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Monday, September 20, 2021

I’m So Over DLC

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Downloadable content is such a common part of modern gaming life it’s rote. A few levels here, a few skins or characters there—DLC is pretty much a given, especially on AAA titles, which these days you can almost bet will have at least two paid bits of bonus content that encompass entirely new missions. And, hey, for a long time they made sense. Video game companies like them because they’re sure-fire revenue generators; players (learned to) like them because they can extend time in a beloved game, a digital amuse-bouche of their favorite dish. But just because something makes sense, doesn’t mean I have to play it. Frankly, I’m over DLC.

This might not be for the reason you’re thinking of. Downloadable content has been around for more than a decade—it went hand-in-hand with built-in internet connectivity on consoles—and over the years, the concept has had several controversies. Mass Effect 3 had multiple squabbles all by itself. Like, for example, the From Ashes DLC, which shipped the same day that the game released, cost 10 bucks, and was arguably so crucial to understanding the trilogy’s full story people got pretty upset that it wasn’t included with the original game. The Extended Cut DLC, meanwhile, was free but was only released as an attempt to “fix” the game’s ending after mass outcry over the original wrap-up (I was not not a huge fan of Mass Effect 3’s original ending, but I also am of the opinion that by responding in this way EA/BioWare nurtured a kind of fan entitlement that has become incredibly toxic).

Yet none of this has anything to do with my distaste for DLC; my disdain is far more simple: I’m just done. I’m done dropping cash and spending an inordinate amount of time on a game I finished six months ago just to play one more mission. I’m done relearning how to play an old game when I could be training up on an entirely new one. I’m done. 

How did I reach this drastic conclusion? Well, I needed something to tide me over until Mass Effect: Legendary Edition releases in a couple of weeks and consumes my life, so I decided to start the DLC I never played on The Outer Worlds. I really enjoyed this game on my first play through; it didn’t quite fill the Mass Effect-shaped hole in my heart, but I loved the space adventure and the mechanics of the game were solid. I anticipated loving the DLC. I decidedly did not.

To be clear, the DLC is fine! There’s nothing wrong with it! Peril on Gorgon and Murder on Eridanos are well made, nicely put together, and have good stories. But the fact that the developer did everything right doesn’t change the fact that I’d rather go through another day of Covid-19 vaccination side-effects than pick up the controller to play them. It’s too frustrating. My learning curve for any game, especially any game in which I have to shoot things or engage in combat, is long. I’m not great at anything beyond button-mashing, so it takes me a while to get used to new controls. Doing so for this DLC felt like a waste of time.

It’s not just relearning the controls, though. This DLC is also geared toward leveled-up players, so I found myself in the unenviable position of constantly grinding-while-rusty just to play a game. This isn’t The Outer Worlds’ fault, of course, it’s just that my playing style and ability level are turning something meant to be a fun distraction into a lot of work, and I’m not sure I have the patience for it. Perhaps if I had tackled the DLC at the same time as I was playing The Outer Limits things would be different (hey, it worked for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey)—but I didn’t.

I’m not a completionist. I don’t feel compelled to finish missions I hate just to say I did it. Muddling my way through extra content provides more frustration than fun—especially when my gaming time is already severely limited and I’d much rather start something new. (Seriously, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition cannot get here soon enough.) Sometimes, DLC can fill a void, but right now, I just want to throw it into one.

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