Frivolous Waste of Time

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Archive for the tag “dlc”

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City DLC for PS4, Xbox One and PC

After being mildly underwhelmed by Ashes of Ariandel, The Ringed City DLC for Dark Souls III shows the series at its absolute best, offering what is probably my favourite slice of content from the whole game.

The Ringed City is the home of the Pygmies, ancestors to humanity. Located at the end of all things, The Ashen One is transported to the blasted Dreg Heap and instructed to make their way to the mythical city and discover the secrets within. If Dark Souls III was apocalyptic, The Ringed City goes beyond even that. The Pygmies are a much discussed element of Dark Souls lore and we find a bit more about them and the way they lived. This DLC also provides some closure for characters from the main series, as well as tying back to the Ashes of Ariandel DLC. The Ringed City evokes perfectly the feeling of arcane ruin the series is known for and, whilst it doesn’t clear anything up (nor should it), it does feel like a good way for the series to end.

The Ringed City is structured as a descent, from the valleys surrounding the Ringed City which give it its name, down to the city itself and then further into its depths. The stunningly clever verticality of the level design has long been my favourite thing about the Soulsborne game and was something that Ashes of Ariandel lacked somewhat. The feeling of opening a shortcut back to a bonfire after a long and terrifying run and finding yourself back where you were several hours ago will never get old. Where Ashes of Ariandel lacked in boss fights, The Ringed City has four, and they’re generally really good. I won’t spoil the identity of the final boss of the DLC, and possibly the series, but it was one of my favourite boss fights both in the series and possibly of all time. The foe is fast, terrifying and humanoid; my favourite kind of Soulsborne boss.

The sound design and voice acting is as unsettling as ever, but it’s the way The Ringed City looks that took my breath away. This is only a DLC so we only get to see a small portion of it, but what we do is genuinely stunning. I’d love to have explored more of this place. I mentioned in my Ashes of Ariandel review that I think the series fares best in city environments and I think this DLC proves that.

The Ringed City is a perfect way to, perhaps, wrap up this series. It feels like the right time too, with Bloodborne paving a way to show how you can craft a different experience form the same template. Whether it’s Bloodborne 2 or something new entirely, I can’t wait to see where FromSoft go next.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – A Criminal Past DLC for PS4, Xbox One, PC, OS X and Linux

The second DLC for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is much meatier than the first and stands out because it offers a much more interesting setting and premise, which feels distinct from anything in the main game, something which could not have been said for the competent but familiar first DLC, System Rift. A Criminal Past starts out very interesting and takes the turn which makes it become much less interesting, but it stays engaging throughout.

A Criminal Past is framed as a therapy session for Jensen at TF-29, as he recalls a mission from before the events of Mankind Divided. He is sent undercover to infiltrate a state of the art prison for Augs, to extract a deep undercover agent who is feared to have gone rogue. Upon arrival Jensen quickly finds himself caught between the callous and sadistic warden Stenger and the charismatic leader among the inmates Flossy and it isn’t long until things escalate out of control. The setup is interesting, but a found myself zoning out of a lot of the story stuff, hitting essentially similar beats to everything we’ve seen before.

The prison setting, seeing Jensen stripped of his Augs and forced to rely entirely on his wits, was interesting in theory and starts out very well. The prison is split into two blocks, with those in one wearing red and the other in yellow. Jensen starts in red but must make his way over to yellow, where you could sneak around or you could simply steal a yellow uniform and walk around freely. There was an indication that there would be some interesting mechanics about having to follow the routine of prison life for a while to find your target, but things go wrong almost immediately and the setting quickly become much like any other Deus Ex location. Much of the DLC takes place during a riot, which is frankly much less interesting than the social stealth elements of the early section. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but there are DLCs out there that do fundamentally interesting and different things with the base game and A Criminal Past initially seemed like it may be doing the same. Instead we have a competent enough Deus Ex experience that offers more of the same.

The future for the Deus Ex series is uncertain at the moment, so A Criminal Past may be the last we see of it for a while. It’s a decent enough experience, and certainly beats the much slighter System Rift, but it doesn’t follow through on it’s interesting premise and ends up feeling like a missed opportunity.

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Watch Dogs 2: Human Conditions DLC for PS4, Xbox One and PC

Watch Dogs 2 was far better than it had any right to be. It ended up being one of my favourite games of 2016, which I don’t think I would have seen coming. Dipping back into it with DLC, I wondered if somehow I’d been bamboozled by its in-your-face energy, but the Human Conditions DLC reminded me that, no, Watch Dogs 2 really is a bloody good game.

The meat of the DLC lies in three new missions, all centred around moral lapses in Silicon Valley. One mission focuses on self-driving cars and an algorithm which determines the value of an individual’s life in the event of a crash. Another brings the return of foul mouthed rival hacker Lenni as you investigate inhumane testing of nanotechnology. The final mission is about a hacking of a hospital, which ties into a storyline involving the Bratva Russian mob. The writing for Watch Dogs 2 was so sharp and fun and it’s all the same here, genuinely well written and charming. The core DedSec team have become a hugely loveable bunch of goons. Sure, the satire hits with precisely zero subtlety, but I enjoy its message about resisting corporate control and taking back freedom. Of course, being developed by megacorp publisher Ubisoft undermines this a little bit, but there’s more political and social engagement in Watch Dogs 2 than most AAA games will attempt. The storyline about the hacked hospital felt particularly relevant, given the recent NHS hack in the UK.

