Frivolous Waste of Time

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Archive for the category “DLC”

Gravity Rush 2 – The Ark of Time: Raven’s Choice DLC for PS4

I’m a big fan of the price point for this Gravity Rush 2 DLC; free. This is partially because free DLC is always welcome and partially because I don’t think I would have been very happy to have paid for this.

Raven is something of a fan favourite character and it makes perfect sense for her to be given her own story. In the confusing jumble that was Gravity Rush 2’s story, we never really found out Raven’s backstory. Taking place between Gravity Rush 1 and 2, this DLC also resolves a plot strand left hanging from the first game, the Lost Children trapped in the Ark, and so depicts Raven’s attempts to save them, as well as uncover her own history.

A lot of this DLC weirdly doubles down on the worst things about the main game, and that applies to the story as well. Gravity Rush as a series gets weirdly bogged down into its own bizarre mythology, which never succeeds in becoming more compelling than confusing and Raven’s Choice, which is a couple of hours long at most, contains all of these flaws in perfect microcosm.

Unfortunately, this extends to the gameplay as well. Gravity Rush is about soaring through the skies and kicking giant monsters in the eye but both games spent an unforgivable amount of time keeping you grounded, forcing you to complete arduous stealth challenges or escort missions. A good DLC either offers something new, or at least what was good about the game in microcosm, but Raven’s Choice blows up everything bad about Gravity Rush 2. There are some good moments, such as a fun boss fight and some neat differences in Raven’s power set to Kat’s, but I can’t see this being something I’d be happy to pay for.

So…good thing I didn’t! Since it’s free there are worse ways to spend your time if you still have your copy of Gravity Rush 2 lying around, but I wouldn’t nudge it to the top of your pile if I were you.

 

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The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna DLC for PS4, PC, OS X, Linux and Android

As soon as I finished The Talos Principle I jumped into Road to Gehenna, the DLC. Although I was only able to complete about three of this expansion’s couple dozen puzzles without a guide, the story and some interesting interactions made this experience worthwhile for me.

Road to Gehenna sees you playing as Uriel, a much more defined character than in the main game. With the artificial construct in which they reside falling apart, Elohim, filled with regret over his actions, sends Uriel to rescue a group of intelligences he had banished due to their questioning nature and willingness to challenge his word. Uriel arrives in this section of the construct and finds that the minds there have, through their terminals, created Gehenna, a platform to allow them to share their works of art and form a community. This creation has staved off the madness of boredom for the AIs residing there, but Gehenna isn’t quite as utopian as it seems.

Gehenna is a pretty fascinating concept and the game does a pretty great job of imagining the kind of art that would be created by minds with all the empathy and intelligence of humans but none of the real world experience. As with the main game, most of the story is told through terminals as you gradually find yourself rising through the community of Gehenna. The whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as a much nicer, more meaningful reddit. The different minds have clearly defined personalities and watching them react to your arrival is pretty interesting. Probably my favourite part of the DLC were a couple of short text adventures which appear on the Gehenna terminal, all of which generally stand in as a metaphor for what is going on around you in the meta story. Road to Gehenna doesn’t quite have the same broad scope of philosophical thought that is seen in the main game but is instead more focused, primarily upon the idea of art and creation and, perhaps, their role in the age of reddit and content aggregation. I liked the story of Road to Gehenna just as much as I liked the story in the main game.

The puzzles are presumably not impossible, but to one with my mental capabilities they really were. I found almost all of them insanely difficult and unfortunately had to spend almost the entire thing following guides. It’s hard to blame the game for this to be fair and it didn’t actually impact my enjoyment as much as you’d expect. I’m still not going to talk too much about his element of the game because I don’t have a huge amount to say. They seem like they’re well designed but to be honest I can’t really tell. The environments still look nice, although they’re mostly recycled from the main game.

It’s pretty crazy that, despite not really engaging with the entire core mechanics of this DLC, I still liked it as much as I did. It shows that, for me at least, good world building conquers all in my enjoyment of a game. Road to Gehenna is a worthy addition to an already great game.

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Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack 2 for Wii U

So, Nintendo pretty much win at DLC right? Now that both are released I am struggling to think of any company that has released a better value pack than this. Containing eight new tracks and three new characters, this DLC Pack easily matches the first one.

