- Video Game DLCs that take the base game to new heights are a true blessing.
- Expansions of Resident Evil 4 Remake, Cyberpunk 2077, Soulsborne games, Witcher 3, Dragon’s Dogma, and Bioshock 2 are the perfect examples of exquisite DLCs.
- These brilliant adventures are how DLCs are supposed to be, and they set a soaring standard for all expansions to come.
Whenever we find a game that captures our hearts, it’s natural to look for more of that particular adventure. Searching for any sequel or an expansion, finding it is bliss while its absence is despair. However, it’s not simply black and white either. Suppose there’s a game you fancy that has a continuation. But what if that extra content is so poorly done that it ruins the entire experience? I know I would dread that feeling.
However, there is another side to this as well. Now imagine that particular expansion is so magnificently crafted that it elevates the game to unimaginable heights. Now this is what I can get behind, it was worth it to cling to hope. And there are multiple examples in gaming history of when this dream became a reality. Including the latest expansions for exceptional titles like Resident Evil 4 Remake and Cyberpunk 2077, let’s look at some truly game-changing video game DLCs.
1. Separate Ways
I’ll start this list with a bang; Resident Evil 4 Remake’s Separate Ways DLC. Before we get into this, let me say this; The Resident Evil 4 Remake was already Capcom’s enormous achievement. I’ve spent uncountable hours in the original Resident Evil 4 and firmly believed it was Capcom’s best work in the series, and remaking it would be an ordeal in itself. However, playing through the remake, I realized Capcom did the impossible.
Not only is the overwhelming title better than its original, but it also avoids replacing the original adventure brilliantly, as it should be. And with this achievement as proof, there was no reason to doubt that the DLC featuring the fan-favorite Ada Wong would be any different. Considering the character’s immense popularity, I think saying the demand for this DLC was even higher than the base game wouldn’t be an exaggeration.
Once again Capcom lived up to all expectations and then some more with this DLC. Not only does the expansion flesh out the other side of the story, it gives Ada brand-new gameplay, improves the overall presentation, and makes her even more of a badass. From its story to gameplay and the amount of content, this DLC is nothing but perfection and it raised the bar for all video game DLCs. I find it pretty hard to believe a full Resident Evil game worth of content was released in a $10 DLC in modern times.
2. Phantom Liberty
Next is the second of the modern giants, and there is a great deal of history here as well. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, not knowing about it would be the odd thing. CD Projekt Red’s massive undertaking after Witcher 3 had garnered an insane amount of hype and expectations. I was eagerly looking forward to this sci-fi cyberpunk adventure, however, the end product was surprisingly and disappointingly a lackluster mess.
This is Cyberpunk 2077 on PS4 currently. Shockingly disappointing. pic.twitter.com/J5nXB0gEYO
— ajb1310 (@ajb1310) December 10, 2020
Riddled with bugs, glitches, unrefined gameplay, and an overall dull experience with its troublesome mechanics, Cyberpunk 2077’s release has to be one of gaming’s most disappointing moments. But the real battle started here. Over time, CD Projekt Red took Cyberpunk out of this predicament and made it into a giant of pure quality in what would be remembered as among the greatest redemption arcs.
The Phantom Liberty DLC is a key player in Cyberpunk 2077’s redemption and a true milestone in video game DLCs. If you played the game on release and were let down, I sincerely urge you to give it a try now, it will blow you away. An impactful story full of thrilling moments, completely overhauled shooting and driving mechanics, a ton of extra content that breathes new life into the adventure, and a grand performance by iconic actors like Idris Elba, The Phantom Liberty DLC is an embodiment of brilliance.
3. The Old Hunters / Ringed City
If you know how much of a Souls fan I am, you must have seen this coming. Any list that comprises all-surpassing video game DLCs would be incomplete without FromSoftware’s masterful work. Take out any Soulsborne DLC and it would throw most other contenders out the window. Here, let’s look at the two latest works of the giant and probably the best overall example of video game DLCs that leave the base game in the dirt, Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters and Dark Souls 3’s Ringed City.
Ah, Bloodborne, the unfortunate masterpiece that Sony refuses to bring up again despite fans’ extremely relentless demands. This beautiful Lovecraftian horror-inspired brilliance remains my favorite FromSoftware work, and this comes after having done multiple playthroughs of all games. And despite this overwhelming quality, the DLC managed to surpass the base game in every way. Extensive and brilliant lore, iconic locations, and most of all the satisfyingly brutal boss encounters not to be messed with.
