Difficulty is a tricky thing to tamper with in video games. It’s also one of the most notable reasons why Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Dark Souls series has become so popular. Miyazaki’s newest creation, Bloodborne, did a few things to differentiate itself from Dark Souls, and one of those things included what many deemed to be a more approachable difficulty. Fewer of the bosses struck you down in one hit, and there was a much more accessible feel to standard combat encounters. Enter Bloodborne’s newest expansion, The Old Hunters, which contains new bosses, enemies, and weapons. But most importantly, it’s a lot more Bloodborne.
You access The Old Hunters by approaching an altar in the Grand Cathedral, a chapel once containing the boss Vicar Amelia. You interact with it and return back to the Hunter’s Dream and pick up an item beside the doll that wants to stand close to you. After that, you have to make your way back to the Cathedral Ward and stand beside a specific tree, which will trigger an event that sees your player ripped into the air by some skeletal hands. As is the case with games in this vein, there isn’t a ton of story or lore to be found in The Old Hunters. There is a mysterious figure that will pop up at the different lamps and give you a vague descriptions of what is happening in this new area, but most of the time that boils down to “everyone is sad.”
If the boss battles in a Miyazaki game don’t impress, something has gone terribly wrong. Within the first hour or so of The Old Hunters, you hit your first boss, Ludwig the Accursed. Ludwig is an oversized, ghastly beast that has a multitude of appendages sprouting from all over his body. I entered my playthrough of The Old Hunters on a character that was halfway through a new game plus, meaning all of the enemies were a bit more difficult. While that could have been the reason, this first boss was easily the most difficult enemy encountered in not just the expansion, but the entire main game as well.
Ludwig possesses constant quick dashes, a huge attack radius, and multiple moves and combinations that will kill you in one hit. The camera can become a real frustration during the fight, and it is easily the least enjoyable thing about the entire expansion. Had it not been for the NPC beckoning point outside the boss fight, I could not have imagined beating him by myself.
Once you get past that frustration, the next few bosses are quite fun to handle. You see a good variety of challenges from the enemies in front of you. They do a great job of utilizing some of the absolute best things about Bloodborne, such as its precise movement and twitch-based combat. The encounters never felt too easy, quite the contrary, they provide a great difficulty and can feel like studying a word problem, as you have to analyze each and every aspect of their movement. Once you have that down and begin to attack, your inevitable victory continues to bring about one of the most breathtaking and gratifying experiences in all of video games.
The Old Hunters introduces a decent amount of new weapons and armor. In a game that didn’t contain a ton of weapons, it is nice to see some fresh blades and guns crop up, even if the chore of leveling them up is daunting. The game definitely tries to make up for that as it frequently throws “Bloodstone” shards and chunks at you.
The visual aesthetic of The Old Hunters is exactly what you expect from Bloodborne, which is far from a negative. Environments feature decaying bricks, disgusting marshes, and a large tower filled with enemies. This tower acts as one of the most unique things in Bloodborne, as it has multiple ascending staircases jotting out from the walls as you make your way up. It’s a beautiful sight that feels unique as you traverse through it, exploring all of the hidden rooms on the side. The enemy design continues to be one of the most unsettling things about Bloodborne. A majority of the enemies you encounter are brand new to the game. They fit in well, butsimilarly to the boss encounters, feel much more difficult than some of the enemies in the original game.
If you were to mainline through The Old Hunters, you could be done with it within eight or so hours. But if you factor in the side content such as exploring the creepily gorgeous environments and interacting with all the NPC’s, you could easily extend that out to 15 hours. If you are hopping in with a new game plus save, be ready to get some difficult enemies coming your way.