Top Ten Tuesday 47

My Top Ten DLC and Expansion Packs


Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists but this one is mine, if you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

One of the biggest new gameplay concepts added in the 360/PS3/Wii generation is that of Downloadable Content. DLC allows the developers to continue supporting and adding content to major game releases while giving them bite-sized projects in between actual game releases. DLC can keep you playing your favorite game for months after its release, and the best stuff can be just as memorable as the main game, or expand the game in such ways that you can't imagine ever going back.

Of course for PC gamers expansions have been around for much longer, dating back as far as the mid to late 90s with strategy game expansions offering additional maps, units, and campaigns. These days you have fighting games with additional characters, RPGs with new areas to explore, and tons of new stories to experience - from post-game epilogues to crazy What-If scenarios. No gamer likes being nickel and dimed but the best companies have struck an adequate balance between the size of the content and the price. Or you make like I do and wait for the sales (and reviews) to jump back into a game. Here are my favorite expansions and downloadable content packs.


Top Ten DLC/Expansions



10) The Stone Prisoner (Dragon Age: Origins)

By offering The Stone Prisoner free to everyone that purchased a new copy of DA:O, EA and Bioware smartly rewarded their customers with a really cool additional character and party member that adds its (her, actually) own backstory, questline, and party banter. Who doesn't want a giant stone golem in their party? You could even configure Shale to be a tank, offensive power house, or supporting party member. Shale provided greater insight into dwarven culture and the Deep Roads, and her constant hatred of birds was hilarious.



9) Old World Blues (Fallout: New Vegas)

I literally just finished it as I near the end of my Rogue's Adventure playthrough of Fallout New Vegas, and its famous wacky humor certainly didn't disappoint. The dialogue is brilliant and hysterical, the area of Big MT is compact but dense with areas to explore, and tons of new enemies roam the region fighting you and each other. Old World Blues doesn't explore much new ground gameplay wise but the story has some interesting twists, discovering the secrets of the Think Tank is dripping with classic dark Fallout humor, and it contains some of the best dialogue sections of a game I've played (including an extremely rewarding one near the end with...your own brain).



8) The Zombie Island of Dr. Ned (Borderlands)

As far as game formulas go, Just Add Zombies isn't a half-bad one. The titular island is home to a massive zombie outbreak, with all the typical story conventions that entails. Except this is the Borderlands universe, and everything is done for the laughs and references. Tons of side quests, new areas, lots of new enemy types and mechanics, and a very memorable final boss fight make the first DLC for the original Borderlands the best, Knoxx's Armory be damned (it had way too much highway driving for my taste).



7) Hordes of the Underdark (Neverwinter Nights)

Once you added up all the free modules you could download, NWN had a staggering amount of content even without official expansion packs. While NWN's second expansion kind of screwed up the multiplayer, the campaign gave high level characters an incredibly awesome adventure against some of DnD's hardest foes and locations. Fighting devils, dragons, and demi-gods with your level 20+ badass was sheer greatness, and the new sub classes and prestige classes gave you even more options in a game that was already the greatest interpretation of Dungeons and Dragons in video game form.



6) Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep (Borderlands 2)

I have adored the DLC and post-game support for Borderlands 2, and consider Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage the be one of the funniest things in gaming I've ever experienced. But for my money, the fourth (!) DLC adventure released for Borderlands 2 is my absolute favorite. Tiny Tina "plays" a game of Bunkers and Badasses, with our heroes as actual players, and what follows is a brilliant usage of a somewhat inept narrator as the game changes on the fly while she's attempting to run it. It's zany in that awesome Borderlands way, but also has lots of cool areas, enemies, and joyously mocks many tabletop and video gaming themes along the way. Oh, and includes a poignant message about coping with grief and loss.



