Bloodborne: The Old Hunters, like its base game and the many Souls games before it, thrives on playing with your expectations. To that end, the game provides countless scenarios to trick, trap, and generally maim you. After playing through The Old Hunters, I wanted to stop and reflect on some of the most interesting scenarios I encountered. Be warned if you care about gameplay spoilers, I’ll be covering aspects throughout the entire expansion.
The earliest trap that caught my eye was when I found a new weapon, the Boom Hammer. Essentially, the weapon is exactly what the name says: you have a hammer, and when you hit people with it they go boom. But obtaining the Boom Hammer has its own explosive surprise. Shortly after you pick it up, a nearby corpse starts blinking. Seconds later, the entire room becomes enveloped in a ridiculous explosion. Unfortunately, I was still in the room.
My favorite tease comes from earlier in the area and involves a section that looks just like the Grand Cathedral from the main game. This was originally where you fought the Vicar Amelia boss, and the wide open space looks perfect for yet another boss encounter. My suspicions were supported by what waited for me at the end of the hall: some giant, hairy eldritch-ian horror that also happened to be on fire was lying right on the altar. If that doesn’t scream a boss pretending to be sleeping only to attack you when you approach it, I don’t know what does.
However, as I approached the beast, nothing seemed to happen. No cut-scene starting up the boss fight, no sudden attack, not even a loud scream. I was able to approach the passive creature’s hand and take a strange eye-shaped object from its hand. Now it’s time for it to wake up, right?
Wrong. Instead, the monster remained completely motionless. After that, I left the room and nothing tried to violently stop me. It was at this time I realized how much these kinds of games had conditioned me. Little did I know that just hours later, I’d be coming back on my own volition to start a fight with monster.
The Research Hall houses a variety of alien-looking people who have been experimented on, and their presence makes the place one of the creepiest in the entire game, DLC or not. One of the most disturbing things is how they prey on you. Checking the corners before you go inside a dark room is always a good idea, but if you don’t in this area things can get really bad. It’s possible to get grabbed by one of the ugly little monsters hiding behind a corner, and then you’re trapped. If that happens, they try to drug you with something before you can break free. After it had happened once, I was paranoid for the rest of my time with the expansion.
Also around the area are passive versions of the alien-people who aren’t interested in screaming or clawing your eyes out. Instead they do weird things like ask for brain fluids or tend to dead flowers. It really made me think about how I was approaching the area, because I felt like I should avoid killing them, but at the same time I wondered why I felt so different about the violent ones. They’ve all basically suffered the same fate, after all, yet I had no problem murdering the rest. The simple twist of making some of the enemies passive changed the whole dynamic of how I approached the area. A less traditional play on expectations, but I think a play nonetheless.
At the Fishing Hamlet, I really enjoyed the way enemies would pop out at you. The opening section of the area has you going across a completely flooded section of a village. It’s relatively quiet at first, but shortly into my trek a fish skeleton monster jumped straight out of the water and into my face. It felt like I was in the middle of a Jaws movie and as you progress further, the tension of having more fish monsters potentially pop out kept me on my toes.
An interesting combination between a trap and trick comes from Brador, an NPC that you can encounter fairly early on. I didn’t understand it right away, but Brador turns out to be behind some of the more frustrating sections of The Old Hunters expansion. Occasionally when you’re making your way through an area, you’ll hear a bell ringing from somewhere. This will summon an invader enemy, leading to a fairly tough fight (the invader usually doesn’t get staggered when you hit him, making the search of an opening difficult) which can become extremely difficult when combined with other enemies in the area.
It turns out the source of the bell ringing is Brador, and you actually get the choice of deciding whether or not to do something about his antics. A series of events in The Old Hunters leads to you getting a key to the prison cell Brador likes to hang out in, and if you confront him, you can end it right there. Right before you do, though, he goads you a bit. He makes you wonder if killing him is really the right thing to do. I really wanted to be rid of Brador and his dumb invaders, but this tactic made me wonder if I would get something good if I spared him. As far I could tell, you don’t, he just keeps summoning invaders. As far as I could tell when I returned, he drops a pretty cool weapon when you kill him. So much for that moral dilemma.
The Old Hunters prides itself on little tidbits like these, where the game does its best to surprise (and kill) you. Moments like the ones above make the level design and character interactions really stand out, and particularly the Research Hall and Fishing Hamlet ended up as some of my favorite locations in all of Bloodborne. There’s so much detail that it was hard not to enjoy the expansion, and by the end I was a little sad to say goodbye to Bloodborne. If this is how the experience ends, though, then it ends on a high note.