As with the previous pack, this one contains four retro tracks and four new ones. The retro tracks are a good bunch, with me being particularly pleased with the return of my beloved Baby Park from Double Dash, which is very much the Final Destination of Mario Kart tracks. Another stand out is Ribbon Road, a fairly forgettable track from Super Circuit that is reimagined as a genuinely stunning track taking place in a child’s bedroom. The new tracks are excellent, of course, with the most immediately noticeable being the Animal Crossing track on which this DLC is based (which changes with the seasons) and a new F-Zero track based on the classic Big Blue. The new characters of male and female Animal Crossing Villagers, Isabelle from the same game and the surprisingly awesome Dry Bowser round out a hell of a pack.

Even though it was actually part of a free update (thanks for that Nintendo), I want to touch upon the new 200CC speed. It does more than just speed up the experience, it completely changes the way you approach the tracks. To be completely honest, it doesn’t really work; it’s clear very quickly that the tracks are designed for 150CC and that the natural rhythms of Mario Kart are lost. However, I think that 200CC is a fantastic addition. It may be a bit of a goof to try a few times for a laugh with friends, but it’s amazing that Nintendo gave us that and they really didn’t need to. The free update combined with very good value DLC once again show up other companies in comparison to Nintendo.

Mario Kart 8, particularly in the one or two player 60FPS, is possibly the most gorgeous game of this console generation and the new tracks are just as delightful and packed with detail as those in the main game. The music is wonderful and the animations for the new characters adorable. The core mechanics in Mario Kart 8 are the best in the series, but it’s also the most beautiful.

Putting aside nostalgia blindness, it’s hard to dispute Mario Kart 8 as the peak of the series and this DLC only makes it better. If Nintendo manage to bring this level of value to Smash Bros. I think I may cry. If you liked Mario Kart 8, get these two packs. Simple.

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies: Turnabout Reclaimed DLC

Wow, that’s an unwieldy title isn’t it? Phoenix Wright is one of my biggest gaming guilty pleasures, so I wouldn’t be able to hold out against the DLC forever. Happily, it’s one of the best cases in the series and without a doubt worth the £4 asking price.

Turnabout Reclaimed fits into an odd place in the fractured Dual Destinies chronology; after Apollo and Athena’s cases which introduced Simon Blackquill and Bobby Fullbright, but before the explosion in the courtroom which kicks off the game. It is in fact Phoenix’s first case after regaining his Attorney’s Badge following the events of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney. The defendant in this case is one unlike any other; Orla Shipley, an orca, accused of the murder of Jack Shipley, the manager of the aquarium in which she is kept. Phoenix and Athena are recruited by Sasha Buckler, Orla’s keeper, to defend the orca in court.

So…yeah, even by Ace Attorney standards this case is goofy. It all works though! Although it is funny and silly, the case is actually a surprisingly interesting one, and the ridiculous concept doesn’t hold the case back from getting as intricate as these things can. The new characters are good, with Orla the Orca having a surprising amount of charm and character. This case cemented my fondness for Athena Cykes, and my belief (which would get me crucified in some corners of the internet) that she’s a better sidekick than the long absent Maya Fey (although it would be nice to see her again).

From a gameplay perspective…it’s all pretty much the same. There’s a flirting with bringing back some of the touch screen gimmicks from the original game’s fifth case, but it never really follows through. Still, when you play an Ace Attorney game you know what you’re getting.

Turnabout Reclaimed has a pleasant new handful of new anime cutscenes, which I felt were used much more effectively (and regularly) than in the main game. They’re still underused, but it’s good that they made the clear effort. In fact, ‘effort’ is one of the best things about this DLC. DLC can often feel half-baked and lacking the lustre of the main game, but Turnabout Reclaimed feels like the opposite, being one the nicest looking cases in the whole series, with some catchy new tunes to boot.

This is exactly what DLC should be; enjoyable, yet unnecessary for the main game, concise and, most importantly of all, good value for money. Turnabout Reclaimed is absolutely worth four quid if you have any fondness for this series.Turnabout-Reclaimed-Phoenix-Wright-630x354

Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep DLC for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

Gearbox provided what is arguably the best value Season Pass yet in its Borderlands 2 offering, with two excellent DLC packs and one mediocre. Thankfully, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is a vast improvement over Sir Hammerlock’s disappointing release, and is comfortably the best DLC of the bunch.

This DLC is all played within the frame of a Dungeons and Dragons-esque tabletop game, with the players being the original Borderland’s Vault Hunters, and the Dungeon Master role taken by Tiny Tina herself. Within the fantasy land of Tina’s creation, the Queen has been kidnapped by the sinister ‘Handsome Sorcerer’, and it’s up to the Vault Hunters to save the day.

