Battle of Forli & Return to Ostagar

Last week saw the release of the first substantial bits of downloadable content for two of my favorite games in 2009: Assassin’s Creed 2 and Dragon Age. Both are dipping their toes into the shark infested waters -- shoehorning new chapters into a book that’s already been finished. Public opinion has generally been pretty positive when it comes to multiplayer addons like map packs for Gears of War 2 or new cars for the Forza series, but try to insert a little more story into a single player game and the water starts to get a bit choppy. The arguments are generally that the game wasn’t finished when it shipped or even worse, finished content was held back to get a little more scratch on the back end of the deal. Since these are two of the best games of the year and both represent a substantial amount of play time right out of the box, they’ve earned their due.

I’d be a hypocrite to complain about spending five bucks on a couple hours of content as I sip my five dollar latte, so let’s have a look at whether or not these two downloads are worth your time.


Assassin’s Creed 2: Sequence 12: Battle of Forli $3.99 (360, PS3)

Caterina Sforza of Forli makes a triumphant return after being woefully underutilized in the main game. Like most of the women in the series, Caterina is no shrinking violet, mocking her enemies with her dress hiked up around her ears from the castle walls with reckless abandon. After reading her bio in the full game I was glad to see she’s as much of a spitfire as her history suggests – she ends up making what would otherwise be a two hour helping of standard gameplay worth revisiting.

There’s a good mix of chases, escorts, assassinations and outright brawls to play through in Forli. One area they stepped up on was the amount of enemies coming at you at any given moment. I don’t remember most of the scrums in the main game being so large, which really just means you have more freedom to play angel of death and pick your enemies off one at a time. While not essential, you also get more opportunity to use your wrist gun -- something I rarely did before.

I was glad for the opportunity to revisit Forli and immerse myself in the world again for a while. New story, voice acting and a couple gameplay wrinkles made this a worthwhile experience.

Dragon Age: Return to Ostagar $4.99 (360, PC)

With Alistair, Wynn and Morrigan by my side, I made a return trip to Ostagar. As expected, the darkspawn have taken the former human stronghold and made it their own with the usual assortment of burned things, arbitrary barricades and unburied bodies. Alistair and Wynn have plenty to say as you pick through the rubble for King Cailan’s armor and whatever else may be lying on the snow covered ground, but it was all a bit jarring considering I’d finished the game already and this DLC assumes the final battle hasn’t happened yet.

One of the common problems with new content being wedged into an already finished game is that your characters are often at the peak of their abilities. Ostagar is no exception; the whole area is a cake walk for the veteran player. What you ultimately get from the experience is a new set of armor, some swords, a few cutscenes and some new dialog. The final fight also brings something new to the table that I won’t spoil, but whether or not it’s worth $4.99 depends more on your affinity for the Dragon Age lore than the combat encounters. It was nice having some closure on elements of the story that were left hanging in the main game, but it also felt a bit like a cold turkey sandwich long after the feast was over. On the other hand, if you’re still working on finishing Dragon Age, this new content will slot in quite nicely.

I’ll be looking forward to the Dragon Age: Awakening expansion which takes place after the main story is finished; I’m not so sure I want to see anymore DLC that takes place before the final battle. Assassin’s Creed 2 handles this new chapter idea better because it’s couched in a context that supports the idea that old memories can be unscrambled and made available for Desmond to experience. Dragon Age asks the player to pretend certain things didn’t happen yet and it just doesn’t work quite as well.

Now that both games have had their kick at the can, I'm left feeling cautiously optimistic about the future of single player downloadable content. In this case, both companies seem to understand that you can't launch new DLC without a solid, content rich foundation to work from. I'm just glad to have a reason to revisit games I'd likely never have played again otherwise. Beats having a two year dry spell while I wait for a sequel.

Comments

Two things:

1) I called the category DL See because I'm a bad person.

2) Any conversation that pertains to DLC ruining the industry will be deleted. Let's take it on a case by case basis, folks.

