Let’s get one thing out of the way. DLC (as people call it now) isn’t a new concept. It might be new to console gamers out there, but us PC gamers have been used to DLC for a long time now. It’s just that, until recently, we called them expansions, patches or modules
DLC has proven it’s worth on the console, extending the life of games, generating extra revenue and more importantly, putting a dent in the used games and rental market (incidentally, as of last year it has become illegal to rent games in Belgium). The result is that almost any game from any decent developer/publisher will have multiple pieces of DLC available at launch and in the months after its release. Some of it will be for free but most of it will force you to fork over some dough.
This incredible wave of DLC has, as far as I can see it, two huge and annoying flaws. First of all there’s the fact that you can get royally screwed if you buy a game and then dilligently buy every piece of DLC that comes out. You see, in most cases, publishers will eventually release a Game of The Year edition, which usually includes all the DLC but at a far lower cost. I experienced this myself with Fallout 3. I had bought the game, bought every piece of DLC and was quite miffed when I saw the price of the GOTY edition on STEAM recently. I essentially paid double the price.
Money is one thing but when the DLC starts to negatively affect your gameplay, it’s a whole nother story. I’m adressing games like Mass Effect (1&2), Fallout 3, Dragon Age, Oblivion and Fable in particular. If you install the ‘vanilla version’ of the game and know that there is DLC out there, you’re constantly feeling like you’re missing out on something. It get’s worse when the DLC doesn’t properly integrate or integrates clumsily with the game. For example, if you wanted to play the Mass Effect DLC ‘Bring Down The Sky‘ but had finished the main quest, you were forced to load up an earlier save to be able to acces the new content. Fallout 3 handled DLC in a similar way but with a twist. The first two pieces of DLC forced you to reload an earlier save to play it unless (and here’s the wicked part) you bought a third piece of DLC that gave you an expanded ending and allowed you to keep playing, open-world-style, after you finished the game.
Dragon Age might just be the worst offender of this bunch. At a certain point in the game you encounter an NPC that blatantly tells you that he can’t give you a quest unless you buy some real world DLC. How’s that for breaking the illusion? It’s not even as funny as a LOOM advert.
There’s also the issue of exclusive DLC. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, it becomes an issue when you have to go crapware like EA’s download manager.
The lesson I take from this is that, in this case, good things come to those who wait. If you can, wait for the GOTY edition. It’ll be cheaper and the whole thing will be better integrated from the start. Of course being patient isn’t always an easy thing now is it?