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Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
Score: 90%
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: From Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 5 (Online)
Genre: RPG/Action/Online

Donít hang up your blades and guns yet, hunters: Dark Souls III is still a ways off. If you need your fix of hardcore gothic punishment (the kind thatís safe to discuss at work, at least), From Software has you covered with Bloodborne: The Old Hunters, a brutal diversion from the core experience. Whether or not this expansion is necessary is debatable; I thought the game in its release state felt pretty complete. But itís hard to deny that more of the same great thing is, by definition, not bad at all.

If youíre not a fan of this particular style of action role-playing game, you wonít be converted. This is an experience that is, like all of its contemporaries, strictly for the hardcore fans. And if you count yourself among them, you just got a hell of a Christmas present. The Old Hunters is not just Bloodborne at its very best, but itís more essential than most downloadable content these days.

The Waking Nightmare:
I dread reviewing content like Bloodborne: The Old Hunters. Not because I donít enjoy writing about games; I obviously do. Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed and fear that any discussion of my experiences will take the edge off for those who havenít had them yet. Such is the case here, so Iíll try to skirt the line between informative and vague. If youíre a fan of the Souls series, youíre already intimately familiar with the creeping sense of progression and the tension that winds up to almost unbearable levels as you stray deeper and deeper into the unknown. If you can believe it, Bloodborne: The Old Hunters starts off by tying your guts in an extremely tight knot. And then it starts to yank at the knot. And when that fails, it begins to tear. And bite. And rip.

Iíve spent more than a fair amount of time in the likes of Boletaria, Lordran, Drangleic, and yes, Yharnam. So itís fair to say that my characters have found themselves on the receiving end of many a fatal blow. Spears, swords, fists, fire. Everything has killed me. Multiple times. But Iím not sure Iíve been killed with such regularity and ferocity as Iíve been in the Hunterís Nightmare. A word of advice: donít start this content unless youíve beaten the game and leveled up a good bit. Granted, itís easier to actually access than Artorias of the Abyss or The Lost Crowns trilogy, but I canít overstate this. Tackle it on your first playthrough, not in New Game+.

Punishment and Reward:
While I began this review by implying that The Old Hunters might not have been a particularly necessary expansion, it remains nevertheless welcome not just for its gameplay chops, but in how well it rounds out the original game. Certain storytelling elements in the core release felt a bit incomplete, and there were a few loose ends. Not that these games needed any story at all to be successful, but it was noticeable. The Old Hunters makes this a non-issue. This is also true of the gear situation; while Bloodborneís weapons were invariably awesome from how they looked to how they felt in action, they were far more samey than the undeniably wider arsenal from the Souls games. This too is now a non-issue.

Bloodborne: The Old Hunters is an excellent reminder that its core release is still one of the best games of 2015. Itís also a raising of the stakes, a bold step forward, and an impressive display of faith in the player. There is no sugarcoating this, however: The Old Hunters is not just difficult: itís insanely difficult, even when compared to its contemporaries. But incredibly, it remains a completely balanced experience. This is a product that knows its audience and delivers what it should.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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