Watch Dogs 2 worked itself into an immensely satisfying groove, as you control your three tools: Marcus, your little RC car thing and your drone. The missions were, in many ways, your standard base assault stuff we see in Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, but the range of genuinely useful and engaging tools at your disposal made them feel more like playgrounds for you to use all your toys. The missions in Human Conditions offer more of the same, but if they’d been a part of the main game I think they’d have been considered among the best. The only real change can be found in the addition of enemies which can jam your hacking. I’m not sure about this; adding difficulty by removing your ability to do what makes the game fun feels artificial, but unfortunately is fairly commonplace. It doesn’t ruin the experience by any stretch, but my feeling upon coming across a jammer was usually more irritation rather than a sense of excitement of a new challenge to overcome.

DLC is almost never worth it full price, so I’m happy I waited for a PSN sale. For what I paid, I think Human Conditions was worth it. If spending a bit more time with Marcus, Wrench, Sitara and Josh appeals to you, Human Conditions is certainly worth a look.

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Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – System Rift DLC for PS4, Xbox One, PC, OS X and Linux

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided didn’t exactly set the world on fire and I was lukewarm on it too. It was a decent enough experience, but it felt ultimately lacking. Oddly enough, System Rift in its microcosm helped me to appreciate Mankind Divided a little more.

System Rift sees Adam Jensen contacted by former colleague from Human Revolution Frank Pritchard to execute a data heist. It’s your standard Deus Ex plot and could have been one of the meatier side missions from the main game, but it contains a few twists and turns and has a bit more to it than you might expect. It doesn’t tell a vital story to the Deus Ex canon but it’s DLC so it probably shouldn’t.

Aside from some brief prep work, the vast majority of System Rift lies in the heist itself, which is a lot of fun. For all Mankind Divided felt a bit undercooked, the core mechanics really are bloody solid. As a stealth-RPG, it’s difficult to fault. System Rift is largely vertical in construction, as you make your way upwards through a facility. The only real gameplay change lay in heat sensors, which require you to mask your body temperature by hiding next to other heat sources. It seems at first like this is going to be a bigger deal than it is. You rebuild your Jensen from scratch, so it’s easy to min-max your way into an unstoppable killing machine/hacking ninja, whatever suits your preferences. Again, System Rift offers nothing more than more Deus Ex, which I didn’t realise I wanted until I started playing.

It’s not a long DLC by any stretch, but if picked up on a digital sale for a couple of quid like I did it’s hard to fault. It’s a really solid couple of hours if you fancy dipping a toe back into the Deus Ex universe, but you won’t exactly be missing out if you give it a miss.

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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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Mario Kart 8 DLC Pack One for Wii U

Ok, hyperbole time. This is the best value DLC ever released. Let’s do some maths. New, Mario Kart 8 cost about £40. There are 32 tracks in the game. Since the tracks are the main draw, let’s call that about £10 for 8 tracks. This DLC and the next (which will be released sometime in the spring next year) can be bought together for £11. There are 8 tracks in each DLC so 16 tracks overall. A reasonable amount to charge would be about £20, since these DLCs contain about half again the content of the full game. Instead, we get both for a little over half that. Maths alone is reason enough to buy it.

This DLC pack adds two new cups, the Egg Cup and the Triforce Cup, all of which are replete with the usual stuff like the different CC speeds and Mirror Mode. The eight new tracks include three classic levels; the original SNES Rainbow Road, Yoshi Circuit from Mario Kart DS and Wario’s Gold Mine from Mario Kart Wii. These are all good tracks and it’s nice to have them back. There are also two entirely new courses; Ice Ice Outpost is a fun level of two intertwining tracks and Dragon Driftway is a slightly nauseating level which mostly takes place in anti-gravity. The real highlights are, of course, the tracks based on other Nintendo titles. Excitebike Arena is a surprisingly fun level, made up simply of a loop and jumps, which has the novel gimmick of being randomly generated every time you play. It’s the closest Mario Kart 8 gets to my beloved Baby Park from Double Dash. Mute City is an F-Zero themed level which is simple but fun, although it does just whet the appetite for an actual F-Zero game. The highlight and biggest draw of the pack is Hyrule Circuit, a Zelda themed level which sees you cross a part of Hyrule Field before entering Hyrule Castle. There are some great Zelda details, such as the mini-puzzle which sees you knocking three crystals which opens a shortcut, complete with the classic Zelda puzzle solving jingle. On top of these levels are three new characters, Link, Tanooki Mario and Cat Peach and a few new vehicles, such as the Blue Falcon and a Zelda themed bike. These are all levels showing Mario Kart at its finest.

Nintendo doesn’t half-ass stuff and this DLC is stuffed with charming detail. From the animations when Link and Tanooki Mario do a trick to the fact that the coins are replaced with rupees in Hyrule Circuit, this DLC is every bit as packed with love and attention as the main game is. The music is great, although I wish Nintendo had refrained from yet another electric guitar version of the Zelda theme; Hyrule Warriors was enough of that, thanks.

If you still play Mario Kart 8, buy this. This is how you do DLC.Mario_Kart_8_DLC_14091061197762

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

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