Monday, 7 June 2010

Do we expect to much from DLC?

The Return to Ostagar downloadable content pack to EA's Fantasy RPG Dragon Age:Origins has been one of the most universally criticized and trashed bit of DLC since the the Oblivion horse armor raised its ugly head back in 2006.

My Play through of Dragon Age was interrupted by some major upheavals in my life at the start of the year, now returning to it a few months later I decided to give in to my completist tendencies and grab all its Downloadable content and expansion's including Return to Ostagar.

Most of the reviews Ive read have been pretty unequivocal about how they felt about it, but what really should i have expected from it? In EA's words:
A return to the battlefields of Ostagar, now thick with darkspawn encamped amidst the snow
An opportunity to reclaim the lost arms and armor of a king
A second chance to add Dog to your party

And after playing it that's pretty much what it delivers.

Nothing more. But also nothing less. I think the best thing i can say is rarely are press statements so literally true.

I think part of the problem is that some of the free release day DLC was so much better. Both Shale & Wardens Keep were excellent. Providing just about everything you could ask for, including new characters, new skills and entirely new enviroments.
But the fact bar was raised high doesn't explain or excuse the lack of ambition in Return to Ostagar.

In many way's it feels like the only purpose of the DLC was to further tease a plot element.
One of the biggest criticism of Return to Ostagar was it didn't give much attention to the fate of Duncan, a well loved character who was integral to your characters backstory, and instead focused on the realms former king who's role in the main game was little more than window dressing.
My own pet theory is as always, what isn't said is as important as what is.
In a land where necromancy and black sorcery are commonplace the fact that you don't find someones body is in many ways, far more important than if you did.
Although Bioware lead writter David Gaider has stated the character is dead we were given little indication that such is true from this release. In some ways it reopens what was a closed conversation on his fate.
Return to Ostagar feels to me like bio-ware felt they needed to clarify some of the circumstances surrounding the gamnes start to setup a future revelation relating to the Duncan NPC, and that they made a small release to do precisely that. It almost certainly would have been received alot better reviews if it had been released for free, but while such is the default for the PC Dragon Age's multiformat release probably were told they had no choice but to slam a price tag on for ps3 & xbox releases and decided to do the same for consistency sake on the PC.

I think perhaps in some ways PC gamers have been spoiled by free DLC, certainly in the wider context of games things like Valves support of its Multiplayer FPS team fortress 2 are the abbe ration rather than the norm.
Perhaps slowly it will filter back to games companies that the revenue they make from DLC like Return to Ostagar is worth significantly less than the goodwill that releasing for free buys.

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