Sunday, May 17, 2015

Top 5 Story-Driven DLC Releases

#5 – Citadel (Mass Effect 3): Effectively a love letter to longtime fans of the Mass Effect trilogy, Citadel is the lengthiest, most expansive piece of post-release DLC. It’s also the cheesiest, story-wise, but in a way that embraces some of the series’ goofier moments, with a borderline-cliché plot of Commander Shepard being dogged by a squad of assassins, led by none other than a clone of the famed human protagonist. The story sees Normandy crew members new and old band together for extravagant shootouts and a feelgood party, while visits to new areas of The Citadel allow Shepard to take part in arcade games and make small talk with his comrades-in-arms. It’s a beautiful culmination of everything Mass Effect has worked to become over the years, from the impending showdown with the Reapers, the illicit activities of Cerberus, the bonds forged with alien pals, and Shepard’s iconic awkward dance moves.

#4 – The Shivering Isles (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion): A visit to the ethereal realms of mania and dementia sees you, the hero of Cyrodiil, called upon by the island’s resident governor and madman Sheogorath to stop the Greymarch and subsequent rise of Jyggalag, an entity which seeks to destroy this fever dream of a kingdom. Every dungeon you explore and every task appointed to you feels like part of a larger, breathing world, all of which is a massive improvement over the core game of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, wherein the sidequests felt more carefully plotted than the core campaign against the Daedric princes. Sheogorath and his subjects are a wacky, sometimes unnerving bunch, and the general bizarreness that emanates from this place does well to instill memories that will stick with players long after they’ve returned to the larger world of Cyrodiil.

#3 – Lair of the Shadow Broker (Mass Effect 2): While Liara T’Soni is reverted to a supporting role for the duration of Mass Effect 2, taking on the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC mission explores the dangerous web she has willingly walked into in an effort to track down the elusive individual known as the Shadow Broker. Liara’s hope is that she can find a solid enough lead through one of the Shadow Broker’s many associate assassins and smugglers to pinpoint the titular antagonist’s location in the vast sea of stars, but when a loyal friend and confidant of hers goes missing, she turns to Shepard for help. The pacing of Lair of the Shadow Broker is nigh-on breakneck, the stakes high, and the storytelling intense – it proves nothing short of one of the greatest plotlines within the larger Mass Effect narrative.

#2 – Lonesome Road (Fallout: New Vegas): No point in my playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas led me to feel so alone or made the world appear so desolate as the final piece of DLC, Lonesome Road. A proper sendoff to the irradiated wild west RPG, Lonesome Road sees The Courier called to The Divide, a land which he holds deep ties to, though he does not entirely recall the valley’s importance. And who should invite him there but Ulysses, one of the game’s most compelling, complex, and intimidating characters – one whose actions hold significant repercussions on the larger world, though they can, of course, be swayed through dialogue options (or more physical confrontation) by The Courier, as per Fallout tradition. Despite the lengthy walk through decayed cityscapes and along crumbling highways littered with nuclear warheads, the threat that looms at the end of Lonesome Road makes the very air of this experience a curious combination of haunting and dire.

#1 – Lost in Nightmares (Resident Evil 5): If you ever wondered what the original Resident Evil might have looked like with the graphical prowess of modern consoles, Lost in Nightmares has a terrifying treat for you. Sporting better lighting effects and an environment filled with more fully-rendered assets than the Gamecube remake of Resident Evil, Lost in Nightmares is perfectly paced, and emphasizes puzzles as well as limited combat with a small number of key enemies leading up to the ultimate, more action-heavy showdown with infamous series villain Albert Wesker. Above all else, Lost in Nightmares rekindles the thematic of horror that first put Resident Evil on the map, and is easily the most impressive release tied to Resident Evil 5.

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