In recent times, many have come to think of the term DLC as standing for something more along the lines of Downright Lazy Cash-grabbing as opposed to what is usually intended as a good thing, Downloadable Content.
With the recent controversy surrounding shady loot box implementation and, going farther back, locked-off on-the-disc content it’s understandable why some might see this as such, but it’s important to remember that everyone would like more of their favourite video games. DLC is the quickest way to achieve this.
So what makes for a decent and memorable piece of DLC? And what are some examples of the best games that handle DLC releases correctly and in the right way? Needless to say, more than a few instantly come to mind. All DLC’s provide more of what we’re familiar with, whilst adding a fresh and unique twist to the game!
Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep
Borderlands 2 is arguably one of the greatest games of recent years got much, much better with the Borderlands DLC release of Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keepback in 2013, ending the mainline series of story packs to a game that continued to be supported over 2 years after its initial release.
The beauty of Borderlands 2’s Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep DLC is that it provided the features you’d normally expect from a typical DLC expansion: new setting, mechanics and characters, whilst also giving us a heartfelt story that deals with the themes of loss and acceptance that still made for some ingenious humour quintessential to a Borderlands game.
This 5-6-hour campaign set itself within the world of a fantasy role-playing game akin to Dungeons and Dragons, placing one of Borderlands 2’s most memorable characters, Tiny Tina, as your game master. What precedes to follow is the same shoot ‘n’ loot gameplay players had come to expect all whilst providing various in-jokes and pop-culture references that ultimately made this Borderlands DLC not only the best in the series, but one you couldn’t afford to miss!
Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den
Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den was the rare example of a piece of DLC that easily outshined its main campaign counterpart, largely due to the fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with it. I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that I wouldn’t need the most engaging or memorable piece of story DLC to find an excuse to venture back into the world of Rapture, it just so happens that this was exactly what we got with this Bioshock DLC.
Initially released 6 months after the main game, Minerva’s Den allowed players to experience another side of rapture as you learned more about its inner workings. You take control of another Alpha-series Big Daddy (or so we thought) so not to lose any of that kick-ass dual wielding gameplay, whilst providing a smart and thought provoking side-story that questions the use of artificial AI and the consequences of what can happen when it’s abused. Very Frankenstein-esque in theme!
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Campy, unexpected and utterly brilliant, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare is the perfect example of a DLC expansion that fully commits to its tone and setting whilst providing gamers with something wholly unique. Taking place within what is I assume a separate timeline, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare pits the legendary John Marston against wards of hillbilly and cowboy zombies. But wait! These aren’t just any zombies, they’re B-movie, pulpy Romero zombies, yes please!
Undead Nightmare successfully plunged players back into the open-world setting of the American West all whilst never taking itself too seriously and providing plenty of well-thought out easter eggs to keep us occupied. A great bit of DLC that was capable of providing just as much enjoyment as its main counterpart!
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Sticking with the campy and pulpy tone of the past, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon released as a standalone expansion in 2013 successfully transported players to an alternate version of 2007, that largely drew inspiration from films and games of the 1980’s. Taking control of an American cyber solider played by The Terminator’s Michael Beihn (need I say more?), Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon provided more of Far Cry’s addictive gameplay, this time set in a VHS 80’s vision of the future.
What helped make Blood Dragon such a great DLC expansion, was the fact that it fully committed to its hyper fictionalised world of dystopian sci-fi backed by over exaggerated voice acting and a kick-ass synthwave soundtrack by Power Glove. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was a game that could have easily stood on its own two feet as a new IP, the mark of a truly great DLC expansion.
As expressed, nowadays DLC has unfortunately become somewhat of a dirty term amongst modern gamers, with questions of both value and morality often creeping into the debate of their existence. As far as I’m concerned as long as we continue to get more of the content we love, with DLC expansions as great and original as these, it’s a debate worth putting up with!