Bloodborne is a game that speaks to those who prefer a sterner challenge, who like to soak up the dark, gloomy atmosphere. We're among those who thoroughly enjoyed exploring the mysterious city of Yharnam while trying to learn new enemies' strengths and weaknesses. It kept us up many a night following the game's release earlier this year. Now, however, almost all the secrets and tactics needed to survive have been discovered and exploited, and thus we were looking forward to starting on a clean slate with The Old Hunters.
From the start it's clear that you should be on at least level 65 to have a chance in the new area, The Hunter's Nightmare. The first enemy you meet is another hunter. Surely just a move to surprise us at the beginning? Nope. In fact, other hunters are the most common enemies at the beginning, and they all have access to a number of the same weapons as you. Knowing what to expect is key. These are hunters that spam the shoot button, who use the longest version of the Hunter's Axe to keep you at a distance, and who easily dodge your heaviest attacks. We were on level 98 and we still had some problems with these psychos at the beginning. Luckily, it was still our own fault whenever we bite the bullet (so to speak), and after a few failures we learned how they could be defeated.
The Hunter's Nightmare area is essentially slightly better lit versions of the areas from the original game, this time in ruins. We felt curiosity take over, exploring every little corner, not just to see what was different, but also to look for new equipment. One minute was all the time it took before we found some fairly good gloves, and a new weapon. Both of these were very easy to find since the areas were so familiar. We wondered, could something interesting be placed on the corner of the cathedral? You better believe it! While we were happy and a little bit pleased with ourselves to have found the hidden objects so quickly, an unsettling thought entered our head. Has From Software just changed the lighting and added few details to the old areas, and nothing else?
The answer, sadly, is yes. At least for the most part. We've passed through areas that were disappointingly similar to the Cathedral Ward and other parts of Yharnam. All the while we were fighting the same enemies as before; the feeling of déjà vu was emerging with alarmingly speed. The first meeting with the new Bell Keeper enemy was challenging and fun. All the meetings with ferocious dogs, the "locusts" of Cainhurst Castle, and mini versions of Blood-Starved Beast? Less so. "Never change a winning team" is the old expression. Well, it's still wise to make at least some changes once your opponents have learned your weaknesses.
Even though there are some elements that feel very similar to the original, there are still highlights. Predominately we enjoyed the new features that have been added, things that are just as well designed as the original content. We'll leave it to you to discover most of them, as we wouldn't want to spoil anything, but we will mention a couple of the innovations.
If you find a rune called "The Beast's Embrace" can turn yourself into a monster with new attacks. Failing that the "Gatling Gun" is also fairly easy to find. The name says it all. It's a weapon that might be considered a mobile version of the one Djura used against you in Old Yharnam. Having problems with an enemy that's a master of close combat? Burn off your mercury bullets with this new setup.
Furthermore, it's hard to dislike the visuals of Bloodborne. This is as true now as it was when the game was first released. Although we clearly recognise From Software's previous designs in the new areas, and many of them fell awfully familiar, they still offer a feast for the eyes.
The same goes for the bosses, who are still a joy to face off against. They're a mix of new and old, and amongst other things we've fought a large creature with hairy feet sticking out of its back. That was something new, but the attack patterns are mostly the same. If we move far away it jumps high into the air and disappears for a little while, before suddenly landing right next to us. In close combat it usually comes at you with three attacks before taking a break for you to counter. We've seen it before, but it's still a recipe that works well, especially as the combat is gradually changing, because the monster changes shape and attacks when losing health.
The best aspects of Bloodborne are included here, with some new enemies, equipment, abilities, bosses and areas that gave us that great Bloodborne feeling once again. The lack of content and variety did, however, kind of spoil the pleasure. If you're a massive Bloodborne fan, one who doesn't mind seeing old enemies and refreshed content, go right ahead and get The Old Hunters. On the other hand, variation is a very important selling point when it comes to expansions, and The Old Hunters only offers a small drop of fresh blood; it won't be enough to satisfy those who are already tired of Bloodborne.