Thursday, 10 December 2015

Bloodborne: "The Old Hunters"

The standalone DLC pack for Bloodborne came out, and to my surprise it seems like it was built around my criticisms of the main game. It has interesting environments, better enemy variety and placement, a bigger focus on level hazards, and a greater amount of player expression through new and unique weapons and armour. Now everyone doesn't look like the same character. There's even a voiced narrator that actually tries to explain what the fuck is happening and why. It's still all balderdash, it's obvious From Software creates art assets in a vacuum, separate from any context or reason. But flimsy, half-hearted exposition near the end by a throwaway, nameless NPC is better than what Bloodborne offered before, which was literally nothing.


This update even managed to breathe some life into the Chalice Dungeons. It helps that the dungeons, as well as the main game now have a greater selection of offline NPCs that can fight bosses with you. But there is also now a significant reward for playing the dungeons with other people. Crafting items that are hard to come by in Bloodborne can be obtained by helping other players defeat bosses in the Chalice Dungeons now.

Granted, the content here begins with more overbearing imagery of death and corpses and blood rivers, which makes the game seem much more spoopy than I think any of the developers intended. But the Research Hall's creepy, clockwork insane-asylum aesthetic, with deranged, mutated patients still wandering the halls at least rises to the level of spooky. And the fishing hamlet at the end feels like the only genuine Lovecraftian inspiration, the only place that feels like they really "got" his stories, in a game that was otherwise content to simply borrow its' superficial branding. Each location feels distinct, instead of just being the same "Night"-themed level over and over again.

There's even a boss fight in a clocktower. For a game that got a lot of unwarranted Castlevania comparisons at launch, I'm surprised that wasn't there in the first place. And the music is still cool. And one of the horrific monster bosses actually gets some characterization in the middle of the fight, instead of some half-assed text description after he's dead and long after I would have cared.

In a lot of ways, "The Old Hunters" is what Bloodborne really should have been in the first place. This is the 2nd time in recent memory that From Software made big improvements to an incomplete product through DLC. I'm not sure if this is fair to consumers, that the only way they can get the product that's of any quality is to buy the game and then an additional purchase after the fact. On the other hand, at least this company makes DLC that's worth buying.

I'm a little less worried about Dark Souls III now.



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