I remember a time when you had to work to unlock a weapon or outfit. Like defeating Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts 2 to get Fenrir, or dodging 200(!) lightning bolts in a row in Final Fantasy X to power up Lulu to the max. Wanted Kisala's Swimsuit in Rogue Galaxy? Just complete the Ghost Ship Extreme. All 100 floors of it. Or what about Sho's Outfit? Just complete the Ghost Ship Extreme!...again. Now in the modern age, things you had to devote countless hours to unlock will cost about 9.99-14.99. Maybe even 29.99. On one hand, gamers don't have as much as time to sink into games as we used to, the 10 a.m to the 2 a.m marathon now a thing of the past. Though on the other hand, when a game like Street Fighter V comes out and makes you pay for the STORY mode, you've a got a broken business model. I didn't actually pay for it but you get the idea.
Good DLC in my opinion is one that adds something meaningful to game. Be it a story scenario, character expansion, a vast new area to explore, it's something that should make you want to go back to the game after you've already completed it. Locking weapons and outfits behind a paywall is one thing, adding a difficulty, voice over pack or extra skits like in the curious case of Tales of Zestiria is about as shameless as you can imagine. I get it, development costs are getting up there, devs need to be paid, the cost of more sophisticated technology is skyrocketing. Raising the price of triple-A games by ten dollars (they used to cost 49.99 for those too young to remember) was understandable. I didn't like it, but I understood the move. Now it feels like companies are releasing half finished games and selling the rest of it as "DLC."
In the multiplayer arena, a new DLC epidemic has reared it's ugly head: loot boxes. The trials and tribulations of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 have been well documented. I'm not a guy who does multiplayer, I even get funny feelings when I do co-op so the loot box scandal didn't hit me as hard at first. Further digging into the matter actually had me in tears and stitches at the sheer stupidity of EA and DICE. Who ever told them it was a good idea to lock progression behind a paywall needs to be fired but hopefully they learn their lesson even though I don't think they will.
When DLC is done right, you get some truly memorable experiences. Bitterblack Isle is one of my favorite expansion areas ever, Citadel from Mass Effect 3 was as funny as it was fun and Mark of the Assassin from Dragon Age 2 made me feel like a badass part of Ocean's crew. When it's not done right you get "Bring Down the Sky" from Mass Effect or "Project Overlord" from Mass Effect 2, dull, boring experiences that add unnecessary filler to an otherwise excellent experience. Examples of DLCs worth your time:
You can't ask more from a DLC than what Dark Arisen delivered to Dragon's Dogma. Not only was the aforementioned Bitterblack Isle added, but you got a bunch of new weapons, armor, an eternal ferrystone which made travel easier on the ol' coinpurse. But again, the real star of the show was the Isle of Bitterblack. Not only was this easily the hardest area in the entire game but it's story was tragic, heartbreaking and downright gripping. Post story content on the island was another beast altogether; in a game not afraid to throw bosses at you like pebbles, Bitterblack threw bosses at you like dust. Undead dragons, Unchained Gore Cyclops, Firedrakes, Thunder Wyverns and the undying Reaper will slash, stomp, burn, electrocute, poison and eat you. Though not in that exact order.
Didn't get enough Dragon Age: Inquisition? Bioware found that to be an injustice and remedied that with the expansive Jaws of Hakkon. The Inquisitor visits the Frostback Basin to find out what to the original Inquisitor and uncovers a plot to release the ancient Avvar god Hakkon on the world. This bit (or big bit) of DLC easily adds half a dozen hours worth of gameplay, new materials, weapons, armor and closure to the mystery of the lost Inquisitor.
My favorite DLC ever, this not only adds a new hub area for Shepard and crew to relax in, it also adds new activities, minigames, weapons and Javik being at his funniest. Capped off by a group photo that would hang from my wall or fit snugly on my mantle (if I had one of those). It's the last time you get to hang out with the most kickass group of space marauders (not really marauders but this is my blog so deal with it) gaming has ever seen. Also:
Yes, Tali HAD to be the love interest in the photo
Special mentions to Mass Effect 2's Lair of the Shadow Broker, Dragon Age 2's Legacy, Batman: Arkham City's Revenge of Harley Quinn and Blood and Wine from the Witcher 3 (technically an expansion pack but this is my blog)
I was going to save my least favorite DLC for another blog but that would just be lazy and since I want this blog to super, stupidly long here's my least favorite DLC:
In all to fairness to Project Overlord the story is at least passable. Scientists trying to use a human-VI hybrid to control geth is fascinating but driving in a glass plated Hammerhead where turrets take you down in practically three hits, useless side quests, minimal impact on the overall story and the Hammerhead makes this DLC pretty dull and for the longest time I'd always skip it. But because I'm partly a perfectionist (don't ask how many platinum trophies I've got) I eventually got around to doing it.
I could have used Episode Prompto with it's lame shooting mechanic but it does have Aranea in it so I kind of like it. Episode Gladiolus gets the nod here because of how boring it is. Seeking more strength after Ravus hands his ass to him, Gladiolus sets out to find Gilgamesh: Shield of the Founder King. The entire thing turns into a time attack style corridor beat em' up with minimal replayability. But hey, Gilgamesh is kind of cool, so there's that
I'm not an overly self-righteous person, or I hope I'm not, but if you're gonna make people pay for additional content at least make it good. It's not easy making DLC much less an entire video game but at the end of the day, MAKE IT GOOD. If I have to suffer through another Bring Down the Sky I'm chucking my controller through every television set in existence. What are some of your favorites and ones you'd rather never existed? Share them in the comments!