Remixing the past.
First, a word on actually playing this DLC: Though you can access The Old Hunters after defeating the third boss in Bloodborne, it’s recommended that players level up to at least 65 before starting. And at twenty bucks, while there’s more than enough content to get lost in, some of the new areas are just revised ones from Bloodborne. So is everyone cool with all that? Okay then…
Things start rough as the DLC begins in the Hunter’s Nightmare, which is like limbo for beast hunters. A mysterious force calls to them. In tradition of the game’s lore, bloodlust is still the most powerful craving. Some hunters have gone mad from the lust like an addiction. That’s pretty much it as far as narrative, but was anyone really expecting more than that? Quickly, déjà vu sets in as the first section has you re-entering the Cathedral Ward (from Yharnam).
Visually, there are stranger images than previously seen, which is saying a lot considering the ample supply of disturbing imagery in Bloodborne. Here though, in this reimagined world, there are tendrils of stone that push outward, giving the area the feeling like the world is about to be blown apart from the surface. Another area sports a river of blood running through a canal. All of it looks grim, as expected.
Thankfully, later areas are less direct copies of Bloodborne’s sections. In total, there are three areas to explore. The best, the Research Lab, is a fun departure for the series. Verticality is the key, as you must traverse endless stairways and balconies with little wiggle room.
There are plenty of lost weapons and items that can aid in this new hunt. There are greatswords that channel the power of the moon, and a massive iron thingie(?) with an Evil Dead-inspired name: the Boom Hammer. By and large, the new weapons are some of the most creative and varied yet in the series.
One interesting addition to the game’s structure is a clocktower that has bells. Bells are used in the game to access multiplayer, and this setpiece gives those bells an origin of sorts. It’s a neat way to put them into context instead of just being the random item that pop up from time to time. These little touches are what’s best about the DLC: less fully formed ideas and more interesting riffs on things that players have become familiar with since the game’s release in the beginning of the year.
While there are encounters with essentially newer versions of the game’s previous baddies, the five boss battles are some of the hardest in any game period and are all new. Each offers a world of challenge and variety. That challenge can make playing through the DLC longer, so your mileage may vary. The first playthrough could be anywhere from 6-10 hours to complete on average.
The Old Hunters aims to deepen the experience of the original by taking the good ideas in Bloodborne and expanding on them. And on those terms it’s a success. Still, anyone that hoped for an easier time or more story, a reason to play will be disappointed, but I doubt anyone who has finished Bloodborne would still be thinking of those things. Then again, I sort of did, as a gamer that loves the Lovecraftian vibe FromSoftware supplies, but was tired of dying over and over. The bottom line is that any worthwhile DLC should be for fans first, right? If so, that’s where The Old Hunters shines.