Undone by the Blood
“We are born of the blood, made men by the blood, undone by the blood.” Master Willem’s words echo throughout this excellent DLC for Bloodborne, one of the best games of 2015. Its fantastic new weapons, haunting environments, and challenging bosses make this a must have for any Bloodborne fan.
The Old Hunters focuses on players who have become undone by the blood. The game transports players to the Hunter’s Nightmare. Within this nightmare resides old hunters who have succumbed to bloodlust and are trapped in a neverending hunt. It’s your job to discover the secrets within this nightmare and end the nightmare, thus freeing the trapped hunters. Along this journey, you will discover new environments and terrifying new bosses.
The addition of new weapons in the DLC elevates the core gameplay of Bloodborne. In the original game, the awesome and fun weapons are withheld until the very end of the game. The DLC throws cool new weapons at you left and right. It seemed like every fifteen minutes I found a new weapon or item I could use. All of these weapons are unique and really fun to use. For example, the Boom Hammer is a massive hammer that can be ignited to add fire damage to foes. The Fist of Gratia replaces your pistol and enables you to punch your foes to stun them if you’re more combat inclined. My personal favorite was the Holy Moonlight Sword, which is a heavy sword imbued with arcane magic. These are just some examples of the new weapons you can use to decimate your enemies.
The DLC adds three new environments: Hunter’s Nightmare, Research Hall, and the Fishing Hamlet. I was a little disappointed by the Hunter’s Nightmare. It’s essentially a more bleak version of the Cathedral Ward from the original game. It’s a lot more desolate and has a river of blood flowing through it, but the design is almost the exact same. The enemies also feel largely similar to the original game. Hunter’s Nightmare is filled with the beasts from Old Yharnam and old hunters who are angrily (and futilely) slaughtering them. There also cosmic versions of executioners (a massive hooded creature with a large axe) and gigantic blood fleas, who shoot blood at you and are in large groups.
Fortunately, the Research Hall and Fishing Hamlet are phenomenal. The Research Hall reminded me of survival horror games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It’s a small area filled with a massive winding staircase and lots of Patient Rooms. Each room is a terrifying operating room. The walls and floor are covered with blood and littered with creepy chairs, shackles, and blood-filled IVs. The atmosphere fills you dread as you wonder what kind of horrible experiments were conducted. Your enemies are the people the experiments were conducted on. Insane humans with enlarged heads and no eyes, while easy individually they are tough when in groups.
The Fishing Hamlet is a flooded village filled with horrible multi-eyed winged monsters. The village has lots of houses to explore, but more often than not an enemy lies hidden as a trap. The village requires careful exploration and is the toughest area in the DLC. Mysterious shamans fling homing dark magic at you and gigantic monsters lurk behind corners, preying on the unprepared.
As with all From Software games, the boss fights are the highlight and The Old Hunter doesn’t disappoint. Even though the bosses all feel like harder versions of previous bosses from Bloodborne, the fights are still tense and challenging. I nearly threw my controller into the wall after falling to Ludwig, the first boss, for (what felt like) the millionth time. But like all From Software games, each fight gains more information on the boss and better prepares you for him. And once you finally defeat him, you feel an elation unmatched in most games. My favorite boss was Maria of the Astral Clocktower. She’s the only human boss and it’s reminiscent of the boss battle with Gehrman, the First Hunter. Maria fights with the same set of skills as you and it becomes a duel amongst equals, as opposed to a battle against a monstrous beast.
The visuals and audio are excellent. The cutscenes are beautifully rendered and the environments, with the exception of Hunter’s Nightmare, are gorgeous and ripe for exploration. The soundtrack is amazing. The choir and orchestra are beautiful and effectively appeal to your emotions as you play. The loud choir and booming strings make boss fights feel even more epic, while the low strings highlight the creepiness of the Research Hall.
My only word of warning is that you need to be a high level for The Old Hunters. I played through it on NG + at level 120 and it was ridiculously difficult. The enemies, especially bosses, have a great deal of health and deal massive damage. For a regular game you should at least be level 60 or above, and for NG + you should be above level 130.
In conclusion, The Old Hunters is well worth the price tag. There’s a lot of value in this expansion. The new weapons enhance the already solid gameplay, the new environments provide new places to explore and look for loot, and the boss fights present a new challenge for players to overcome. The stand alone story is full of lore for players to dig into and gives insight into the tangled plot of the original game. Each boss fight provides an unforgettable moment when you finally defeat them. The Old Hunters is a must have for any Bloodborne and provides meaningful additions to one of the best games of this year.