Monday, 17 November 2014

There's More To Life Than Gaming

Originally written for Forces Of Geek in September some time.....

Don’t let the title throw you off, I’m not saying you should play games less, or go outside to interact with people and enjoy the fresh air. Nope, I’m saying that you should play your favourite games even more! Or rather, their expansions. Back in the 90′s the only DLC (downloadable content) we could get hold of were patches for PC games to fix bugs or problems.

Nowadays there’s a whole market of expansive gaming, giving you new weapons, skins, extra levels, characters, and even more story.. but all for a price. You might think that this would be perfect for every gamer; you reach the end of your game, play through again to pick up any missing trophies/achievements and then you learn there’s more of the same coming your way in a month or so. 
But no. As stated, there’s a market for this stuff and the key aspect of the ‘market’ is to exploit gamers to make MONEY. No matter how good or bad the actual game in question is, the DLC is never guaranteed to be great.
But there are beacons of hope, DLC additions that are so mind-blowingly good that they deserve the extra purchase. Admittedly, certain games are rereleased as ‘Game Of The Year’ editions with all of the DLC combined but I’ve decided to have a look at the fundamentally vital purchases that all self-respecting gamers should invest in.
DLC: Dragonborn

Two words: Dragon. Mount. Skyrim has the absolute best use of dragons in video game history (Yeah, come at me! I challenge anyone who says otherwise and yes, I know that they aren't technically dragons - but dragons and wyverns are practically the same!). From their look, sound and physics, to the fighting mechanics, they are a ferocious and formidable foe while also being a conquerable challenge. 

How could it possibly get better than that? Oh, I don’t know. How about riding one like a the SKY!? But that’s not even taking into account the cool plot of the game, where your character is set upon by a mad cult who follow the rule of Miraak the first dragonborn. Extra story elements aside though because it's dragon riding that makes this one worth the money!

Red Dead Redemption
DLC: Undead Nightmare

The DLC so good it warranted its own disc. That’s right, even if you didn’t own a copy of Red Dead Redemption, you could buy Undead Nightmare on its own – admittedly, you’d be a fool to, as Red Dead Redemption is bloody amazing. Turning the entire Western themed game on its head, rather than just sticking a few zombies in a small confined level (*cough* Call Of Duty, I’m looking at you! *cough*) Rockstar took it further and introduced new weapons, an alternate timeline story and implemented a whole new score. 

They even dressed the entire map differently, populated the plains with zombie animals AND mythical creatures such as Sasquatch, Chupacabra and even a Unicorn for good measure! Not only that but this DLC gives you the opportunity to locate and tame all four horses of the apocalypse! A thoroughly rewarding experience that takes an already glorious game and adds a whole world of silly horror fun to it. Oh, and the zombies are pretty damn fast, don't expect slow, shambling types!

Mass Effect 3
DLC: The Citadel

Set before the (disappointing or natural, depending on your perspective) close of Mass Effect 3, The Citadel is one last chance to interact with the games’ key characters before the story winds down. Of every title on this list, this is the most unassuming and simplistic but the dialogue, humour and closure elevate the game experience entirely. And once the actual story and interaction side of things is over, you get to plan and host a party! A frickin’ party before the biggest battle in the universe? Commander Shepard, you know how to play it cool, sir/ma’am.

DLC: The Knife Of Dunwall

It’s very difficult for a game to show you how the other half live. If we did that for a Super Mario game, you’d just play as Bowser sitting around in a windowless room, waiting for Mario to appear. But Dishonored is different, a wonderful and fully engaging story with game mechanics that allow you to either butcher and magic your way through the game or stealth by without being seen by a single person, killing not a soul. 

The story is set in motion by the assassination of the reigning monarch and your mute character being accused of the deed. The Knife Of Dunwall not only allows you to play as said assassin (I won't mention names to remain spoiler free because you ought to play it!) but looks into the reason for the killing in the first place. And to prove this wasn’t just a random after-thought, there’s even another DLC pack called The Brigmore Witches which picks up where The Knife Of Dunwall left off, with the same choices and upgrades.

Borderlands 2
DLC: Tiny Tina’s Assault On Dragon Keep

Borderlands 2 is a very madcap cell-shaded shooter with a nice arcade feel and heavy focus on weapon customisation. Very few gaming environments could handle this kind of crazy development but it’s somehow perfect for the Borderlands series. 

Tiny Tina, Modecai, Brick and Lilith are all playing a table-top RPG and you essentially act out what is being narrated to you by Tiny Tina, who is doubling as the GM (Games Master). I've mentioned games that change the setting or playable character but not one that completely reinvents itself. With so much humour, ingenuity and novel originality, it’s little wonder this specific DLC is a fan favourite.

BioShock Infinite
DLC: Burial At Sea Episodes 1 and 2

This whole article stems from the fact that I’ve only just got round to playing and completing the phenomenal BioShock Infinite. The second I finished, my fiancĂ© insisted I start up the DLC, rabbiting on about how it not only adds to the experience of BioShock Infinite but to the original BioShock as well. He wasn’t wrong. This is easily the greatest example of DLC ever produced. 

Taking the player back to the setting of Rapture, before Jack arrived in the middle of the splicer war, Episode One is a simple elseworlds investigation story with Booker DeWitt once more taking the lead...only in a different way (I'm purposefully keeping this vague to avoid spoilers - seriously, go and play this game!). Episode Two continues after the end of Episode One (go, figure!) and allows the player to take control of Elizabeth as she witnesses the key events that transpire just before Jack’s arrival. I envy those who haven't played this game as I wish I could experience it again!

A lot of DLC (probably about 80% of it) is a shameless cash-in and it’s always hard to know whether they’re worth the investment or not. But if you own any of the aforementioned games and haven’t downloaded these additions, do yourself a favour, dig out that game you completed a while ago, fork out for the extras and treat yourself to a great revisit and expansion of a world you thought you knew. There's more experience in those games than you first thought!

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