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Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: SCEE (EU), SCEA (US)
Developer: From Software
Release Date: March 24, 2015 (US), March 25, 2015 (EU)


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PS4 Review - 'Bloodborne: The Old Hunters'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 23, 2015 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

Bloodborne is an Action RPG that will transport players to a dark and terror-filled gothic world, a world full of deranged beings and nightmarish creatures.

Bloodborne is one of the best exclusives in this console generation. A dark Victorian take on Dark Souls, it's one of the most atmospheric and fun games this year. Combining the punishing difficulty of Souls with the fastest combat in the franchise, it's a game that pushed players to their limits. The Dark Souls 2 expansions were excellent, so the announcement of a Bloodborne expansion was met with much anticipation. Fortunately, Bloodborne: The Old Hunters is no slouch and is a great addition to an already great game.

The Old Hunters begins with few changes that should appear to all players. As anyone who has played Bloodborne in the past week or so knows, patch 1.07 prepared the game for The Old Hunters, and that includes some nice changes. Offline players or those who had trouble finding help will likely appreciate the addition of the Old Hunter's Bell, which makes it easier to summon NPC Hunters to help in the main game, the Chalice dungeons, and in the new expansion. You could do this for early bosses in the main game, but The Old Hunters allows it to occur in most major locations. For those who prefer to have actual players helping, the game has also instituted a new group called the League. Players who've reached the Forbidden Forest can join a league, which rewards players who cooperate with other players online, and the patch includes some tweaks to make it easier to do so.

The big appeal of The Old Hunters are the new areas. Players can first access the new content after night falls by approaching the mysterious (and previously lethal) glowing area outside of the safe zone in the chapel. Once there, they are whisked off to the new area and can freely swap between old content and new. The new content is an interesting mix of new areas and remixed versions of existing area. There aren't straight map ports, but you'll definitely see familiar areas throughout the expansion. Sometimes, the game plays with that — don't be so sure that old man in a wheelchair is an old man — and sometimes, it's just an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. There's a lot of extra content in this expansion and it's easily a heavier expansion than any of Dark Souls 2 offerings. Fortunately, it also has the same great design sense as Bloodborne, and it still rewards the players with shortcuts for exploring carefully.

Probably the biggest selling point of the expansion pack is the new items available. There are over a dozen new pieces of weaponry to find, including new left- and right-hand weapons. My favorite was the Boom Hammer, which is a heavy weapon with good strength scaling. You can prime it to launch an explosive flame attack on your next hit, and you can even work the priming into a combo that allows for some pretty brutal attacks. There's a club made out of a transforming monster's arm, a mace that turns into a whirling buzzsaw, a Gatling gun, and so on. They're extremely cool weapons, and it's easy to find a place in your inventory for any of them. The game also does a good job of not making any of them feel like pay-to-win weapons.

If I had one major complaint about the expansion's weapons, they don't address certain complaints about the game. The bulk of the weapons I found in the expansion were obviously geared toward strength-heavy builds. It felt like there were one or two weapons for non-strength builds, and everything else was for strength. Perhaps long-term experimentation will find more quirks about these items than I was able to, but anyone who enjoyed the Chikage Bloodtinge build should not hold out hope for a wealth of new options. It's a minor complaint at best, as there is plenty of fun to be had, and skill and strength builds are the most common.

It should be noted that The Old Hunters is not an area to be entered lightly. You can enter the area fairly early in the game, but the enemy scaling expects a higher-level character (around level 65). A player who can regularly handle Cainhurst at minimum is probably the expected starting point. The Old Hunters throws some nasty tricks at you right away. The area is populated by NPC Hunters, but they're flagged as regular enemies instead of special encounters, so they respawn when you leave the area and can steal your blood echos. They're a little easier than regular NPC Hunters, but you can still expect high damage, a surprising amount of HP, and infinite ammo. If you're underleveled, it's easy to die, even by Bloodborne standards. The addition of NPC Hunters and the League is a boon in this case, as many challenges are easier with a partner around.

The bosses are pretty brutal, too. There's more than one (and I don't want to spoil some twists for newcomers), and they're all well designed and enjoyable. The first boss fight you'll encounter is one of my favorites. The first half is a brutally fast-paced fight against a horrible beastly monster, but once you get it to about half health, the fight changes into something else. The second half of the fight is probably easier than the first, but it's such a cool twist that it's tough to complain about. Some seemed to have too much HP, though I was using the upgraded versions of the new weaponry instead of a +10 Ludwig's Holy Blade.

Bloodborne: The Old Hunters is a solid and enjoyable expansion that adds some much-needed new content to the game in exactly the right places. The addition of extra weapons helps flesh out repeated playthroughs, and the new enemies and new challenges should provide a welcome burst of excitement to those who've long since worn out their runthroughs of chalice dungeons and New Game+. There's a tons of content both remixed and new in The Old Hunters, and it's a delight. The price tag is high, but Bloodborne fans will easily find $20 worth of fun in this new release.

Score: 9.0/10

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