I’ve previously mentioned how New Horizons felt like an unfinished game that relied on DLC to truly feel finished. Or half-finished according to some. Mario Kart 8 recently got a DLC update that added (and will be adding) 48 tracks. But would it have been better to just release Mario Kart 9?
Does DLC ruin games?
DLC has been around for quite a while now. There were several games on PS3 and Xbox 360 that utilized DLC. Most of the time it was free, but there were a few exceptions. Around 2014, Nintendo jumped on the DLC bandwagon and has proceeded to release DLC for almost every game since then.
Splatoon was released as a relatively barebones game. A lot of the weapons you see now only arrived as DLC. The Ranked modes weren’t even added until several players got to level 10. Then it was added in the form of Splat Zones. The game would update regularly, adding weapons, modes, Splat Fests, and of course general bug fixes and balancing. The thing is… These updates never felt like DLC. It just felt like regular updates dishing out new content.
The same thing occurred with Splatoon 2, except this time, paid DLC was announced. The paid DLC added the Octo Expansion, featuring a lengthy single-player campaign, as well as the ability to play as an Octoling. Even though it was paid, it never felt intrusive. The amount of content included made the DLC well worth the price. I must have poured 20 hours into the DLC campaign, and I still have yet to 100% it. On top of cosmetic glory? Heck yeah!
I know nobody talks about this game, but Fantasy Life had amazing DLC! Never mind the fact that players without DLC couldn’t play with players with DLC. The paid DLC included an entirely new story, along with an entirely new area, and a raised level cap. More hairstyles were included, more items, more abilities, and so on and so forth. It essentially added another 50+ hours to the game. That is good DLC.
The original Mario Kart 8 DLC on the Wii U didn’t even feel out of place. It was the first time DLC had been added to a Mario Kart game, but it was so well handled that it was a complete success. Something I still find weird to this day is that you can play these DLC courses online, even if you don’t own them. This includes the new DLC for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. If you’re someone who primarily plays online (like me) is it even worth buying the DLC?
Then we have DLC that’s so out there it may as well be its own game. I’m talking about the Xenoblade 2 DLC: Torna The Golden Country, of course. This… DLC game has so much content that you can’t help but feel like you’re playing a stand-alone game. As a prequel to Xenoblade 2, new players can dive straight into it without even playing Xenoblade 2. In fact, it was released as a stand-alone… game because of this. But it’s still considered DLC.
Then there’s the more intrusive DLC that it’s practically just a sales pitch at this point. Hyrule Warriors, Fire Emblem, and even Breath of the Wild to an extent. “If you pay this small fee of one kidney, you get all of these characters, weapons, and more! Maybe we’ll give you an additional story too!” It just feels like overkill at this point. Sure, the Breath of the Wild DLC was a nice bonus, but was it really necessary? Especially when we ended up getting Age of Calamity a couple of years later. Hyrule Warriors got remade TWICE, with each new edition including all of the past editions’ DLC, on top of new DLC. Can you tell they’re really trying to milk this game?
Then there’s Fire Emblem. Fates added an entirely new path through DLC. This path mostly reused old assets from the other two routes, but included a new story and allowed you to play as BOTH the Nohrians and Hoshidans. All three routes were originally going to release on one cartridge much like Three Houses, but Nintendo got greedy and decided to release each path for its own separate fee. Speaking of Three Houses, an additional house was added as paid DLC. There’s a small side story, but they don’t even get their own paths! It’s just the characters that you can bring with you to any path you choose to play. What was even the point?
There’s the Final Fantasy 7 Remake. That got DLC. Never mind that they chose to have an episodic release for this game, and we STILL haven’t gotten the second part. Here! Have this paid DLC to tide you over for the next two years! No thanks. I already invested 40 hours into this. I don’t want DLC, let alone PAID DLC. I want the second part. I want a completed game.
And that brings us to my last point. Games that don’t feel complete without DLC. You can argue that no game feels complete without DLC. Why bother playing a game unless you have the full experience? But then there are games where without the DLC, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I’ve already gone over New Horizons, so I won’t restate my point again. But another game that does this is Kingdom Hearts 3.
Fans waited TEN years for Kingdom Hearts 3. I much preferred the Disney worlds included this time, but they all felt like filler… In the past two (numbered) games, there were always important plot points included in these worlds. Maybe to a less extent 2, but even the not numbered games did a good job of carrying the plot along through these Disney worlds. Kingdom Hearts 3 just has the same boring loop. Go to a world. Beat that world. Get 5-10 minutes of new story information. Go to the next world. Beat that world. Get another tidbit of story information. So on and so forth. This continues all the way until the very last Disney world. What was even the POINT of these Disney worlds? Were they just there to add content to the game? Filler?
The story itself is played VERY safe. Square Enix gave the fans exactly what they wanted, and nothing more. The game feels like fanservice. It’s understandable, 10 years is a lot of pressure. But I can’t help feeling disappointed. Kingdom Hearts is known for its crazy contrived storylines. Kingdom Hearts 3 doesn’t do that.
Until almost the very end.
And in DLC.
The end of Kingdom Hearts 3 teases the next game. ALL of the suspense is at the end. It’s just dumped on you. It wasn’t ever built up, except for in the games that were released before 3. Kingdom Hearts 3 feels like this giant obstacle we had to hurdle over, to continue the overarching story. This is weird when you consider this was the ending to one story arc. The DLC however, fixes much of this. It adds new story content, it explains everything that the base game should have explained. It doesn’t feature filler Disney worlds. It moves the plot forward, something the game should have been doing this whole time.
And then you remember that it’s paid DLC. What the heck?
In conclusion, DLC can be done right. There are plenty of instances of this. The problem is, most of the time companies are too focused on milking their games for more money or releasing half-finished games with the promise of more in the form of DLC. Sometimes paid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this sort of trend is going to be ending any time soon. And we as consumers are buying into it.