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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bloodborne: The Old Hunters

The Old Hunters.

Obviously, I enjoyed Bloodborne. It was my game of the year for 2015, if I didn't enjoy it that would have been a very odd choice indeed. So it was only natural that if someone should tell me that there was a story DLC with three or four new areas, five new bosses, a dozen different enemy types, and several new weapons, of course I'm going to jump at the chance.

After receiving the Eye of a Blood-Drunk Hunter, the Hunter of Bloodborne is granted the ability to travel to the Hunter's Nightmare, a twisted nightmare realm where blood-addled hunters go after they die. Traveling deeper into the Nightmare, it quickly becomes obvious that the Nightmare conceals a secret - a terrible act committed by Gehrman and the Old Hunters. To discover what it is, the Hunter must make their way through the Nightmare, up the Clocktower, and into the realm beyond - and on the way, they'll have to face monsters, blood-addled hunters, and several important figures from Yharnam's history.

So, let's start with just how much new content this DLC offers you. You'll travel through, functionally, three full-sized areas and one small area in this DLC, and while the first one makes heavy (but very skillful) use of assets from the main game, all three feel unique and interesting. 

She has the most stylish hat.

The Nightmare, where you start of, takes the familiar setting of Cathedral Ward and Central Yharnam, puts it under a sickly daylight, and then distorts the geography into disconcerting shapes, twisted about so that everything is in the wrong place. It's one of the best video game representations of a dream I've seen, as the distorted geography gives the impression of a place reconstructed by someone who didn't quite remember it properly.

The Clocktower's Research Facility, meanwhile, has you ascending a seemingly never-ending set of stairs in a dark, blue-tinged environment, and functionally transforms the game into a stealth game, for a brief period of time. Then comes the Fishing Hamlet, which might win an award for being the most archetypally Lovecraft-y of any area in Bloodborne.

The game adds to this with five new bosses, who are, for the most part, completely different to any of the bosses in the main game. I say 'for the most part' because one of those bosses is Laurence, whose first stage is identical to the Cleric Beast, the first boss of the main game, bar that he's on fire. Four of the five bosses are multiple stage (whereas almost none of the ones in the main game are), and the game plays about with the multiple stage format in interesting ways. 

Simon's bowblade - a sword that turns into a bow and arrow. Where do the arrows
come from? Nobody knows.

Ludwig goes from being a difficult but fairly standard beast-type enemy to essentially a gigantic hunter, throwing sword beams at you in a total switch of fighting style; Maria, meanwhile, simply enhances her fighting style with each stage, going from being basically a regular hunter, to using blood magic to enhance her power and reach, to having the waves of blood she creates catch on fire a few seconds after they appear, thus doing more damage and, in essence, leaving damaging shapes in the air for several seconds after she attacks. Laurence starts off fighting like the Cleric Beast, then tears off his lower half and starts spewing lava from the wound, drastically limiting his speed and power, but also removing your ability to attack his blind spot - and so on, and so forth. The only boss without multiple stages is the Living Failures wolfpack boss, and even that kind of sits on the edge of having one, with them gaining a powerful new attack once five of them have spawned.

In addition to new bosses, there are new regular monsters as well. A lot of them are variations on monsters already seen, like the Cthulhoid Executioners and the bloated Blood Lickers, but by the time you reach the Research Facility and the Fishing Hamlet, they are almost all entirely new, with no resemblance to monsters from the same game.

There are a good few new weapons, too, ranging from the bizarre (like the Bloodletter or Kos Parasite) to the elegant and graceful (like Simon's Bowblade or the Rakuyo). For a game which already makes a big deal of its shiny, transforming, anime-esque weapons, this can only be a boon.


The story is delivered with the same light touch that Bloodborne's is, but I admit, this time the touch was a tiny bit too light, and I found my interest in the actual story of the DLC waning at points. While I left it fascinated, the DLC hadn't left me with enough hints to actually form any viable theories, which grated on me a bit.

It's a very well-made DLC to a very well-made game, though, and I do recommend it to anybody playing Bloodborne. Especially if you're playing Bloodborne in online mode - while I could do most of the mandatory battles in the main game without help, I needed help for the Living Failures, and for getting through the Fishing Hamlet, in this DLC. 

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