Bloodborne: The Old Hunters takes us to all-new, horrible places, filled with all-new, horrible things determined to murder you in all-new, horrible ways. What fun!
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters was on show at Tokyo Game Show 2015 and I played it. You may touch my hem; I’ll allow it.
I managed not to cry even once on this year’s Tokyo trip, but the closest I came to it was during The Old Hunters. I was traumatised by Bloodborne, and playing it in front of a bunch of Japanese gamers while Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson says things like “oh they’ve nerfed this whole area, it’s so easy” did not calm my nerves.
The Old Hunters, as far as I can tell, is horrible, which means you will like it. The area on show looked like an ancient stone or marble ruin, overgrown by some sort of horrible fungus forest. The occasional familiar asset (how did Yharnam’s residents manage to crash all these coaches??) did not resign me to all the fuzzy white spores and glistening, oily greenery.
The first area I explored was a horrible tunnel of blood, layered in bodies; it looked like someone had opened the drain and flushed out a charnel house. This was fine, I guess, but then the bodies would occasionally shift, half-lifting from the sticky detritus of their decomposing fellows, and moan.
If you have ever played any of From Software’s RPGs you may understand how unsettling I found this; the constant flickers of movement and ambient sounds kept triggering all my fight or flight instincts. When an oversized Hunter came sprinting out of the muck it was actually a relief, although I spent the whole fight worrying about whether just one of those bodies might not be a prop, and would stand up and stab me in the back.
The Hunter I faced stood head and shoulders above my character and the similarly-sized Hunter enemies we faced in vanilla Bloodborne, but otherwise proved very similar – deadly, equipped with Hunter weapons, determined to smear me into paste. It turned out these horrible Hunters are standard enemies – they respawn and appear frequently.
An impassable fog door blocked me off from much exploration but I poked around for quite some time in various small side areas which wound back to the main path. In one of these I came across a horrible pit criss-crossed with wooden walkways. On the opposite wall, the shadow of a Hunter stood guard over the lure of a loot drop; running across and quickly spinning the camera I was gratified to see him drop down and come on the attack.
I was very proud of how I herded him onto the boards, but I managed to take such a hefty slice of his health out that I pushed too far and dropped down into the pit with him. Here I encountered half a dozen horrible Crazed Crows, and had a heck of a time slapping them down and taking that last little bit of the Hunter’s health off.
On the main path, a few Beast Patients spawned on the other side of a short drop. This didn’t worry me too much – until, of course, a horrible pack of half a dozen of them replaced the two or three I’d dispatched. I didn’t feel especially up to this mob situation so after a desultory effort I decided to run for shelter.
To my subsequent discomfiture, there was a Hunter waiting for me and another guarding the stairs out of the area. I didn’t immediately panic, but hung a right and headed for a nearby structure, hoping my now quite impressive pack of followers wouldn’t come with me.
But – ah ha ha ha! – a horrible great brute with an axe and tentacles for a face awaited me. Screaming internally I dashed past him like my hunter was attempting to break dance, diving through a door and immediately down a narrow stairway under a tomb.
This eventually turned out to be a dead end, so there was nothing for it but to try and get past the big guy and the two hunters outside. Careful not to draw the attention of the Hunters I used the door as cover as I tried to remember how the heck to play Bloodborne – counters, sidestepping, regain and all that – while facing off against this fierce enemy.
It was all going pretty well until half way through the fight the baddie struck his axe on the ground making a sound like a huge bell being struck. From here on, his attacks chimed whether they hit me or the ground or the wall, sending out horrible, magical area of effect damage with each strike.
It took me two goes to take him down, which is not bad considering I’m rubbish, the Japanese control scheme reverses the dodge and confirm keys and I am apparently incapable of remembering that. I took out one of the two Hunters and headed towards the other when the timer ran out and I was politely moved on, past the glares of the many fans who had been watching my queue-jumping ass give one of the worst gaming performances of my life.
The whole demo was horrible. I was horrified the entire time. My nerves were absolutely shot. You’re going to love it.