DLC Quest: A Grim but Realistic Look at the Future of Games?

The practice of DLC seasons in games is not one that has been well adopted by the hardcore gaming community. While some games are showcased by this community for offering real expansion to a title, many developers’ oversaturation of paid additional content shortly after release presents a controversial topic.

What if, to have even the most basic shot of a real gameplay experience, you needed to pay for some downloadable content? That’s the angle DLC Quest aims to exploit in a satirical commentary at the ever-evolving landscape of downloadable content and in-app purchases in games. DLC Quest is a game in it’s own right, with a Mario-esque “save the girl” storyline, but makes you unlock everything from the ability to have a pet to walking in both directions using in-game cash.

Why the DLC Hate?

The idea of expanding games post-launch, without going all-out on a sequel, is not new. Many games – the most prominent example that comes to mind is The Sims – have offered additional content, at a price, following launch, although the practice of making that digitally downloadable is newer. Developers sometimes opt to use DLC and expansion packs as a means of delivering more campaigns in story-centric titles or more objects and things to do in open-ended games, but the modern day immediacy at which this has become available has proven controversial.

Some games are known for their many post-launch expansion options.

Some games are known for their many post-launch expansion options.

When SimCity launched for Windows earlier this year, three DLC packs (each of which contained unique items for placement in one’s simulated city, revolving around a national theme of either the UK, France or Germany) were available to buy on day one, either individually through EA’s Origin or as part of a higher-price special edition of the game. When Battlefield 4 launches in the coming months, those who didn’t preorder will likely face a fee for China Rising, the game’s first DLC map pack which is currently being offered as a pre-release purchase incentive. A lot of controversy has arisen over moves like these, leaving some gamers who don’t purchase the packages feeling like they’re somehow being ripped off by developers who evidently have content prepared prior to a title’s release, but who have made a concious decision to not include it in the base game.

On day one of release, SimCity had three DLC packs available to buy.

On day one of release, SimCity had three DLC packs available to buy.

Another slant on the mass DLC hate arises when microtransactions rear their head, especially with claims that they result in changing a game into an unbalanced pay-to-win experience. In other cases, like The Sims 3, microtransactions offer players the chance to expand their game with new items without buying a bundle full of other content they don’t care about, commonly being delivered by EA in the form of a retail “Stuff Pack”. However, with individually items and sets selling higher than the equivalent divisible price of a stuff pack, the complaints are certainly not unfounded.

Bad Guy to Defeat = $29.99

DLC Quest is a very simple, linear platformer with a very simple aim: defeat the bad guy and get the girl. The game comes with two relatively short campaigns (overall, I spent about 40-60 minutes on each although speedruns of the game show it’s possible to complete in about a quarter of my time), the latter of which was a little more fleshed out with areas to explore and NPCs to interact with. You’ll jump around and adventure into different areas, but the whole experience is very straightforward and simplistic.

The actual DLC Quest game is a shallow 2D platformer.

The actual DLC Quest game is a shallow 2D platformer.

The twist to DLC Quest is that to do anything, even pause the game or move in two directions, requires you to buy DLC in an overarching joke of a dystopian gaming world whereby games are nothing without day one DLC. Fortunately, this is just satire and you won’t need to actually put up any real cash to buy this DLC; rather, it’s unlocked using in-game currency that you’ll collect along your travels. This is the main attraction of the game, but it does get annoying when you have to run back across the map to a shopkeeper NPC to actually unlock the DLC. Even games that charge for real cash will let to buy it from an in-game overlay! It’s funny the first time, but soon gets annoyingly boring, repetitive and ends up being one of the most frustrating aspects of the game.

To do even the most basic moves and actions, you'll need to unlock the DLC with in-game currency.

To do even the most basic moves and actions, you’ll need to unlock the DLC with in-game currency.

Final Thoughts

DLC Quest is a funny commentary on the state of gaming and makes a prediction into what the future might be like, albeit with a little bit of hyperbole. That’s the main attraction of the game – the light satire – since the gameplay is rather shallow and doesn’t offer an awful lot of replayability. Sure, there’s some achievements and a few challenges that might pull you back in for a second playthrough, but you’re essentially paying $2.99 for about an hour or two of gameplay. I only paid £0.67 for it in the Steam sale so, at full price, you’re going to have to make the call to buy it or not yourself.


Summary

DLC Quest is a simple 2D platformer where even the most basic gameplay mechanics must be unlocked as in-game "DLC".

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