Certis wrote:

1) I called the category DL See because I'm a bad person.

In response to such punnery, my favorite English teacher would sigh with disgust, and say "Put your head down."

I'm doing that now, sir.

Anyway, I'm eager to DL both as soon as I can. Luckily, I've reached the point in my life where I don't have to think terribly hard about spending $5, provided I'm getting a good return.

Certis wrote:

1) I called the category DL See because I'm a bad person.

I love it. No pun like a bad pun.

I liked it, for the price I felt like I got what I paid for, and since I did it on a newish rogue, it felt like it fit in really well. Plus Duncans weapons are great for a rogue.

Methinks I'll wait for the expansion. Thanks for the info.

I like the idea of a bite size $5 piece of content that only lasts a few hours. I'm more likely to go back and revisit a game I've already completed if I can get through the new content in one sitting than If it takes several sessions. There seems to be a dead zone for me when it comes to the size of DLC. A few hours is like a nice snack, and a full expansion lets me dig bag in completely, but I'm not a fan of something in between. A $10 10-12 hour piece of DLC would seem too big and too small at the same time. M aybe I'm just being nit-picky. If this is around the size of the Warden's Keep content, I'm on board.

I have no issues with DLC that comes out a decent amount of time after the game has been released. It's the day 1 stuff I'm not too fond of, but I won't get into it here, as requested.

I can definitely see myself returning to Ostagar, at the very least. I always wanted to go back there for some closure, and was kind of saddened that we couldn't go there before. Sounds like it might be worth the trek, story inconsistencies aside.

I'm glad I haven't gotten into Dragon Age now, knowing there is DLC that is supposed to slot into the experience. I'm still waiting for AC2 to come out on PC and since it is supposed to come with both bits of DLC I am happy

I think Bioware needs to beef up these DLC to be more in-line with the vale of rest of the game. I try not to think of the DLC in coldly economic terms, but I found the Warden's Keep content to be a poor value compared to the core DA:O game. It was much less substantial than I expected - and at $7 for 1.5 hours of gameplay vs. $50 for the other 75 hours, it just didn't feel like money well spent. I'm not complaining, because obviously there is more than enough gameplay there, but I find myself less enthusiastic about the DLC.

My only problem with DLC like Dragon Age is that it assumes you either haven't beaten the game, or are going to play through again. I am not one of those players that beats games multiple times, so DLC like Dragon Age's is wasted on me. I am glad some people have time to take advantage of additional content like that - but I have a hard enough time making it through my game pile without replaying 40+ hour games.

I had wanted to try out Battle of Forli - but no achievements!?!?!? For 4 bucks I want 50 gamerpoints:)

The Battle of Forli timing highlights a problem that I sometimes have with DL See. I loved AC2 when I played it, but at this point, it's been more than six weeks since I've put the game aside. Sure, I might like the DL See, but I don't know that I want to grab it, just to play it and put the game away again.

I might wait until both pieces are out, or I might skip them both. If the DL See would have been released as I was playing, however, I'd have been all over it.

Dragon Age DLC, on the other hand, I'm always up for. I happened to grab the Return to Ostagar before it was taken down, but I'll probably have Dragon Age play through going on for a long time.

TheCounselor wrote:

The Battle of Forli timing highlights a problem that I sometimes have with DL See. I loved AC2 when I played it, but at this point, it's been more than six weeks since I've put the game aside. Sure, I might like the DL See, but I don't know that I want to grab it, just to play it and put the game away again.

I might wait until both pieces are out, or I might skip them both. If the DL See would have been released as I was playing, however, I'd have been all over it.

