Every generation of gaming seems defined by either new pieces of technology or something else that broadens our definition of what a game entails. One of the new advents that’s become more widespread in the last few years would be what is now known as DLC, a bit of an adaptation of the expansion pack from PC’s gaming glory days. It’s yet another example of the transition of gaming as it has moved from the desk to the couch, and it’s taken up its own shape as a result, both on the console and on PC.
Only in the last few years have developers started to show exceptional treatment in the handling of DLC, finding ways to extend the life of the games we love in a variety of ways. In no particular order, here are our top six games with great DLC:
Mass Effect 2
Since its release, Mass Effect 2’s DLC has received some criticism for the way it is sidelined into the story, belonging neither truly within it or after it has taken place. However, the Overlord pack received some positive recognition, and Lair of the Shadow Broker’s release this week might have just set the new standard for post-story DLC add-ons. What Bioware accomplished was to provide a brief story that serves as a nice bridge between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. On top of being a nice extension, it’s also just damn fun and masterfully pulled off. It tapped into everything I loved about the first two games, and hinted towards stories to come. One only wonders what your choices will mean for the inevitable third game, and the possibilities are certainly exciting when it comes to future bridging narratives.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Get used to seeing a Bethesda game on this list, because it’s going to happen again. Perhaps their long experience with PC development made the Maryland-based developer more malleable to the online DLC world, or maybe they got so much flak over the infamous horse armor that they stepped their game up. But no matter the reason, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion put its stamp on modern DLC early in this generation with the release of the Shivering Isles, and eventually, Knights of the Nine. Taking their cues from old school PC expansions, Bethesda increased the playability of this already hours-intensive game by adding new playable areas, new quests and even more gameplay. Elder Scrolls V, anyone?
Team Fortress 2
While we hope there’s not another ten year development gap between Team Fortress 2 and Team Fortress 3 (knock on wood), Valve certainly knows the right cure for what ails impatient gamers: awesome DLC, updates and community requested features. On top of numerous updates and weapons for each class in the game, Valve has also provided a slew of game modes and maps such as Gold Rush and Highlander. With the next update promising item trading, it’s hard not to be eager to see where Valve will go now that all of the classes have been rounded out.
Little Big Planet
Is there any console game cuter and more imaginative in its content than Little Big Planet? On top of the user created levels and the amount of flexibility innate in its design, Media Molecule has supported the game longterm with ongoing DLC packs. These come as either themed levels or costume packs, and you can honestly take your pick from any number of fun options. Want to dress Sackboy like characters from Watchmen, Team Ico games or the Marvel universe? Go for it. Want to play levels from Pirates of the Caribbean or Metal Gear Solid 4? That’s available, too. With Little Big Planet 2 on its way in November with even more options than the first, Media Molecule has already set the bar fairly high. There is no reason to doubt they won’t surpass themselves.
As a game, Borderlands is an addicting and huge Diablo-esque FPS that rewards its co-operative players with epic loot, frenetic battles and dozens of quests. It’s really the perfect kind of game to support with extensive DLC, and developer Gearbox isn’t slowing down. With only a handful of upgrades originally planned, the community has taken to the DLC packs such as the Secret Armory of General Knoxx and the Zombie Island of Dr. Ned with a surprising passion, and Gearbox has responded in kind, with renewed plans to support the game long term including balancing issues and bigger level caps. The new add-on releasing this month, Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution, promises even more zany action, and helps set Borderlands as the standard that other developers need to look at in terms of superb content at affordable prices, regularly released. Kudos, Gearbox.
Bethesda strikes again with Fallout 3, the post-apocalyptic RPG shooter romp that takes you through the Wasteland and then beyond via the release of DLC. Not content just to leave players with an engrossing and enormous experience, Bethesda has provided huge updates to Fallout 3 that explore not only more of the game’s area, but taken players as far as Alaska or even the southern coastline with hillbillies. On top of that, they’ve opened up the level cap and extended the main tale of the game with Broken Steel, and given glimpses of a more sci-fi feel with Mothership Zeta. While some of these things have been hit and miss with players, the new weapons and added hours are enough incentive to keep on playing, and everyone will find something that they like.
There you are, six games that know how to do DLC just right. I’m going to be honest, I was mainly inspired to write this because of the rave reviews of the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, which just came out this week. I finished it tonight, and I have to say it hits just the right spot that got me back into the Mass Effect spirit. Excellent stuff.
There were some other honorable mentions, but enough of what we think – what about you guys? Do you have any others to add to the list? How do you feel about the DLC for these games? Go!