Story DLC Woes

The really great part about Legendary is that you get all the DLC right off the bat. This has no real meaning for ME1. ME2 brings a lot to the table

  • Kasumi is a new companion with an interesting loyalty mission
  • Lair of the Shadow Broker, which adds some lore bits to the story
  • Overlord, another story-based DLC with a tad less punch
  • Arrival, which has you solo in some stealth sections (and is therefore not fun)

All of these came out after ME2 launched, and aside from Kasumi, can be played post-suicide mission. This helps because ME2 doesn’t really end, similar to The Two Towers. It’s all open on the threat to come in ME3. It allows them to be a sort of intermission between ME2 and ME3.

ME3 has 3 main DLC.

  • From Ashes is the day 1 DLC with the Prothean companion
  • Omega has you team up with Aria to take back Omega over a long series of quests to prep for the final battle
  • Leviathan adds a crazy amount of lore to the game, like the Silmarillion did to LotR.

I’ll quickly pick on From Ashes for a minute. This DLC was clearly carved out of the main game – the companion you get is integrated with speech into nearly every quest, and is of the sole race you’ve been trying to find for 2 games. It was insulting at launch not to have this included and the reason I didn’t buy any ME3 DLC.

Omega is weird one that adds a lot of side content and some war points to the final battle. It looks truly amazing, and I could always use more Aria. It’s also one of the only missions in all of ME3 where the Renegade path is actually preferred. It doesn’t add to the the larger story and is entirely optional. You’re not missing out if you don’t play it (but you really should.)

Leviathan I had skipped on principle. I had heard some good things, but given that it was primarily focused on lore, why go after that after you’ve closed the final chapter? The quest itself is a mouse chase of sorts, with some interesting set pieces for combat (the water planet in particular clearly inspired Star Wars ep: 9). Spoilers I guess? Leviathan are the predecessors to everything. They created the Catalyst, who then created the Reapers in their image. Each cycle creates a new reaper, and there are thousands of them. Cycles aren’t exactly 10 years long in ME, more in the thousands. It’s so foundational to the understanding of the world around you, yet you get it after you complete the game. Legendary gives it to you at the start, where it clearly should have been from the start.

Don’t tell me that’s not an awesome sight!

Post-Credit Story

For a long time, games had a finite end. If you wanted more, you got an expansion pack that added a new chapter (e.g. Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction). Adding things to the middle of the story just didn’t happen, though mostly due to coding issues. It’s always easier to add to the outside of a construct than the middle – really just like renovations. It’s often easier to build a new house than renovate an existing one.

There are certainly plenty of games that have a mode post-credits. Bethesda and Rockstar excel at this. These games more easily integrate story DLC, if that story doesn’t directly impact the main game storyline. You can add a new mission with a new boss, as long as it doesn’t reference the main one. XCOM2 has a lot of this, yet the quality here is a challenge due to the difficulty scaling of combat.

And yet, the games that have a finite end, where the credits roll and you’re done, those have serious problems with DLC. Final Fantasy 13-2 addressed this by launching the DLC along with the game (see From Ashes as to why this wasn’t well received), so that it would integrate well. Final Fantasy 15 had story DLC (episodes) 6 months after launch, which added lore for each companion. FF15 sold nearly 9m copies, so the market for DLC was there. The episodes were launched, but some re-org in SQUENIX stopped all future DLC… though let’s be frank here, if the DLC met objectives there would have been more.

ME3 suffers from this challenge, where the player base is substantial, yet the story is clearly at an end. Launching DLC after the game is complete, no matter how interesting, doesn’t make sense. Folks have spent 20-40 hours getting through a rollercoaster of events, 100+ if you consider all the trilogy. There’s a sense of closure, and not much interest in opening up that door once again. At least in the larger population sense.

Game Trend

It’s interesting to see the larger game trends that Mass Effect created or expanded upon. It’s hard to explain how important ME was to gaming in the west – we didn’t really have anything remotely close to an action RPG at the time. Play ME3 and then Outriders… you’re going to see extremely similar models.

You’re also going to see how story DLC is handled, or not I suppose. Games with a finite end rarely go through the efforts of any story DLC. Heck, even games that don’t have a finite end don’t want to mess with the gold (e.g. God of War) as they know it’s never going to hit 100%, and probably not even hit 20%. If they ever want to add a new game to the series, then you have to go in with different player bases and can’t rely on the prior DLC content to have been experienced.

Mass Effect Andromeda didn’t have any (nor any sales of ‘season passes’ common for EA), which is a fairly decent bookmark to this topic.

Given the quality of the story DLC for ME3 and the overall apathy for the content, I would like to think this is the best outcome forward. If it’s important, put it in the main game. If not, then wait for a sequel.

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