After the swampy boredom of Hammerlock’s DLC, it’s wonderful to finally see somewhere so vivid and filled with life, although there’s something of an over focus on grim forests and nasty sights, with the rare moments of beauty actually being rather stunning to behold. Although this DLC naturally plays with and winks at fantasy genre clichés, the manic mind of Tiny Tina ensures that we’ll always have a fresh spin on established tropes.

The plot is actually surprisingly excellent, not just incredibly funny (which, oh my God, it totally is) but also with some genuine emotion and feeling. Gearbox recognise here, in a similar way to how Community did in its second season, the potential in DnD as therapy, with the entirety of Tina’s campaign overshadowed by the death of a major character during the main game. Although Tina’s obviously an entirely ridiculous character, if this DLC fails to genuinely tug at your heartstrings you have a heart of stone.

Naturally, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep is chockablock with references to other fantasy games, books and films, with the best ones being those which are tied into the very missions themselves. There’s an excellent parody of Dark Souls, as well as painfully hilarious Game of Thrones mission, and plenty more. The best parodies are those made by people who clearly love and know their source material, and it’s clear that Gearbox really know their fantasy geekery…and man,  is this DLC funny. Classic characters such as Mr. Torgue and Ellie make hilarious cameos, with the regular  interjections from Tina and the Vault Hunters also providing a lot of laughs. Gearbox also aren’t afraid to turn a mirror to the uglier side of the gamer community, with a great mission about MMO etiquette and a fantastic one in which Mr. Torgue is accused of being a ‘fake geek guy’ because he has muscles and likes sport.

This DLC is a good length as well, with a decent main campaign and plenty of funny sidequests which showcase Borderlands 2 at its best. If all companies offered as much value for money as Gearbox, DLC wouldn’t have as much of an image issue. The new loot is fun too, with the highlight having to be the gun which shoots swords which then explode, turning into four swords which then also explode (designed, unsurprisingly, by Mr. Torgue).

The production is absolutely top notch as well, with a surprisingly lovely soundtrack, excellent voice work and gorgeous visuals. Gearbox really pulled out all the stops for their final Borderlands 2 release, and that effort and investment really shows.

Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep is definitely the best DLC for Borderlands 2, and one of the best pieces of DLC that I’ve ever played. Now that the book is closed on Borderlands 2, I cannot wait to see what the future holds for this unique franchise. Tiny-Tina-s-Assault-on-Dragon-Keep-DLC-for-Borderlands-2-Gets-Artwork

Fire Emblem: Awakening: Scramble Pack DLC for Nintendo 3DS

The third DLC pack for Fire Emblem: Awakening is definitely my favourite so far, and actually shows a level of effort and polish which the first two utterly lacked; it’s also very very silly, and chockablock with that uniquely Japanese tradition of sexualised fan service towards popular characters.

Each mission in this pack brings Chrom and the Shepherds to an idyllic location, which is promptly attacked by monsters or bandits; a harvest festival, a beach and a hot springs.

The main draw of this pack isn’t the actual combat, but instead the charming conversations which can be started between certain characters. Not everyone can talk to everyone though, and I recommend looking up who can speak to who before starting each mission to make sure you don’t bring a bunch of characters who don’t gel together.

The beach DLC contains new swimsuit art for four characters, Chrom, Gaius, Cordelia and Tharja, but the translation team have a lot of fun subtly mocking this rather absurd Japanese tendency; to be fair to them, the male characters are genuinely sexualised as much as the female characters, which is something I’ve very rarely seen in a game before. There’s art for the hot springs DLC too, focussing on the younger generation of characters.

The Scramble Pack is actually remarkably well presented, especially compared to the laziness of the previous DLC packs. The beach mission in particular contains a completely ridiculous calypso rendition of the classic Fire Emblem theme, with this attention to detail showing up throughout.

This is a DLC for the people who love the characters and story of Fire Emblem, so those who are focused upon the series solely as an awesome tactical RPG (which it is) may want to give this one a miss. It’s still overpriced, so I can’t recommend this unequivocally, but it’s a lot of fun and definitely the best DLC of the first three.  FireEmblemAwakening1

Fire Emblem: Awakening: Golden Pack DLC for Nintendo 3DS

The second DLC pack for Fire Emblem: Awakening serves a different purpose than the first, offering a steady path of riches and EXP rather than a focus on story or fan service. It’s actually the better package, offering a level of challenge utterly lacking in the first Champions of Yore pack.

There’s no plot arc between the three missions, or any real plot at all, but what is there is amusing and well written. The translation team for Fire Emblem: Awakening clearly have a lot of fun in their job, with a couple of thieves talking in ridiculous stereotypical Cockney rhyming slang and a group of menacing, but lonely, immortal warriors providing plenty of laughs.