Next up is Dark Souls 3. Coming from Dark Souls 2 weaker presentation, Dark Souls 3 was quite an impressive adventure. But I firmly believe it’s Ringed City where Dark Souls 3 peaked. The stark change in aesthetics when moving from the outskirts of the Dreg Heap to the majestic Ringed City was a sight to behold. And above all the DLC features one of the franchise’s best boss fights, the duel with Slave Knight Gael. And I’d want nothing more but Elden Ring’s DLC to be of even higher quality and difficulty.
4. Blood And Wine / Hearts Of Stone
And here is another no-brainer. The Witcher 3 is a pretty sturdy pillar of RPG games and a game that has worldwide renown and popularity. For modern gamers, Witcher 3 is a magnificent adventure but what they don’t know is that this too was a redemption story. I played Witcher 3 on launch and thus served as a witness that the game was nothing like it is today. It was filled with a ton of visual and performance glitches and was quite hard to play.
Though not Cyberpunk level bad, Witcher 3 was quite problematic and CDPR took this game to unimaginable heights. The base game now is nothing to scoff at either, but its DLCs are several steps above. For me, the game’s two DLCs are the best content Witcher 3 has to offer. They are such complete and game-changing expansions that the base game pales in comparison. They set an enormous standard for all video game DLCs.
Now the question is which one is better? I believe this is entirely up to personal preference. I love both these expansions equally and for different reasons. Hearts of Stone is set in the same area and is more of a narrative and story-focused adventure with iconic and beloved characters. Believe me when I say that this is among the best stories you’ll experience. Next is Blood and Wine, and this serves to expand the game with new side quests, locations, and a brilliant story with many twists. The side quests’ quality is to die for here.
5. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Next up is a highly underappreciated RPG I feel more people need to give a try. Capcom’s brilliant RPG went unnoticed by many when it was released, and honestly, it’s such a waste. Although it was not without its shortcomings, Dragon’s Dogma was a superb game and its mechanics like the revolutionary pawn system and intricate magic are among the best gameplay mechanics a title has introduced.
Couple that with a dark fantasy world and thrilling challenges scattered around and you have an adventure you won’t regret diving into. Some of the game’s problems were with the open-world design and enemy and content density, but it’s quite an exceptional game underneath these issues. And when the Dark Arisen edition came out, it breathed new life into this exquisite gem and brought a ton of unique additions.
The most important and adrenaline-fueled addition was the ramped-up difficulty. As you can guess by the name, this expansion paid homage to Dark Souls. I remember when I jumped into the DLC area, Bitterblack Isle for the first time, the stark change in enemy difficulty immediately threw me off guard. Plus, the new region is overwhelmingly superior to the base game with improved loot and enemies, highly enjoyable end-game dungeons, an immersive story, and all in all a more rewarding area to explore.
6. Minerva’s Den
All the other examples I listed were of games that were already a superb experience, and the DLCs elevated them to new heights. Now, let’s take a look at a different example, Bioshock 2. Coming from the widely renowned original Bioshock, the sequel had a lot to live up to. Sadly, Bioshock didn’t manage to reach those particular expectations. It’s not a bad game in any way, just that the original was too tall an obstacle.
Because of this, the Minerva’s Den DLC was quite a big deal. A game that couldn’t challenge the original presented a piece of art that is probably the best Bioshock content out there and among the greatest video game DLCs. What makes this DLC so fantastic is how it embodies the concept of Bioshock perfectly; rooting you into the world and creating an exceptional feel of immersion. Playing through the DLC, I realized how good a job it does at portraying this feeling.
The DLC’s heartwarming story is its best strength. What started as a job to find the supercomputer, the Thinker, slowly evolved into uncovering the tragic tale of the creator, C.M Porter. Couple that with a vastly improved atmosphere, brilliant level design, and creative gameplay mechanics, and you get a complete package that fully deserves to stand among the best video game DLCs in history.
My point in discussing these fabulous expansions is to provide a template. This is how video game DLCs ought to be. If we’re spending extra money to get these expansions, they should be worthwhile. All these examples show that even though the base game might set an enormous standard, it is possible to design expansions that manage to elevate that experience, and that is all I want to see from here on too.
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