I agree with this. With a game like Assassin's Creed, so strongly single-player, once I finished it, especially since I got 1000/1000, I'm not likely to go back to it. I did that with AC1. 1000/1000, and the thing never went back into my XBox. I was interested in the DLC when they announced it, but I think perhaps it should've been released then rather than announced. I don't dislike the game or the idea of the DLC but I'm just... Not interested. I've moved on.

hubbinsd wrote:

I think Bioware needs to beef up these DLC to be more in-line with the vale of rest of the game. I try not to think of the DLC in coldly economic terms, but I found the Warden's Keep content to be a poor value compared to the core DA:O game. It was much less substantial than I expected - and at $7 for 1.5 hours of gameplay vs. $50 for the other 75 hours, it just didn't feel like money well spent. I'm not complaining, because obviously there is more than enough gameplay there, but I find myself less enthusiastic about the DLC.

We discussed it a bit in the main game thread. I think the problem with that idea is that the main game is actually a ridiculous amount of value in dollar per hour terms.

Dragon Age $50/80 hours=$0.625 (my personal play time after finishing)

Warden's Keep $7/1.5 hours=$4.67

Most other AAA single player games $50/8 hours=$6.25 (most times you are lucky to get that amount of play)

TheCounselor wrote:

The Battle of Forli timing highlights a problem that I sometimes have with DL See. I loved AC2 when I played it, but at this point, it's been more than six weeks since I've put the game aside. Sure, I might like the DL See, but I don't know that I want to grab it, just to play it and put the game away again.

I might wait until both pieces are out, or I might skip them both. If the DL See would have been released as I was playing, however, I'd have been all over it.

I think you just highlighted another potential reason why Day One DLC is becoming more common.

SallyNasty wrote:

I had wanted to try out Battle of Forli - but no achievements!?!?!? For 4 bucks I want 50 gamerpoints:)

How sad is it that this was my first reaction as well?

I do like the Uplay reward system Ubisoft implemented with AC2, though - your "achievement" points actually allow you to get tangible rewards like extra costumes or wallpapers. (Not that the AC2 rewards are anything to write home about, but they're better than nothing.)

kuddles wrote:
TheCounselor wrote:

The Battle of Forli timing highlights a problem that I sometimes have with DL See. I loved AC2 when I played it, but at this point, it's been more than six weeks since I've put the game aside. Sure, I might like the DL See, but I don't know that I want to grab it, just to play it and put the game away again.

I might wait until both pieces are out, or I might skip them both. If the DL See would have been released as I was playing, however, I'd have been all over it.

I think you just highlighted another potential reason why Day One DLC is becoming more common.

The past year's releases have really put the issue of DLC timing into the spotlight. It seems there's a real art to timing releases properly to extend the life of the retail game effectively without alienating gamers who are either 1) put off by Day One DLC because it might feel like a ripoff, or 2) typically quick to finish and trade in games.

kuddles wrote:
TheCounselor wrote:

The Battle of Forli timing highlights a problem that I sometimes have with DL See. I loved AC2 when I played it, but at this point, it's been more than six weeks since I've put the game aside. Sure, I might like the DL See, but I don't know that I want to grab it, just to play it and put the game away again.

I might wait until both pieces are out, or I might skip them both. If the DL See would have been released as I was playing, however, I'd have been all over it.

I think you just highlighted another potential reason why Day One DLC is becoming more common.

Yeah, it's a fine line. Wait too long and nobody is playing anymore.

kuddles wrote:

I think you just highlighted another potential reason why Day One DLC is becoming more common.

I paid the $4 for Forli and enjoyed it. Most of the $4--IMHO-- went to listening to Catarina Sforza swear her head off and I loved every minute of it; she's one of the best characters of the entire sequel.

But that story (AC2 in Renaissance Italy) had already finished for me; it's like buying the Director's Cut of a movie I enjoyed 2 or 3 weeks ago, and only watched the deleted scene without reliving the entire movie, and see how that scene/DLC plays within the context of the entire story.

TheCounselor wrote:

The Battle of Forli timing highlights a problem that I sometimes have with DL See. I loved AC2 when I played it, but at this point, it's been more than six weeks since I've put the game aside. Sure, I might like the DL See, but I don't know that I want to grab it, just to play it and put the game away again.

I might wait until both pieces are out, or I might skip them both. If the DL See would have been released as I was playing, however, I'd have been all over it.

