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Quick Review: DLC Quest

This generation’s come with extreme highs and lows. Our games are more ambitious and expansive. Realism is at an all-time high. Triple-A games are selling better than ever. Widespread internet access has bred an entirely new venue for experiencing videogames. But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword – whereas DLC was once used for the power of good, promising a breadth of wonderful indie games and additive content, it’s since fallen into the hands of corrupt corporations.

The one-man development team of Going Loud Studios is fed up with the overabundance of DLC and so he’s taken that frustration and created his own downloadable content in the form of DLC Quest. It’s a commentary piece wrapped around a simple but clever premise: what if every single mechanic and means for progression in a game were acquired piecemeal through purchasing DLC with some fictionalized currency?

DLC Quest opens in an amusing way. The princess is captured by some nondescript enemy. This is your primary motivation, the game explicitly points out. The enemy exits stage right. The player too, at least initially, can only run into some coins and engage in dialogue with a shopkeeper. Ancillary features like audio, proper animation, and freedom of movement must be bought through progressive DLC packs.

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The game provides clever signposts in the form of actual signposts, some lending hints while others actively trying to break your immersion. Characters will try and goad your player character (named “Player”) into doing quests and some initiate new pieces of DLC to buy. It’s a familiar brand of self-awareness that’s become common for XNA devs.

Much of the DLC speaks to an uncomfortable truth about the industry. There’s a horse armor pack for an NPC horse. An exclusionary Limited Edition Psychological Warfare pack which locks off an area. Some weapons and grinding boosts. A few provide fixes for things that were once covered through proper play-testing.

There’s a Metroidvania-style progression system at work. It’s used both as a good way of easing the player into the mechanics but also makes a more subversive point. Beyond unlocking all the withheld content, other incentives are given through ‘awardments’. The game amounts to a numb coin collect-a-thon with thin platforming elements and the full experience clocks in around thirty minutes and so it’s not the greatest value proposition. It’s one of those indie games presented well in demo and then finished soon after you’ve forked over your hard-earned dollar.

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DLC Quest’s nearly worth supporting on principle and issues some clever commentary on all the things the big games often get wrong. It’s only too bad there’s not more to it. At the same time it comes as an efficient one-off, a thing you’d only want to see once and might be glad it exists, if not only as a kind of novelty. As it so often reminds us, ‘there are no refunds on this item’. Perhaps it’s worth going on a Demo Quest beforehand, then.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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