to make it all feel new, and yet familiar. The expansion also has a fair share of completely new terrifying locales to explore. My personal favourite is the Research Hall: a labyrinthine prison-like complex bathed in an eerie green light, complete with Hogwarts-style rotating stairways and a network of traps just waiting to catch out the unaware, very akin to Demon’s Souls.
The new weapons bring the diversity that felt sorely lacking at times. From brutal circular saws, a selection of scythes, a bowblade, a sword made of moonlight and even the odd minigun or two, there’s now something for everyone.
The five new bosses are some of the best, and by far some of the hardest that the game has to offer. Not to brag, but I have beaten every Souls game and Bloodborne, slaying every boss that these games threw at my way and even those I had to seek out myself. I don’t consider myself terrible at these games. Even so, the bosses in The Old Hunters gave me more than a little trouble, and what’ll likely be your third encounter is one of the best fights From has offered to date. If you get stuck, you can join The League; a new multiplayer covenant designed around jolly cooperation with other players to overcome the hardest challenges the game has to offer. People are more than willing to lend a helping hand; after all, we’re all suffering together.
The last thing that The Old Hunters offers are new weapons, and it more than delivers on this front. A common criticism was that users who preferred Strength-based builds had very little options, as did those who like to keep their opponents at range. From were definitely taking notes, and the new weapons bring the diversity that felt sorely lacking at times. From brutal circular saws, a selection of scythes, a bowblade, a sword made of moonlight and even the odd minigun or two, there’s now something for everyone.
From’s expansions have always been superb, and this one is no exception. The decision to combine the two planned into just one was a great one, as the depth on display here is what every expansion should aim for. The Old Hunters is absolutely essential; it maintains the game’s already high standards and gives us more insight into From’s broken world. Bloodborne may have come to an end, but what a way to go.