A Dilemma with DLC

The following post contains spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC and Fire Emblem: FatesHidden 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.

Dragon Age™: Inquisition_20170326150849

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.)

Dragon Age™: Inquisition_20170311205246

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!

Happy gaming!

~ M

11 thoughts on “A Dilemma with DLC

  1. I am quite annoyed by the way certain video game companies handle DLC. A game came out last year, Total War: Warhammer, and I was quite keen to get it. I have never been a big collector of Games Workshop miniatures as I am rubbish at the assembly stage and it is expensive, so I was happy when they announced the game. And when they opened for Pre-Orders on steam they said 4 playable races and if you Pre-Order you get a 5th. That annoyed me. If the 5fth race was ready at release, it should have been included in release. They have since released several paid DLC, two more playable races and a heroes and unit roster expansion. It is just a bit naff in my opinion. Though, in their defence, there have been several free DLCs that were not insubstantial.

    I remember the days when you bought a game on disk. And Then you bought an expansion on disk a year later. It was always continuation, or not plot critical. It seems to me that the Video Game market has managed to eliminate production overheads with platforms like Steam, and release these expansions over 3 or 4 DLC and charge for all of them. It is crappy. But I imagine it has something to do with there being millions of video game developers.

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    1. I agree, and I do believe that some companies do this as a way to make more money off of their product (or encourage pre-orders). Some games for me are so good that I want to check out the DLC because I want more of the world, but I think that starts with having a solid base game that encourages more consumption but does not essentially force you into it.

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  2. I feel like companies are trying to milk everything they can out of a game. With that being said it’s really frustrating, that there is DLC out there and this isn’t the first time Dragon Age has done this, where you have to had read the books in order to get more insight into what is actually going on in the DLC. I think instead they just do something like Witcher 3 did with their DLC that it was related to the story and fleshed it out further but you could totally live without it. It seems that they want their games to last longer but then they put out content that requires some people to search for additionally sources of information that can in some cases cost even more money. At $45 for all the DLC for DAI I would say that is a pretty hefty fee….

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    1. All very true. When I first started playing Dragon Age, I assumed the DLC was non-essential, until characters start talking about things that happened in DLC (ie Anders first appearing in Dragon Age: Awakening). And yeah, $45 was a lot for the DAI DLC. I lucked out because once I finally got a PS4, I bought the Game of the Year edition (for cheaper) and that has *everything*. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I had to buy the game twice because it was later revealed that the PS3/Xbox360 would only have the first DLC available to them (but that’s a discussion for another day).

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  3. Generally, I like to think that Nintendo handles DLC well, but Fire Emblem Fates was an experiment that I really hope is a one and done. See, I didn’t think that they would actually have story heavy missions as DLC, so I never bought into the Fates DLC other than the 3 full games. In fact, if I never read this then I wouldn’t have even learned about the connection between Corrin and Anankos, that’s a huge detail to tuck away like that! Despite me putting more than 100 hours into the three campaigns collectively. >_>

    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more great writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook.

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    1. In terms of Nintendo’s DLC, I can only speak for Fire Emblem’s DLC and I have really loved the ones I’ve gotten, especially the story heavy ones. Hidden Truths was a really fun and challenging map, and I did like learning more about the story, but I still think the content was better suited for the base games.

      And thank you for the invitation!

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  4. The way they handled the story in Fates drives me CRAZY. You said it very well – how in the world was three full games not enough time to tell their story? They really had to tuck it away into paid DLC? That kind of stuff kills me. And it’s particularly frustrating after Awakening’s DLC was actually really good – six free additional chapters that added new characters to the game, and then paid DLC if you wanted it that expanded on the history of the child characters. I really hope that the next non-remake Fire Emblem handles the DLC more like Awakening and less like Fates. And that they don’t do the three path thing again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! The Awakening DLC was fun for the additional conversations between characters who usually can’t Support and the Future Past DLC was excellent. Heirs of Fate DLC served the same purpose as Future Past (focus on the 2nd gen characters in an alternate universe), so that made sense to have as DLC. The Hidden Truths maps themselves were a fun and interesting challenge, but I would have been a lot happier to see the information first presented in the games themselves. They could have still sold the Hidden Truths DLC under the same premise, a way for the player to see what happened when the Awakening trio met Anankos. I’m also hoping that future FE games handle their story and DLC better….

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