5) Lord of Destruction (Diablo II)

Blizzard was one of the first big supporters of the expansion pack, and their mechanics driven games were perfect for them. LoD simply added a fifth Act with new items and enemies, as well as two new characters - additions that easily added dozens of hours to an endlessly replayable RPG. The real treat was the story, which the base game set up nicely and ended on a cliffhanger with the third Prime Evil, Baal, free to terrorize Sanctuary after you missed catching him while dealing with his brothers in Diablo 2.



4) Ruins of Kunark (Everquest)

I was at the peak of my Everquest addiction right when the first expansion was released, and it was love at first sight - a huge new island to explore with new creatures and items, and a whole new starting race of badass lizardmen. Kunark really set the standard for big MMORPG expansion packs, a trend that Everquest would run into the ground over the years. To get people to pay for content when they're already paying for the game itself with a monthly subscription seems crazy and money-grubbing, but EQ proved it could be done successfully, and people will pay if the content is good enough (or if they're just addicted to the game).



3) Armageddon's Blade (Heroes of Might and Magic III)

Look, Heroes III is one of the greatest games of all time - full stop. A big reason for this, though, is its first official expansion pack. Giving several new gigantic multi-map campaigns, an entirely new town and faction, new artifiacts, heroes, and of course dozens of new maps, Armageddon's Blade was everything any Heroes fan wanted, and helped extend the life of this amazing strategy game even further. Heroes III was a game I would play for YEARS, and Armageddon's Blade is an expansion I couldn't imagine playing without.



2) Brood War (Starcraft)

Although Blizzard borrowed heavily from just about every major Sci-Fi series in creating Starcraft's universe (Starship Troopers, Aliens, Stargate, Warhammer, etc), the story and characters were intriguing enough that when they ended the original game with human turned Zerg Queen Kerrigan on the loose, I couldn't wait to see the story play out in the inevitable expansion. I was not disappointed, as we get to see the Queen of Blades live up to her reputation and become one of gaming's best villains (her current status in SC2 notwithstanding) as Brood War essentially ends with the bad guys winning. Of course a good RTS expansion also adds the usual table of new units and more maps to expand the content and kept me playing with friends for a long time.



1) Undead Nightmare (Red Dead Redemption)

Another case of Just Add Zombies, but this time we get a crazy What If zombie outbreak story that takes place near the end of John Marston's adventure in RDR, and it's nothing short of fantastic. All the characters are brought back in different ways, the zombie outbreak changes the entire approach to combat and exploration, and the story manages to touch on classic survival and end of the world themes while injecting some unique twists with the Western setting. As the only single player DLC released for RDR (with a cool multiplayer survival mode), Undead Nightmare was well worth the wait even if didn't extend the story so much as turn it on its head. Zombie popularity continues to hold strong even today, and frankly I wouldn't mind if most games added a What If Zombies DLC to their game, as so far it's been far more hit than miss.


Honorable Mentions (AKA Yes I played them, No they didn't make the list): Dragon Age: Origins' Awakening, L4D2's The Sacrifice, GTA4's The Lost and Damned, Oblivion's Shivering Isles, Fallout 3's Broken Steel, City of Heroes' City of Villains, Titan Quest's Immortal Throne, Neverwinter Night 2's Mask of the Betrayer, Civ 4-5's Everything


Wrap Up

Despite DLC becoming a prominent part of many modern game series, I have a ton of old school favorites on here, many of which are over ten years old! With modern DLC I can be much more pick-and-choosey, waiting for reviews and sales to play the good ones, whereas with old school expansion packs with tons of content to a game I loved I devoured immediately. I haven't really played any of the Mass Effect DLCs (they're never on sale), and I still need to play Skyrim's Dragonborn (which I own...but haven't played yet). My favorite expansions have awesome additions to the story or cool side stories while adding in new gameplay mechanics and reasons to be excited for the game all over again.

With so many games out now it's tough to even find time to jump back into a slightly older game with new DLC, but some of it can be really well worth the time and money, and it's a great way to support the games and developers that you love. What are your favorites?