Blood­borne: The Old Hun­ters

Re­turn­ing to Yhar­nam’s blood-soaked cob­ble­stones

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher SCE De­vel­oper FromSoft­ware For­mat PS4 Ori­gin Ja­pan Re­lease Novem­ber 24

PS4

While The Old Hun­ters was orig­i­nally planned as a two-part ex­pan­sion to Hide­taka Miyazaki’s be­guil­ing Gothic slasher, at some point dur­ing its six­month de­vel­op­ment the FromSoft­ware team de­cided that this DLC was a dish best served whole. It’s cer­tainly been a busy time for the Tokyo-based stu­dio since Miyazaki’s el­e­va­tion to the role of pres­i­dent: its var­i­ous teams are re­port­edly work­ing on more ti­tles to­day than ever be­fore in the com­pany’s his­tory. Such a heavy work­load doesn’t ap­pear to have ad­versely af­fected The Old Hun­ters, how­ever; in­deed, the splic­ing to­gether of th­ese two ad­dons seems to be born of artis­tic choice rather than com­mer­cial im­per­a­tive.

Split across three dis­tinct dis­tricts, The Old Hun­ters is al­most a quar­ter of the size of the base game’s map. With nu­mer­ous new char­ac­ter builds, its glit­ter­ing spells, ten ad­di­tional weapons (that’s main and off-hand ar­ma­ments) and a host of fresh NPCs to be sum­moned to even the odds in your favour, this is the kind of gen­er­ous re­turn visit we’ve come to ex­pect from the stu­dio.

Not that The Old Hun­ters’ scale is much in ev­i­dence from the frus­trat­ingly brief seg­ment of it that is playable at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. In­stead, we are treated to a 15-minute zip over a hill (with Yhar­nam, still crum­bling and still re­splen­dent, in the dis­tance) and down into a gully awash with pud­dles of blood and punc­tu­ated by grey reeds. Here, among the ru­ins, tum­ble­down ma­sonry and wonky build­ings, you’ll be rein­tro­duced to the fa­mil­iar cast of en­emy crows and crook-backed hags. But there are also rangy, red-eyed hun­ters pac­ing about in pairs, wield­ing scythes. Man­age to de­feat th­ese, or sprint past them, and you’ll be met with a boss bat­tle in that most fa­mil­iar of Blood­borne lo­cales: a derelict church.

While the chal­lenge has clearly been soft­ened for the con­fer­ence set­ting in or­der to al­low as many at­ten­dees to make it through as pos­si­ble, even in this Blood­borne- lite state, the won­der­ful rhythms and tex­ture of the orig­i­nal game have been pre­served. The boss fight is, as ever, the best show­case, waged against a mourn­ful quadruped with a goat­like head that’s filled with chaotic teeth. This vile beast was once the Hunter Lud­wig (Heal­ing Church founder and he of the Holy Blade). Tac­ti­cally, it varies ap­proach, rush­ing you and lung­ing in to bite, be­fore re­treat­ing to the ceil­ing for a mo­ment’s respite when its health bar is suf­fi­ciently nicked. While it’s hid­ing, drops of blood drip to the floor, in­di­cat­ing its po­si­tion. Flee­ing this gory clue is im­per­a­tive, since it her­alds the beast hurl­ing it­self to the ground, hop­ing to pound you be­neath its hooves. Oc­ca­sion­ally, the cam­era wheels up be­hind Lud­wig’s head as you con­tinue the fight from its point of view. It’s a neat, if dis­ori­ent­ing, trick. The three char­ac­ter builds on of­fer at TGS show­case dif­fer­ent weapons, the most im­me­di­ately en­tic­ing of which is a curved sword that, in its more pow­er­ful form, be­comes a bow and ar­row, or ‘Bow­blade’. One char­ac­ter build, dubbed the Mensi Scholar – a ref­er­ence no doubt to the Night­mare Of Men­sis from the main game – comes with a clutch of spells, in­clud­ing icy shards that can be fired at en­e­mies like spears. An­other, dressed like a va­grant samu­rai, wields a katana that dou­bles as a bladed whip, with ir­reg­u­lar, dif­fi­cult-to-master rhythms.

The story is, in Miyazaki’s typ­i­cal style, ab­struse and enigmatic. The Old Hun­ters thread will, how­ever, be ac­ces­si­ble at some point in the first half of the game, even if the team is warn­ing that its chal­lenge will be com­men­su­rate with the lat­ter stages of the orig­i­nal. This is im­por­tant to bear in mind for new­com­ers who pick up the fi­nal in­car­na­tion of Blood­borne, com­plete with the ex­pan­sion, in De­cem­ber. For vet­er­ans, the low-cost, stand­alone DLC ar­rives a month sooner. Then the busi­ness of un­tan­gling Blood­borne’s deep­est se­crets can truly be­gin.

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