Downloadable Content: The Nickel and Dime?

The gaming conspiracy theorist says this: after a developer has finished a deep, rich project the big bad developer comes into the picture wielding a machete in one hand and a marketing plan in the other; the result being tons and tons of cheap downloadable content and a seemingly incomplete game. The latest to come under this scrutiny is none other than Bioware’s Mass Effect 2, a critically praised title that runs a tad bit short in comparison to its contemporaries.

Downloadable content isn’t special, but it’s expected for virtually every game that is released nowadays. It’s great for gamers since they don’t have to see their beloved title wither away to nothing and it’s great for business because fans keep on buying. If you’re one of the folks that purchased Dragon Age close to its release and have kept up with the downloadable content, the original $49.99 price tag has gone up to something in the neighborhood of $70. The complaint, however, isn’t as discernible in Dragon Age as it is for Mass Effect 2.

While a single playthrough in Dragon Age will usually run somewhere between 40 and 50 hours depending upon how many side-quests you pursue, whereas a full playthrough in Mass Effect 2 will usually consume half that amount of time. So, what’s the difference? Conversing with your squad is similar to talking to your party, running around doing side-quests is similar to flying around the galaxy but they’re not quite the same. The largest difference is the slow-paced tactical approach that Dragon Age takes to the fast-paced over the shoulder firefight fest that Mass Effect 2 takes. It’s fun, but when you come across a random mission only to find that it lasts two minutes, it feels cheap.

Using the galaxy map in Mass Effect 2 for the first time is daunting. It’s really, really big. Moving into one nebula shows different clusters and exploring everything seems like it would take forever, but there really isn’t that much to explore. This is where the opinions diverge. From one end the game feels like it’s simply set up for downloadable content. Tons of planets where independent storylines can be placed gives players good enough reason to hope for interesting DLC. On the other hand, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that these things were simply yanked before the game was released for the sake of selling it later. Unless you’re actually working with the developer and publisher it’s hard to draw an accurate conclusion, but it’s difficult not to be a cynic.

Another problem is the quality of this downloadable content. It’s a certified cash cow which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s all going to be good. Bioware’s latest for Dragon Age, Return to Ostagar, seemed to be destined for greatness but instead turned into a quick half-hour loot and scoot. Hopefully, the trend won’t continue.

This doesn’t just belong to RPGs, the DLC frenzy also set up shop in fighting games. Capcom’s Street Fighter 4 is seeing alternate costumes being released as downloadable content, for a price. Really? Does anyone remember when you had to memorize which particular button to press to get the alternate outfit or beat a certain number of modes with a character to achieve the same purpose? This truly feels like something that should have been released with the original package. If you loved this game then 2048 cupcakes  is another recommendation for you. A game that is equally interesting and engaging at the same time. 

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