I never would have pegged myself as a Souls fan a few years back. I don't really dig on sadistic gaming challenges and because my job requires me to be fairly gaming literate, I rarely have time to sink dozens of hours into hard games to learn their intricacies.
So it came as quite the surprise to me when I had a lot of fun with Dark Souls, got more than a little obsessed with Dark Souls 2 and consider Bloodborne to be in the running as my favorite game of the year.
It's especially irritating, considering the enthusiasm of that last sentence, that I have purchased a $20 Bloodborne DLC pack The Old Hunters that I am fairly certain I will never play. As I discovered after I started trying to find the content I had just purchased, the new stuff has been gated in such a way that those who've beat the game will have the hardest time accessing it. For those players, the price to play The Old Hunters is quite a bit more dear than twenty bucks, and that may be more than I'm willing to pay.
If you don't keep up with Bloodborne and the obtuse route to its DLC (something of a Souls tradition) I beg a few moments of your time so I can lay it out.
So: The Old Hunters is not an option you can activate from the main menu. It is not behind a hidden door you're suddenly able to unlock. No, the route to it goes a little like this:
Fight your way to and defeat Vicar Amelia, one of the earlier bosses in the game.
Examine an altar behind Amelia after she goes down.
Return to the Hunter's Dream (something of a "home base" in Bloodborne)
Receive the "Eye of the Blood-drunk Hunter" from a messenger
Return to the Oedon Chapel and leave via a certain exit outside which a weird brain demon will pick you up and whisk you away to your new content
To all but the most diehard of Souls diehards, that surely seems like the fever-dream scribbles of a demon-possessed toddler. I mean, let's call it what it is: It's a spell. It is an incantation you have to perform to get the $20 expansion you already bought.
That said, I'm a little ashamed to admit that it initially wouldn't have put me off that much. You know that part in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest where in order to progress you have to inexplicably kneel with a Red Crystal to summon a tornado? Imagine someone played that and thought "Yes! Absolutely! This is how all games should work!" and you have a pretty good entryway to the psyche of the Souls series. I kind of love it.
Unfortunately, there's a big problem with this particular incantation.
The issue is that I, like a lot of people who played Bloodborne when it was first released, I imagine, have finished the game and been automatically kicked into the beginning of a New Game Plus run. I personally have no interest in playing NG+ of Bloodborne or pretty much any game, so this is where I checked out. But now, in order to get the DLC I paid for I'm faced with two equally unappealing options.
I keep churning through NG+ Bloodborne for four or five hours until I can beat Vicar Amelia again at which point I'll play the NG+ (read: more difficult) version of the DLC which I've heard is already pretty tough.
Start a brand new character with none of the dozens of hours of work I've put into leveling equipment etc. and still have to play through content I've played before as I work towards not only Vicar Amelia but leveling enough to actually be able to enjoy the DLC, which could be an extremely long process.
As I've said, I like the Souls games. I think they've got a lovely, distinctive aesthetic, I think they've got some really cool combat encounters and I think they've almost perfected their blend of punishing but fair difficulty. So yes, I want to experience the Souls games, but I feel no compulsion to bash myself against them at increasingly harder difficulties as though I'm honing my skills for a Bloodborne World Championship that will never arrive.
I get some people play Souls games that way, it's just not my style. And I don't think it's unreasonable for me to expect that I'll be able to play DLC I paid for, even if hours of backtracking isn't my cup of tea.
I mean, let's call it what it is: It's a spell. It is an incantation you have to perform to get the $20 expansion you already bought.
I imagine fans of Souls games are a little tired of explaining to the uninitiated that our relationship with the series isn't just Stockholm Syndrome, that there's a ton to love beyond the (frequently exaggerated) difficulty. But I would implore my fellow Souls devotees to recognize the difference between "You don't know him like I know him" and "I gave him $20 and he pushed me into an elevator shaft."
I'm all for games having their quirks. We're in dire need of more AAA releases that haven't had all their rough edges shaved off in an effort to appeal to as broad an audience as possible. But when you start forcing me to waste a ton of time just for the privilege of playing content I've already paid for? Well, that's where you lose me.