I spent the better part of an evening running up against Hidetaka Miyazaki’s vision of The Shadow Over Innsmouth and came up empty. Defeated. I had the boss near death before my massive whirligig sawblade and Gatling gun crumbled under the weight of attrition and my own frayed nerves.
I woke fresh and took one more attempt at the hideous creature, and won. Experiences where one stares down the impossible and emerges victorious define the blood-drenched world of Bloodborne. The surge of elation experienced in these situations is the rarest of all gaming wonders, and this sense of victory is pronounced in The Old Hunters expansion, which features the most challenging areas and encounters available in From Software’s whole catalog – including the Souls series.
The Old Hunters contains a grab bag of new areas, NPCs, weapons, armor, bosses, items, and creepy creatures. You can theoretically dive into the expansion content around 30 percent into the core game, but I highly recommend taking a character ready for the original final battle into the new Hunter’s Nightmare. The Old Hunters holds nothing back; the boss encounters, outside of the first, are all significantly more challenging than anything found in the base game (with the possible exception of deep Chalice Dungeons). The massive ramp-up in difficulty is appreciated and enjoyable, and is clearly designed for players who are looking to take on creatures that would give even the most terrifying nightmare denizens of Yharnam pause.
My favorite boss in The Old Hunters is an epic take on the “hunter versus hunter” battle that serves as the final encounter of the base game; it’s sure to get your palms sweaty and your character bloody. If you were wondering where the Moonlight Greatsword (From Software’s signature Easter egg) has been hiding all this time in Bloodborne, have no fear: You face off against a boss who wields it for your chance to gain the glowing green blade.
The boss fights aren’t the only difficult encounters – the NPC challenges and standard enemy encounters and traps can end a high-level player in mere moments. In all my years of gaming I’ve never seen hospital equipment swung so hard or so violently (you’ll know it when you see it).
The Hunter’s Nightmare starts off as a surreal take on areas you’ve probably already explored in the core game, but with much more difficult enemies and warped changes in the scenery. Rivers of blood flow, and deadly hunters wielding new weaponry lurk around every corner. The deeper one goes into the nightmare, the more interesting things get. The horrifying research laboratory could teach any survival-horror game valuable lessons, an awe-inspiring clocktower provides an amazing boss backdrop, and the sights and sounds of an overrun fishing village bring terror to life. Progress through the expansion content is almost completely linear, with a few diversions available to inquisitive players, though that didn’t dull my enjoyment of the experience.
Plenty of new armaments are available to help you on your journey, and while you can still experiment with blades, saws, and clubs, the new tools support other playstyles – especially magic users. Whether you’re using gleaming new appendages from long-lost memories, blasting meteors from your eyeballs, or simply opting to use a bow or shield, players of all types have plenty of new options.
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An important addition is coming to all Bloodborne owners alongside the Old Hunters, especially for those that like to play offline or by themselves. Players tackling the new content (and the old content) now have the option to summon NPC hunters to help. Members of this oddball league can be called in for one point of insight, similar to how summoning other players works in multiplayer. These hunters are often conveniently located outside of boss rooms (sometimes only when certain conditions are met). Many of the new bosses come with abilities that unfortunately end your A.I. companion’s life about halfway through the fight, so while using them can take some initial pressure off, the end task during the harrowing moments still fall to you. These companions are useful attention-grabbers for core game content, but don’t count on them to do much for you against the expansion’s horrors.
The Old Hunters has questions, has answers, and has some glorious new secrets to be uncovered. If you have already experienced Bloodborne, this add-on is absolutely essential. If you haven’t, it’s the perfect time to join the Old Hunters and journey through the streets of Yharnam and the new nightmares that follow.
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