Let me explain. I sat down this morning (OK, lunchtime – I’m lazy) for a quick game on Deus Ex: Human Revolution. First time I’ve played it, it’s been getting good reviews, and I’ve got the day free. Ideal. I was looking forward to it, if I’m honest.
Instead, I’m sat here with the game paused before I’ve so much as taken a step forwards typing a thousand or so words of bile for the internet. You see, out of curiosity and a deeply ingrained obsession with gamer points, I checked the downloadable content to see what the add-ons are like. And the description for the Missing Link add-on (costing about £10) tells me:
“While fighting for his survival [… Adam] uncovers another layer to the conspiracy that he never would have suspected… what was happening in the shadows during the events of Deus Ex: Human Revolution?”
And another description from the console’s games marketplace itself:
“During Adam’s quest for the truth in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, he mysteriously vanishes for three days. Where was he? What did he find out? The Missing Link reveals all.”
Well that’s great, only I just paid for this game and really, I’d kind of expect that sort of thing to be included in the game. You know, an explanation of what was really going on, evidence that completely changes the nature of the game’s conspiracy plot and where the central character was for three frigging days all seem like things I might want to know.
But it’s not fair to wave this stick purely at Eidos – it’s happening with an alarming amount of games now. Almost the exact same thing occurs with the Battle of Forli and Bonfire of the Vanities DLC packs for Assassins Creed 2 (which is not only a great game, it’s fun to use as an example because you get to type ‘ass’ twice and I’m childish). In the unmodified single player game Ezio gets stabbed and wakes up a week or so later with a bit of a beard going on.
But with the two DLC packs, it turns out that he actually buggered off and rescued a besieged town, lost the mcguffin of the gods, got it back, remembered a whole new area of Florence and then got stabbed AGAIN during a mass book burning. So if you only played the vanilla game, the impression you end up with is of an amnesiac who randomly forgets key plot moments and mass insanity affecting his hometown. Either way, you don’t get the full story unless you pay for the DLC.
And Fallout: New Vegas can peer shamefaced round the doorway at this point – forgetting the fact that the main game was a blistering disappointment, the Lonesome Road add-on promises to answer why the courier you replaced refused to deliver the Platinum Chip you get shot in the head over at the start of the game. I’m assuming “because he didn’t want to get shot” is too simple an answer, and having not finished the game yet it’s hard for me to express any thoughts on the matter other than “I really can’t be arsed to finish this game.”
Prince of Persia is possibly the biggest mention on the list – for those who haven’t played it and want to do so without ruining it, skip to the next paragraph because spoilers are kind of necessary to the point of this paragraph. For those who don’t mind, the game ends with the god of darkness taking over the world because the Prince didn’t want Elika to sacrifice herself to trap it, and so destroys the one temple that could contain it. It’s pretty a pretty bleak outlook for the future as black smoke spews from the temple behind you and the prince carries her body into the desert, right before the smoke envelops them and the credits roll.
However, with the Epilogue DLC, they find shelter in a temple that – as you run through it escaping from the dark god – contains hints that there might be another way of stopping the apocalypse. The DLC ends with Elika leaving the Prince to search for another way of stopping the dark god and the Prince alive and outside the dark god’s influence. In other words, it changes the ending from an utterly hopeless one to a hopeful one.
The worst example of this, though, is Dragon Age: Origins. It actually has a character talk to you in-game about a quest you can only access by buying the DLC. If you follow the conversation through and express interest, a dialogue option appears that opens the marketplace for you to buy the add-on, which is a bit jarring, to say the least. It’s like Kaiser Soze turning to the screen halfway through the Usual Suspects and telling you to go get some popcorn because this next bit’s good.
Not only that, but DA:O blithely heralded a new, deadly wave of what’s known as ‘Day One DLC,’ an invention so Machiavellian and evil it could only have come from the minds at Electronic Arts. Day one DLC is a code that you get with a new copy of the game that gives one user the right to download an extra chunk of content – in the case of Dragon Age, it’s a Character called Shale (easily the funniest and most interesting character in the game) and a bunch of side quests.
The problem is, these single-use codes prevent you from selling the game when you’re done, since the next buyer will have to pay to download the missing content. As will you if you forget the password to your account, or it gets banned by Microsoft. Additionally, the free code expires a year or so after the game’s release, which means that just as you think the price of the game has FINALLY come down to a reasonable amount, you have to factor in an extra £10 to buy the missing chunk of DLC. And finally, there is the overall problem with DLC which is that it’s on your hard drive which is not a stable / permenant form of media, so if you want to download and play it in a few years time, you’d better hope the publishers haven’t removed it.
I mean it’s bollocks. You wouldn’t buy a book and then pay again to get the second last chapter. Off-hand the only other form of media I can think of that did this was the later seasons of Lost, where the only way to even remotely understand what the hell was going on with the various companies and foundations running in the shadows was to buy the tie-in books, or play the alternative reality games they were running through the summer between seasons. And granted, every DVD release seems to be tagged as some kind of ‘unrated edition’ where they’ve basically tacked on a deleted scene that was a bit rude and spoiled the flow of the film anyway.
But in general, when you pay for a piece of entertainment, you get that piece of entertainment in its entirety. It makes it a little concerning therefore that there’s this recent trend in releasing half-finished games and then selling the ‘missing’ pieces of plot afterwards, like a confused kidnapper returning your child and then writing to you afterwards trying to sell you their dismembered toe.
Which reminds me, I’ve got a parcel to post.