Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Smart Shopper: Five Tips for Gamers who want to avoid DLC

Years later the armored horse from The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
looks so quaint compared to today's DLC offerings

All this recent talk about DLC in the gaming media--much of it sparked by Evolve, which is so thick with planned DLC its hard to see the actual game in the mix--basically boils down to the following interesting factoids:

First it seems to be a given these days that publishers and developers will find a way to market their game with DLC planned in at an early stage. This is becoming very common. Officially its a way to sell more content for the game you love, but realistically its a way to sell content to you that we as consumers recognize would have been included in the original price just a few years ago.

Second, consumers hate DLC, and to read any thread on it one would have a hard time understanding how these games survive such intense dislike for it. Of course the truth is...consumers buy it, enough so that it's worth the time for publishers and devs to pack their games with it. We are quick to purchase DLC because, well, we're kinda dumb that way. Also, and to be perfectly fair, not all DLC is created equal. For example, Bethesda sells decent DLC expansions for its RPGs which often contain 5-20 hours or more of content, or expand fundamentally on the whole game. That's significantly better DLC than an $5 pack which contains some reskins so you can look extra cool in Call of Duty, or even worse, the DLC car packs racing games sell.

So lets say you want to play games, but you don't want to worry about DLC? Well, here are the quick and easy strategies to get you there:

ONE: Stop buying new and wait for the "definitive edition" later on

If you can get over the idea that you need to have it on day of release, or close to it, then you find that you can wait until the game comes out in a special "gold edition" or "GOTY" pakage that just happens to contain all the DLC bundled up. Retailers and pubishers know this is a part of the market: they know you exist, so they will inevitably release a "complete" edition of their game just for you. Hell, you can get an even greater deal by showing severe restraint and waiting until that GOTY edition goes on sale.

TWO: learn to play with yourself

Multi-player is big bucks and it is clear that most game publishers out there want a piece of that pie. Call of Duty titles don't sell DLC to single players, they sell 90% it to the multi-player crowd. Battlefield games cater exclusively to multi-player in their DLC. Most games these days are selling map packs and vanity items for the multi-player gamers. If you only ever buy Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare for the single-player elements, you will find it surprisingly easy to not care about the expansion DLC. If you wanted to play Battlefield 4 for its amazingly average and buggy campaign, you could easily find that on sale for $10 and ignore all that DLC.

THREE: remember that F2P is probably the most expensive option out there if you can't show restraint

This should go without saying, but free games are usually going to cost you the most. One way to avoid finding this out is to simply avoid them. Another is to play them until you reach that point where you realize the game is now trying to manipulating you into making purchases. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what threshold you want to set for your experience, but my suggestion is to waste no time in a game you're not willing to pay for...and especially no time in a game that wants you to pay big bucks for it. If you figure a game should be worth $60 to you, and from the item shop figure out that you can spend that amount and get you're money's worth out of it, then great. If you can't figure out how much it will take to get the "quantity" of game you want, then back away, quick. Avoid F2P games that have multiple juggling currencies, especially.

FOUR: buy games that don't do DLC

Seriously. There are games out there which do not attach any DLC to their game at all, or at best may throw out a few vanity item packs as pre-purchase incentives, stuff that is otherwise completely ignorable in the game.

But, you may ask, most of those games are part of the hellish deluge of subpar indie titles which have swamped Steam and made the Humble Bundles instant jokes...right?

Well, not entirely. Here are some very recent "DLC-free" games I think are worth mentioning, and all of them qualify as "big budget." Oh..and they're all halfway decent, too:

Wolfenstein: The New Order: this single-player FPS adventure is a complete package with no DLC at all. If you're into the alternate history future Reich of the 1960's vs. a guy who can retain some pretty swole muscle tone even after spending more than decade in a coma, then this is a great title. Also, a solid shooter, and often easily found on sale.

Bound by Flame: this action RPG manages to entertain even in its occasional moments of cheesiness (and cheesecake), with a robust story of a man (or woman) who becomes infected with a flame demon and a quest to save the world from an extreme undead menace. No DLC and the full game is plenty of fun.

Lords of the Fallen: while LotF does have some armor/equipment packs you can get, they're completely irrelevant to this "survival dark fantasy" style game which is a variant on the Dark Souls style of game, albeit with better mechanics that are a bit less obtuse than its source of inspiration. I admit I was ready to give up on it, but eventually I figured out how to play the damned game....a blog worthy topic all on its own. Worth checking out, not the least of which is the lack of any necessary DLC.

Resident Evil HD Remaster: I would like to recommend all the Resident Evil games just because (if you know me and my blog) I am a terminal RE fan, but most of them are A: over a year old, and B: contain DLC that in my opinion is pretty core to the game experience. Although almost all RE games to date lock the multi-player behind DLC and give you the full regular campaign, so they're not really that egregious....but the MP in Revelations and RE6 was actually quite fun, so YMMV. But this is about the recently remastered original Resident Evil, of the first remastered edition that came out on the Gamecube ages ago. A solid update which demonstrates there's plenty of life in this style of game, and that it can be done with a cleaner, newer "non tank" control system, too.'s cheap. Well worth it.

Halo Master Chief Collection (Xbox One): for the Xbone fans out there this is four complete games, tons of multi-player, the Spartan Ops co-op missions and the Halo TV show all in one package with no DLC in sight. Well worth the purchase, if you happen to own an XB1.

Diablo III Reaper of Souls: yeah, seriously. The console edition includes the core plus expansion, and the expansion is an actual "expansion" the way they used to be, with a full additional campaign, loads of additional content, and a new character type. I think it's pretty much impossible not to find the whole game now, and they also got rid of the real money auction house some time ago (in case you hadn't heard). If you're gonna buy something with an expansion, get a game that does it the right way.

The following two get an honorable mention:

The Last of Us PS4 edition: the remastered PS4 version actually has a metric ton of DLC, all of which you can ignore; the single player campaign and the expansion are included in the base price and are more than worth it, easily one of the best games of the last several years. All of the DLC content is aimed at the multi-player side, which I've never even tried (though I hear it is fun) and also all appear to be ridiculous customizable vanity items.

Grand Theft Auto V: Well there is some sort of currency you can buy for the GTA Online deal but as I see it most games will cater to multi-player, and will pander to the needs of MP gamers with vanity items, quick in-game cash and utility elements. GTAV the regular game itself is a complete experience and frankly a pretty amazing one if you're even vaguely into ironic weird crime dramas. If you've ever wanted to see what the style of Tom Dorsey or Carl Hiaasen would look like applied to a video game set in pseudo Los Angeles, GTAV is it. Also soon to arrive on PC, amazingly.

If you stick to the four guidelines above, you should have a relatively DLC-free experience (or at least enjoy DLC content without spending an arm and a leg).

If you do happen to like indie titles and all the retro-mania nostalgia that seems to have swept over small indie devs with limited budgets, then the sky is the limit. I'm not very nostalgic for the gaming days of yore, probably because I fall in that special generation where my childhood peak of computer gaming was smack in the middle of the great crash in the 80's, a time when games were crap and everyone knew it except Sears. I wouldn't even dare to pick up another console again until the Playstation showed up....but if you're someone who thinks pseuo-8-bit side scrollers borrowing themes from an endless array of Nintendo games is awesome, then this is the time for you, buddy. And you probably don't need the advice I just offered, because you're busy playing Retro City Rampage (actually kind of a fun game).

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