Most DLC can be written off as a money-making exercise, a simplistic ploy to grab a little extra revenue for what is often nothing more than a few new maps, or some basic cosmetic changes that offer little value to the core experience. Sometimes however, a developer comes along who genuinely cares not only for their product, but those who have already spent their hard-earned cash to experience what their title has to offer. Gearbox Software are one of these developers, and the recently released Captain Scarlett And Her Pirate's Booty DLC for Borderlands 2 is a perfect example of how DLC should be.
I wrote an article last month where I listed my top five games that used DLC effectively. While many of you agreed with the majority of my choices, the one game that was missing from my list that offended many readers was the original Borderlands. While I found the DLC packs rather enjoyable, I didn't think they were overly exceptional.
Yet the first DLC pack for 2012's looting sequel is not only exceptional, I believe it is a perfect example of how developers can offer more of the same but keep things fresh.
There aren't any new mechanics, there are no gimmicks, Captain Scarlett is by and large more of the same. If this is the case, why are gamers, myself included, going bat shit crazy over this new DLC experience?
It's all about the adventure. Captain Scarlett is filled to the brim with booty, stories, laughs, memorable quests, gorgeous locations, unforgettable enemies and most importantly Sand Skiffs. While it may be looming on the edge between copyright infringement and Star Wars fandom, Gearbox has managed to craft out a package that throws in a bunch of new content without re-inventing the wheel.
"Well isn't that just a cosmetic change?" Thanks for pointing that our avid reader! While it may be true that this is just more Borderlands 2 with a fresh coat of paint at first glance, any Vault Hunter who has spent over twenty hours completing the main quest will understand where I am coming from when I say this. If Oasis (the location the DLC takes place), Captain Scarlett or any of her pirate brethren had appeared in the main game, it would have completely upset the natural order of Gearbox's premiere series. It would have changed the tone, the setting, pace and general feeling of the game into something that just wouldn't have fit well together.
Setting it as a self-contained adventure, one that has a start, middle and end wasn't simply an ingenious idea from Randy Pitchford and his merry band of misfits, it was a necessity to ensure that Captain Scarlett would work with what Borderlands 2 already had to offer.
Ensuring players could access Oasis and the insane inhabitants (I challenge you to find a more disturbed character than Shade) at almost any point of the main Borderlands 2 story (you must be level 14 to begin) opens the door to choice. Often I find myself heading to Oasis rather than Sanctuary, simply because I'm having too much fun fighting with pirates and dealing with Shade's insecurities.
New weapons, new characters, a lengthy campaign with unforgettable moments, all for a low price - what more could a gamer ask for?
By Stephen Heller