I first played Bloodborne back during its original release last year, when I reviewed it as part of my 2015 “Month of Souls” along with Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. I absolutely *loved* Bloodborne, awarded it a perfect 10/10 score, which put it into my hall of fame; reserved for my most favourite videogames of all time. In fact, it almost equalled Demon’s Souls in terms of where I ranked it in the ‘Souls series, and I think that Hidetaka Miyazaki made one of the most lovecraftian videogames ever conceived. However, something I completely missed last year was the Old Hunters downloadable content, a sizeable chunk of gameplay released months after the original title in November – a time when I was already deep into several new releases that were crammed into the end of 2015, all vying for my attention. Since finishing the original game I’d always wanted to go back in for a second run, this time with the intention of seeing the alternative ending involving eating three thirds of umbilical cords! Eew.
Before I get into the DLC through, I’d like to discuss some changes and improvements to Bloodborne that have happened since I first played it early last year, upon its release. Firstly, the game seems overall more polished, and the horrifically long load-times seem to have disappeared- not only are the loads shorter but the boring screen simply saying ‘Bloodborne’ has been replaced with item descriptions, like the other ‘Souls games. Upgrading of weapons seems a lot smoother too, helped by the fact that the insight shop (in the Hunter’s Dream) now sells upgrade material, which is unlocked as you progress through the game. This was ideal for me as, unlike my previous playthrough, I was trying to keep my insight almost non-existent for my new character to offset the effect of frenzy build-up. There’s also now a new covenant in the game! The League of Confederates is a PVE “support group” that helps you summon other League members, gives you a cool new gesture when you equip the rune and get summoned, and gives you a new resource (‘Vermin’) when you aid other players successfully. Oh and lastly, and most useful for me, was the inclusion of the Old Hunters Bell, which lets you access special summon signs, and call some very handy NPC assistance for some of the boss fights. These special summons sometimes required prerequisite conditions to have been met, but the NPCs were very characterful and cool to have about in lieu of real human companions.
As for the Old Hunters DLC itself, typical of From Software, to access this you need to really be around the level 80 mark (otherwise it’s seriously *HARD*!!) and so it acts sorta like end-game content. This meant, since I didn’t want to NG+ it, I had to create a new character and play through most of the main game again. Similar to my Dark Souls II run-through, I created a cosplay character modelled off a character from the manga ‘Berserk’, this time I chose to do Casca; when she was still sane obviously. So, I concentrated on a dexterity build using rapier type blades. The Old Hunters is accessed by being snatched outside the Cathedral Ward bonfire by the large unseen Amygdala hanging from the building – this then takes you to the Hunter’s Nightmare, when blood-drunk hunters are eternally trapped in a savage beast hunt. This first section of the new areas presents a twisted interpretation of locations you’re already familiar with, which eventually transitions into a river of blood leading up to the boss, Ludwig. Here I used one of the new Old Hunter Bell summons, and had a good scrap with what is one of the most memorable and well designs boss fights in Bloodborne. So, the DLC definitely starts on a high note… and only gets better from here on out. The next section, through a sort of small prison complex, leads into the Research Halls of the Healing Church. Here a lot of the lore of Bloodborne is expanded upon and the level design takes a turn for the complex and labyrinthine; it’s also very reminiscent of the Duke’s Archives from the original Dark Souls. There are two bosses in this area, I enjoyed both, but especially Lady Maria, who is a hunter-type boss, which are always some of the tensest and most skill-based fights in the game. There are no summons here so you have to “git gud” to progress to the next important area.
The final area of the Old Hunters goes into lovecraftian overdrive, and is extremely reminiscent of the short story The Shadow Over Innsmouth, replete with dilapidated fishing village and mutated ‘deep one’ fish people. It’s also absolutely *FANTASTIC* and adds an absolute ton to the lore of the game, finally explaining who “Kos or some say Kosm” actually is! It’s also a superbly designed and challenging area, especially for anyone who wants to mine the place for all its secrets, as some of them are guarded by some particularly nasty giant enemies. The final boss of the DLC is notoriously one of, if not *THE*, most difficult fights in all of Bloodborne… but it’s worth the price of admission. ‘The Orphan of Kos’ is brutal and challenging, and you’ll feel like an absolute gaming legend once you finally kill it off, and are treated to a great little cutscene. As well as all these great new areas and bosses, there’s a truck-load of new weapons (some of which are just insanely awesome) and attire for you to equip onto your character. Basically, along with the ‘Artorias of the Abyss’ DLC for the original Dark Souls, I think that The Old Hunters has to be one of the most essential and amazing pieces of add-on content released for a videogame. I now can’t image Bloodborne without it, as it not only adds a load of great new end-game content without having to touch the ‘Chalice Dungeons’, but it also rounds out the excellent mythology and lore of the game.