The following post contains spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC and Fire Emblem: Fates’ Hidden Truths DLC.
Let me make something clear right off of the bat: I am not here to hate on DLC, my qualm is the format in which story-vital information is being sold separately to the audience.
I’ve got two case studies for this post: Dragon Age and Fire Emblem: Fates. Oh, boy, two of my favorite game series, we’re going in.
If you’ve played some of BioWare’s biggest games, you probably already know there is a lot of outside content. Books, comic books, DLC, and animes? For the most part, these are just ways to enhance the story. It’s something I love about playing BioWare games: the world they’ve created is so rich that they have this ability to expand the story in areas that aren’t directly connected to the main games. There might be the odd Easter Egg here and there as a playful mention to those who have consumed this other media, and for a long time that’s what outside media was: story enrichment. However, recently there has been an increasing trend of putting story vital information in these outside sources.
Just take a look at the Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts quest in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The whole mission was one big reference to The Masked Empire book, and if you didn’t read it, then you were only able to get part of the full story. (My elven Inquisitor certainly would have wanted to know more about the burning of the Halamshiral elven alienage….) Dragon Age: Inquisition had a lot of these outside sources tie into main story missions within the game. So much so, in fact, that the main villain in the game first appears in a Dragon Age II DLC. (I had about 20 question marks over my head when Hawke talked about fighting Corypheus before, that was before I found out there was a DLC for DA2.) It’s a trend that’s growing increasingly popular: pay for DLC or wind up moderately confused for the overarching story.
Fire Emblem: Fates does something similar. Now, Fates is a special case because of its three-path story. I see the three-path storyline as an experiment, but probably one Intelligent Systems shouldn’t try again unless they really want to annoy their fanbase by forcing them to buy three games again. (That being said, the total price for these three paths was $80, $80 for what can be considered three full games. Not totally a bad deal.) Here’s where my annoyance comes in. Some of the biggest plot questions revolving around the protagonist, Corrin, are answered with the Hidden Truths DLC. You find out about their father, why they can turn into a dragon, why characters from Fire Emblem: Awakening are in Fates, and why Lilith is significant to Corrin. All things, I think, should have been answered at least in the Revelation path, where you are supposed to discover truths not revealed in the other two game paths. There was no reason the Awakening trio couldn’t tell Corrin about their relationship to everything once they were in Valla. Plot time much better spent than inexplicably killing a dear ally again with the temporary betrayal of another ally, which only served as unnecessary drama. The information from Hidden Truths would have made the final battle more significant, too: Corrin discovering that Anankos was their father and having to defeat their father in the final battle. Everything would have been tied together. Instead, those significant plot features were tucked away in a DLC with basically a “Oh, yeah, btw, here are all the things that we didn’t have time to explain in three full games.”
And I’m not done with you, Dragon Age. I get the rationale behind putting Trespasser as a DLC. It gave time and space for the interim DLC to be released and some time to have pass for the Inquisition. It serves more as an extended epilogue than a final chapter for Dragon Age: Inquisition. That being said, it cannot be denied that Trespasser is vitally important to the Dragon Age story and for the events to come in Dragon Age 4. With Solas revealing his entire significance and plans for the future, we, as the Inquisitor, are left with one of those “significant decision” choices. This is indicating to us that the decision to stop or redeem Solas will be important in the future game, and it will certainly be influential when meeting Solas again. I don’t know if there was a good way to handle a DLC that significant. Do you attach it to the base game with a warning and hope people don’t accidentally play it before playing the other DLC, should they choose to buy them? Do you make it a free DLC and still release it as the last DLC? And what of the people who can’t play Trespasser because they own the previous generation of consoles, such as the PS3 or XBox360? (A situation I was in until a few months ago.)
Charging for DLC at a reasonable price is fine, but this format does raise questions for how to handle additional, story-significant content. It’s like buying a book but then having to purchase the epilogue or additional chapters separately. Or how Marvel is handling their movies and shows nowadays: consume all the connected content or risk missing out on important details. You probably annoy your audience more by forcing them to purchase/consume additional content than if you leave it to “well, if you want to consume it, you can but it’s not necessary.” I’m not saying don’t make additional content (I know I love seeing it), but maybe there’s a way to deal with significant plot details in a way that doesn’t force consumption. There will be people who want to read/play/watch as much of the universe as possible, but there should also be consideration for the casual audience who may not want to spend the time/money on something that should have been part of the main story already.
What are your thoughts? How do you think DLC/other materials should be handled? Should there be warnings for what DLC/other materials will be needed before a game comes out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!