I wish we lived in an age where games were simply completed, and not parcelled out to us over a period of time through DLC. However, there is still a large difference between price gouging trinkets being sold in game, and delivering a full experience of what used to be called an “expansion pack;” back in the youthful days of the world. And there is also something to be said for the benefit of hindsight, and now that Bloodborne has been out for a few months, and the community has had time to communicate their opinion on the game to the world at large, one can feel that The Old Hunters has taken many of those points on board. In fact, as far as expansions are concerned, it’s about as good as they get, and it adds substantially to the base game as a whole.
The Old Hunters is set in its own parallel universe “nightmare” with the normal gameplay realm of Yharnam. Players experienced with the game will understand how the themes of nightmares work within this setting. The DLC can be accessed at any point after defeating Vicar Amelia, but be warned, it’s rather difficult, even by Bloodborne standards, and is best even begun at level 65. However, I think for storyline purposes, when it comes to first time players, I personally think that you had best do the DLC after visiting Byrgenworth.
In the DLC you will meet many of the famous names you have heard rumour of before in the legends of Yharnam. I don’t want to spoil too much, but basically anyone who seemed really important in the mythos but who didn’t show up in the game proper emerges here in some way or another. You also receive valuable information about the origins of the Beast Curse, which clears up much of the uncertainty from the base game, while creating new avenues of questioning to analyse.
Setting wise, the nightmare of the Old Hunters draws some inspiration from the main game, except now you are working backwards from the Cathedral Ward, back towards a nightmarish version of the areas you passed though earlier. However, this is mostly used for linking cues, and areas are rarely simply copy pasted. There are some striking new areas and some great level design at play, particularly with enemy placement and movement. You will see a great deal of conflict between monsters and the titular Old Hunters in the game, and you can exploit that to your own benefit as you attack first one side and then the other.
The biggest complaint about Bloodborne was the lack of build variety, and that has been addressed to a large extent, with 11 new trick weapons and 5 new firearms to collect. They are distinctive and imaginative and some of the most fun and coolest looking weapons in any game of this series before. Add to this a few more sets of armor and the multiplayer Hunter community has just gotten a large revitalizing shot in the arm. All players, regardless of purchasing the DLC, can receive via the large free patch the content that allows them to join the ranked online phantom summoning system, to help other players or request help.
The best benchmark of this kind of game is the boss fights, and here you have 5 new ones. Two of them are okay, one of them is mostly a clone, and the remaining two are probably up there for being the best fights in the game altogether. In between the bosses are plenty of areas where you might get stuck for longer than the bosses, as regular enemies team up in such a way that it requires expert and careful precision in moving past them.
The Old Hunters is about as good as any DLC can be. It adds extensively to the base game, and builds on everything that came before. In my original Bloodborne review, I spoke of the few niggles that made me take points away from the game, and of those, only really the lack of spell variety is left. Most bugs and content shortages have been fixed. Seeing as it was all released in the same year, I’ll feel happy to consider Bloodborne GOTY edition for contention for overall Game of the Year, as a good game has been made even better, with more content and more of what fans wanted.
The Old Hunters is available now via PlayStation Store, or else you can pick up the Bloodborne: Game of the Year Edition, with the base game and expansion on disc, usually for less than the full game was at launch.