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DLC: Expanding Our Gaming Horizons

In November last year, I wrote about my thoughts on digital versus physical games. Originally, I wanted to follow it up with a post on downloadable content but a few other things got in the way. Nevertheless, I think now is a good time to dive into it. I have purchased DLC in the past but have slowed down as of late while I try to build up my retro collection (which is difficult to do in Ireland). Nonetheless, I will still grab some extra content if I’m properly stuck into a game and want to expand my enjoyment of it.

For PC games, DLC is something that’s been around for a long time. Gamers have been able to experience expansion passes, mods (not really DLC but I’ll throw it in), as well as new maps or skins in online shooters. For me, my first experiences with DLC were back in the original Xbox days. When I purchased Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, I remember reading on the back of the box that it had “Content DL”. It turns out this was a new area called Yavin Station and came with a few new items to obtain. I could never get my original Xbox hooked up to Xbox Live but I would try years later with the Xbox 360. I couldn’t find the DLC and I think I may have missed out on it for good. If you’ve any info on how to get it on consoles, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Sticking with the original Xbox, I did have two more encounters with “DLC” and I use that term loosely. First was The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I remember seeing it in my local Smyths store for €50 and skipping over it as I knew GAME had it for €20. It turns out that the Smyths copy was the “Game of the Year Edition” with all the expansion packs. I regret not picking it up. My other experience was Fable. When it was originally released, I enjoyed it but felt it was incredibly short for an RPG. Years later, while I was in GameStop, they had a copy of Fable: The Lost Chapters. This was an expansion of sorts that added a new area to the game, picking up the story where Fable left off (it also contained the original Fable).

As the Xbox 360 came around, I dived into the world of Xbox Live and DLC more. My first memories of DLC on the Xbox 360 was with The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I bought all the mission expansion packs but skipped over some of the more useless ones. This would show me that even though there were great DLCs available, there were some that were just blatant cash grabs. The Horse Armour DLC, which eventually gave rise to awful DLC being referred to as “Horse Armour”, was something that really should have been included in the game as standard. It was a cosmetic DLC that added armour to your horses. I can’t remember how much it cost because Microsoft used those odd “Microsoft Points”.

As time has gone on, I’ve loved how DLC has expanded our experiences with games. For Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect Trilogy, Fallout, Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. I’ve liked how it’s given us new areas to explore, new quests to undertake, expanded the lore, given us new karts and tracks and new characters to play as. In Mass Effect, the DLC adds in new characters, who can become important in later games. Dragon Age: Origins Awakening gave us a whole new area to explore and built upon the ending of the main game. Mario Kart 8 gave us some great new cups, tracks and characters. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate gave us Sephiroth…. and maybe some stages or other characters or something, I wasn’t paying attention. However, for every brilliant piece of DLC, there seems to be ten more poor ones. I love the Tales of series but I can never justify paying for “booster” packs. Some people can and that’s perfectly fine, but they’re just not for me.

The seventh generation of consoles did bring with it some of the worst cases of “DLC”. The first is on-disc DLC. Street Fighter X Tekken had several DLC fighters already on the disc. While I’m a fan of new fighters being added, I am firmly against them being on the disc but locked behind a paywall. It’s one thing to add in characters after launch that you’ve had to develop later but if they’re on the disc, they should be included with your original purchase. Then, we started to see Online Passes that were used to discourage second-hand sales. I don’t really care to play online but I think locking the feature away unless you buy the game new is poor form. There are some people who can’t buy it new, either through finances or supply issues but I think they should still be able to experience the game like anyone else. I think it’s a bit different if it’s a piece of armour or an extra character. It’s just a personal thing but I’m glad these types of passes are dead.

The last one is (sighs), microtransactions. The biggest example of these for me is EA’s FIFA series. Since the arrival of Ultimate Team, other modes seem to be forgotten about, or even removed. I love playing career mode but I can’t justify spending money on something that sees so little improvement. There were features in FIFA 10’s career mode that were missing for years. There’re also other modes like Pro Clubs that took a real beating. Another EA franchise to try microtransactions in a game that really shouldn’t have had them was Dead Space 3. These were used to improve your weapons. I physically edited my save file so I wouldn’t have to bother with a grind or loot boxes for this. Even in the last gen, loot boxes and microtransactions persisted. I remember EA getting into trouble over Star Wars Battlefront II. Games like WWE 2K18 had them in modes that were unnecessary. Even F1 2020, which I loved, had them in the form of Pitcoins. These were used to unlock cosmetic items, such as car liveries, helmets and podium celebrations. I tend to ignore these if they’re not a core mechanic of the game (unlike WWE 2K18) but it still irks me at times. Sadly, these types of DLC are here to stay but if these are things you get enjoyment out of, good for you. They’re not my cup of tea but we all enjoy gaming in our own unique ways.

DLC has given me so much joy over the years, whether it’s exploring the depths of 2181 Desponia in Mass Effect 3, impaling people with Sephiroth in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or racing around Big Blue as Isabelle (because I’m not allowed to be Link) in Mario Kart 8. What are some of your favourite DLCs? What ones would you recommend I try?


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