The first mission gives us a group of enemies which drop insane amounts of gold, and the second EXP. These missions are really means to an end to shorten the grind rather than fun in their own right, but they serve their purpose well. The third mission is the star, a blisteringly difficult battle against the Dreadlords, who drop some epic weapons for your team. A simple map design combined with a small number of terrifyingly powerful foes provided a fun and challenging battle.

Although I enjoyed the Golden Pack more than the Champions of Yore, it’s really only worth it if you’re planning to keep playing Fire Emblem afterwards. It exists very much to supplement the main game, or future DLCs, so if you’ve finished the main game or don’t plan on purchasing any more DLC for Fire Emblem: Awakening, give this one a miss. fire-emblem-awakening-5a-e1360342057718

Fire Emblem: Awakening: Champions of Yore DLC for Nintendo 3DS

Fire Emblem: Awakening is the first Nintendo game in which I’ve ever paid for DLC. It’s something we’ve come to expect everywhere else in the industry, but it feels really odd from Nintendo. To be fair to them, it’s hard to imagine Nintendo screwing over their customers as much as other companies, but their first foray into DLC is far from a success.

Champions of Yore is all about fan service to previous Fire Emblem games; Chrom and his army encounter ‘Old Man Hubba’, a fortune teller who has lost control of the Einherjar, cards which hold the essence of ancient heroes. Chrom is forced to battle these ancient heroes, who see Chrom and his band as simple brigands.

This DLC, which contains three missions, disappoints immediately by only containing one actual map played upon three times. For the money that’s charged, this is unacceptable. There’s no room for anything interesting tactically, due to this highly lazy move.

Although there’s some fan service-y fun to be had, the Einherjar aren’t nearly as interesting as they should be. There’s no real coherent plot to these three DLCs, which considering the strength of the plot of the main game is a sad surprise.

Champions of Yore, as well as being incredibly short, is very very easy if played at the end of the game, where I imagine most people will playing. Fire Emblem icons such as Marth, Roy, Ike and Lyndis are laughable jokes to defeat, undermining any of the epic feeling this DLC could have had. It surely wouldn’t have been difficult to implement a sliding difficulty to this DLC based on the players average level.

The player’s reward for completing the DLCs three mission is the addition of classic Fire Emblem characters to Chrom’s army. These characters have no conversations or support though, removing what was probably the most compelling element of the main game. They’re also completely useless in battle, and nothing but a liability for your better rounded main characters.

Champions of Yore is a highly disappointing debut release for Fire Emblem DLC; there’s potential there, and I loved Fire Emblem: Awakening enough that I’ll take any chance to jump back into it, but there are cheaper and more rewarding ways to do so. fire-emblem-awakening-chrom

DmC: Vergil’s Downfall DLC for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

I really liked the Devil May Cry reboot, and since the poor sales mean a sequel is unlikely this DLC release is probably the only slice of DmC that I’m going to get. Thankfully, Vergil’s Downfall is a good release, providing a good template for what DLC should be, and adding an interesting perspective on the DmC lore.

Vergil’s Downfall takes place just after the end of the main game, following Vergil’s defeat by his brother Dante. Vergil retreats to another dimension and is taunted by figures from his past, such as Dante, Kat and his mother. Vergil’s inner crisis is played out in outer violence as we get to the core of what makes Vergil tick.

The bizarre dimension Vergil finds himself in is interesting, but the complete lack of a grounding in reality means that this location doesn’t feel quite as vivid as that of the main game. Part of what made DmC’s Limbo so striking was the way that it featured twisted variations of our own architecture and landscape, with the floating platforms of Vergil’s Downfall lacking this element. Still, it’s hard to deny that this DLC is still visually strong, with a boss battle taking place in a desert whilst Vergil’s metaphorical heart hangs in the background provided that wonderful mixture of bizarre and compelling which made DmC’s visual design so great.

The story of Vergil’s Downfall is largely told in animated sequences; this is a common storytelling method in DLCs to save money, but unlike in most DLCs these sequences are actually really cool and look very nice. Sure, it probably is there for financial reasons, but who cares when it looks this good? Vergil’s Downfall’s plot is a bit of a mess, but it’s definitely interesting to get inside Vergil’s head a bit; Vergil was one of the most interesting characters of DmC, the definition of a tragic villain.

Vergil controls in a similar manner to Dante, but he’s more than simple palette swapped clone. His style is much more rigid and firm than Dante’s more flowing movements, giving the fights a subtly different character. Still, the basic mechanics are unchanged from the main game, which considering the quality of those mechanics is no bad thing. The fun ‘angel/demon’ weapon mechanic returns, and the platforming is as fun as ever. There are a couple of fun boss battles, with one against a shadow version of Vergil standing as a definite highlight.

