For me, most (not all) additional Downloadable Content (DLC) for games that either adds on to the story or expands the game in some way just isn’t worth the purchase price. The value of it isn’t there. Usually, less than the cost of the base game, many developers skimp on either content or game design (sometimes both) as (rarely) the full team is invested in created this additional content. Akin to the Dr. Who “Minisodes,” these DLC packs are often much less than a full episode (game) in terms of characterization, missions, and overall structure of the game.
Assassin’s Creed II
I first noticed this problem in Assassin’s Creed II (AC 2) when I bought the “Missing Missions” for this pack. The conceit of the game is that you were learning about your ancestors life through the Animus, a machine that allowed you to relive the life of Ezio (your ancestor) and to play various “missions” around his life. Now all of these missions led you to the final chapter of the game–except, the game designers removed (or “scrambled” to keep with the game’s fiction) two or three missions and you had to purchase them later in order to play through them. I loved the game, so I didn’t wait until later, but bought them immediately and played through them during the course of my game–to simulate me going through ALL the missions without having to skip missions that had been “scrambled.”
Big mistake! These missions were some of the grindiest, unfun missions in the AC universe. From what I remember, one mission was super combat focused, but the other mission–oh boy, the other mission was a stealth mission that had a “no-spot” rule, meaning that if the guards spotted you, the mission was automatically failed. This was not how it was in the base game, nor was it a part of the AC universe until then. There was only one preferred way of completing the mission–where, up until this point, it had been up to the player’s discretion–sneak, do combat, or do a combination of both. In fact, these “grindy” play mechanics made their way into future AC games which helped to deteriorate subsequent games in the series’s popularity with customers and long-time fans. I almost stopped playing because of how unfun those DLC missions were, but I preservered and managed to earn the Platinum Trophy for the game–but I still remember those missions as the only thing (outside of collecting all those feathers) as negative experience in the game.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
This brings me AC Origins. The two DLCs were on sale for a fraction of the price recently, and–despite my better judgement, I went ahead and pulled the trigger and I’m playing through them now. I actually finished the first one, but I”m working on the second one as we speak. Have they gotten any better? In a word, no.
They do manage to keep the core mechanics of the original game, so that’s pretty nice. No game breaking design choices that are different from what happens in the base game. There’s more consistency between the base game and the DLC. No, my issue is with the story and the pacing of the new content. Most importantly, these are short–sure, I’m mostly focusing on the “main” story line and a couple of “side” missions here and there, but I’ve already beaten the game and Platinumed it–I don’t feel the need to do everything in the DLCs anymore as I’ve already done it all in the base game. However, the price I paid feels about right for the content and I would have felt “ripped off” had I purchased it for the original asking price. One thing they do is make the game more “vertical” meaning that you have to do more climbing (which takes longer than running or taking a mount) to get around. This extends (pads) the gameplay time, so that you think you’re getting more value. Secondly, they tamper with the narrative of the main game–instead of introducing new unique characters that are as inventive as they are in the main game, they (in the first DLC at least) change the outcome for a fairly important character in the base game. Not a fan.
Mass Effect 2
So, I’ve given two examples of games not getting DLC right, but Mass Effect 2 is the rare exception to that rule. The content for that game felt like it had been developed in conjunction with the original game (and while some might look askance at that–put it in the base game!), as long as it doesn’t change the tone of gameplay or seek to rewrite base story elements, I’m personally fine with it. However, even this content, as good as it was, still had flaws. I triggered the “penultimate” mission before doing the DLC and so, because I wanted to completely “wrap” up the game, I went and did the DLC first, not realizing that if you didn’t do the “final” mission right after triggering the “penultimate” mission, then you lost the ability to save certain “non-essential” members of your crew. This had never been an issue before–as long as you completed the missions correctly and had enough Paragon/Renegade points to settle “important” characters’ disputes, then the game did not penalize you for waiting to do a mission. And, not only did the game penalize you in this case, it also offered no “warning” that doing the DLC mission would affect how the “final” mission played out. So, even here, we see that DLCs have downsides. And I won’t even talk about the “crappy” DLCs for Mass Effect 3 or the cancelled planned DLCs for Mass Effect Andromeda.
So, for me, I find that DLCs are rarely worth it in terms of value–especially at full price. I only buy extra content now when it is massively discounted, but even then, I find that I’m often still disappointed in the extra content, rather than being excited about it and getting a chance to play more in my favorite game worlds.
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