Bloodborne: The Old Hunters has arrived, and after fulfilling the conditions to activate the expansion, I was ready to tackle the game’s first area. The Old Hunters begins with an area called Hunter’s Nightmare, and inside it lays new enemies and challenges. Yet as soon as I warped into the area, I was a little surprised at what I found.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that things felt familiar. In fact, the very first room you end up in is nearly identical to the safe point at the Cathedral Ward in the main game. Outside, the layout also resembles the area greatly. On top of that, there are tiny werewolves, crows, and other enemies I was very familiar with scattered throughout the area. I was genuinely surprised by how much of this opening area I had seen before.
Things aren’t completely familiar, though. Interspersed between all the enemies are other Hunters and they’re no pushovers. The very first one I encountered used a powerful whip that slammed me from ridiculous far away, and he topped it off with some very painful gun shots. Less than five minutes in to the expansion, I had died.
Thankfully in Bloodborne, trying again is as easy as waiting through a loading screen that lasts just a little too long. It’s a good thing, too, because my next few attempts at the Hunter’s life went about the same way. Every time, however, I learned a little bit more about my foe’s attacks. I began to learn when the subtleties of when to dodge; some of the whip attacks had a delay causing me to dodge too early, which was really messing me up.
It was a hard fought battle that took me many attempts, but I eventually came out victorious. I moved around to a side path, confident that I could handle whatever came next. Just a few steps further, I saw another Hunter with a whip right off in the distance. I began to realize that I may not get that by tackling things the old-fashioned way. I bravely ran past and away from the next Hunter, and began to explore more of the area.
More of the Cathedral Ward landmarks are scattered about, like the round plaza and the giant steps that originally led to the Great Cathedral. More Hunters littered the area, so I tactically evaded them. Eventually I reached a cave leading to a brand new area, which had considerably less whip-wielding Hunters. Unfortunately, it also had way more bullets firing at me.
The next section involved weaving through cover as you slowly make your way towards to source of the firepower. I had a much easier time here. I was nervous about approaching the cannons directly, so I managed to “snipe” them from a distance with some Molotov cocktails. After dispatching the guns, I noticed an enemy with his back turned to me was just standing a few feet away. While that seemed weird, I figured it was his loss, so I went in for the kill.
It turned out to be a cleverly laid trap, as there was a final gun placed just out of sight that my attack placed me right in front of. A few bullet holes later, I was ready to tackle the level again from the beginning. I can’t say I didn’t deserve that one.
The last stretches of the area involve wading through a bloody river full of blood sucking spider-ish monsters that players should recognize from Cainhurst Castle. Fighting them wouldn’t be so bad, except there’s a ton to deal with. After fighting through the hordes, I ran into more Hunters. After crying a little bit, I pulled myself together and managed to pull through.
Following the blood river further down eventually brought me to an ominous cave. Going inside led me to a wide open space, and in this game, that usually can only mean one thing: it’s boss time. Sure enough, I found myself face to face with Ludwig, the Holy Blade.
Now I’m a big fan of Ludwig, I used his Holy Blade to beat most of the main game. Having a chance to go toe-to-toe with him sounded awesome. At first, the battle is less than epic, however. Ludwig falls into the “giant monster that does big swipes and lunges a lot” category of FromSoft bosses, and initially it’s kinda boring. I felt like I already knew how to dodge most of his fairly slow attacks. After doing enough damage, things started to get real.
Ludwig summons his sword and begins to swing it around wildly. Normally getting hit with a giant sword is bad enough, but the sword also fires out beams like he has full hearts in a Zelda game. There’s a staircase at the far end of the room, so what I ended up doing is going up the stairs to change heights to the beams couldn’t touch me that well, and used the top of the stairs as a vantage point. Whenever Ludwig approached to come attack me, I tried to hit him as I ran down the stairs. It probably wasn’t the most efficient strategy, and running up and down the stairs really freaks out the game’s camera, but I eventually came out on top.
It was a hard fought battle, but I had finally made it past the first area. Of course, this was just the beginning. My first impressions of The Old Hunters were kind of mixed because of the recycled content, but by the end the clever level design and awesome fight with Ludwig won me over. With that fierce encounter over, I was ready to see what was waiting ahead.