The animations for Vergil are as excellent and satisfying as they were for Dante, with Vergil’s Downfall looking every bit as great as the main game. The voice acting still stands up well, with Vergil containing that exact right balance between sinister, cool and tragic. The production values were one of the defining strengths of DmC, and this is also the case for Vergil’s Downfall.

Vergil’s Downfall isn’t long by any stretch, but it certainly offers a lot more value than a lot of DLC. The opportunities for replayability which define the main game are still there. This, coupled with the excellent production values makes this DLC one to recommend to anyone who liked Ninja Theory’s reboot half as much as I did. tumblr_mij6i5CWPN1qjec28o1_500

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC

I wasn’t that crazy about Dishonored, and I’m really not sure why. There are just so many elements that I feel that I should like, elements which I love in other games; a strong vivid fantastical setting, a clever story and crazy powers, what’s not to like? Yet somehow, Dishonored just didn’t come together for me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but it just didn’t quite resonate with me the same way that it did for a lot of other people. Still, I felt that it was worth another look, and this new DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, was a perfect opportunity to try and find the core that made Dishonored so beloved. It’s a mixed success; there are three missions, two representing Dishonored at it’s very best and another at it’s very worst.

In The Knife of Dunwall we take control of Daud, the assassin of Empress Kaldwin. The plot takes place after her assassination, during the reign of the Lord Regent and Corvo’s imprisonment. We immediately find that Corvo wasn’t the only one contacted by the mysterious Outsider, as Daud is given a directive by him to solve the mystery behind the name ‘Delilah.’ Daud journeys into Dunwall with his cabal of assassins to find out who, or what, Delilah is.

Dunwall was a pretty great location, not up there with the Raptures and City 17s of the world, but great nonetheless. The first mission of this DLC shows us a side of Dunwall hinted at in the main game, but hitherto unseen. We know that Dunwall is a whaling city, it’s very existence hanging on power generated by whale oil, but the grisly reality of this is laid bare in the first mission of this DLC, which takes place in a slaughterhouse. Whaling is a key aspect of Dishonored’s lore, and it’s good to see it given a focus here, providing a nasty and vivid location which does a great job of inspiring disgust and a desire for righteous violence in the player. The second location is quite good as well, if not quite as far apart from the locations of the main game as the first, but still quite nice. The third is a massive disappointment, taking place in a map already used in the main game. This could have worked fine, if they’d done something to alter the style and feel of the map, but no effort is made, with this mission standing as a clear rush job. It’s a sad ending to an otherwise strong DLC.

The plot has some very interesting elements, particularly regarding the magical stuff linked to the Outsider, but it’s told in a clumsy and awkward fashion, with Daud failing to really come through as a character; it does make you realise that the blank slate approach, as taken with Corvo, is perhaps for the best in these kind of games. The best element of the plot if Billie Lurk, Daud’s right hand, who pops up regularly throughout the missions to offer violent advice. The fact that this DLC is the first in a two part story doesn’t help, as it ends just as things start getting interesting.

Gameplay wise, The Knife of Dunwall is broadly speaking more of the same, although there are a couple of cool and welcome additions. Daud can summon an assassin to fight by his side, a mechanic which reminded me slightly of the brotherhood in the recent Assassin’s Creed games. The most interesting new mechanic sadly doesn’t quite live up to its potential; at the beginning of levels Daud can purchase upgrades and items, but more interestingly he can also buy ‘favors.’ These favors can be a well hidden rune, the code to a safe or hidden explosives, and it’s a cool reflection of Daud’s greater position of influence to Corvo. Sadly, not nearly enough is done with this new, and interesting, element, and I hope to see more of it in the sequel to this DLC, and even in a sequel to the main game one day.

The new environments look very nice, and the voice acting is generally pretty good. The voice work was sometimes a bit hammy in the main game, but not so much in The Knife of Dunwall. We’re regularly told that Daud is torn and traumatised by his murder of the Empress, but the voice actor doesn’t really convey this at all, with Daud instead speaking in stereotypically gravelly tones. Still, at its best Dishonored had a pretty wonderful atmosphere, and the high production values get these across well in this release, at least for the first two missions.

The Knife of Dunwall is, for the first two thirds at least, a solid and enjoyable slice of DLC, with much better bang for your buck than average. It’s not perfect, with a rushed final act and clumsy storytelling, but it’s still fun, and worth a look if you’re fancying some more Dishonored. Dishonored-The-Knife-of-Dunwall

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