I couldn't agree with this more. Once I've finished with a good single player game its very rare I'll go back and replay it, and the small bite size DLSee thats wedged into the middle of the story somewhere just doesn't appeal to me. I'd be much more inclined to buy and play something that adds to the end of the experience and feels like its made to be something that happens after I've finished the story.

i think I enjoyed the Warden's Keep more than Ostagar. There was more story there, way more interactions, and some real choices. Ostagar was just your basic darkspawn stomp with nice gear. Plus I found

Spoiler:

Alistair's boo-hooing over Cailin's dead body a little false. Something about the writing there was just off.

One format for DLC I think could work is to have the new content peripheral to the main story.

For Dragon Age, have a short story where you play Leliana in Orlais, Zevran as a member of the crows, or Sten coming to Ferelden. Have them as a mid-level character and have short adventures in their shoes.

That could be fun and innovative.

I bought DA used, and want to get the Shale DLC, but they want 15 bucks for it! 5$ I can stomach, but 15 for an NPC is crazy.

El-Producto wrote:

I bought DA used, and want to get the Shale DLC, but they want 15 bucks for it! 5$ I can stomach, but 15 for an NPC is crazy.

I think that's exactly what they were trying to avoid with that pricing situation.

I bought Forli, and I'm not even through chapter 7 of AC 2, so I'm looking forward to it. I'm glad to hear that Ostagar is much the same way, that means I can go ahead and buy it to play as part of the story.

El-Producto wrote:

I bought DA used, and want to get the Shale DLC, but they want 15 bucks for it! 5$ I can stomach, but 15 for an NPC is crazy.

Cerberus Network in ME 2 is the same way, hence "new purchase incentive". I'm still not sold on this being an effective way to convince people to buy things new over used.

I was looking forward to the new DLC for AC2 but I don't think I'll be buying it since it doesn't seem to add much to the game and has no achievements.

I think they need to focus on DLC that expands the story after the end of the game. As an example they could use DLC to begin laying the ground work for AC3, which they're obviously working on and have a plan for. There is a lot of story they could introduce, flesh out the characters that you're working with outside of the Animus or maybe you could perform some kind of a robbery to steal upgrades for the Animus, these are just some of the ways which wouldn't be that hard to accomplish considering you wouldn't need to many additional art assets.

It just seems really short sighted to try and wedge new parts into a completed experience. This has been an issue for all BioWare DLC.

I find it kind of sad that in general, DLC without achievements is a disincentive for some people. They're a meaningless number that does absolutely nothing. Who cares if you're not getting a pat on the back for passing the tutorial?

Achievements are a game unto themselves, and to question them is to question the very nature of play.

Certis wrote:

I find it kind of sad that in general, DLC without achievements is a disincentive for some people. They're a meaningless number that does absolutely nothing. Who cares if you're not getting a pat on the back for passing the tutorial?

You might get praised everywhere you go, but maybe some people feel less appreciated than you do.

Now excuse me while I go cry in the company bathroom. You monster!

Certis wrote:

Who cares if you're not getting a pat on the back for passing the tutorial?

Me! They are the reason why I play my 360 much more than my ps3 these days. I just think that they are a kind of fun side game. While I don't go out of my way (or to super extreme lengths, in any event) to get the full amount on all the games I play, I get a nerdy giggle when I hear the little dooweep indicating and achievement unlock. No sadness to it, it is just a fun thing, and Microsoft was really onto something when they implemented it.

Brennil wrote:

i think I enjoyed the Warden's Keep more than Ostagar. There was more story there, way more interactions, and some real choices. Ostagar was just your basic darkspawn stomp with nice gear. Plus I found

Spoiler:

Alistair's boo-hooing over Cailin's dead body a little false. Something about the writing there was just off.

Another thing...

Spoiler:

I haven't reached the stage in Alistairs progression where he moans about not having something to remember Duncan by in my current playthrough...[i]bet he still does it despite me having equipped him with Duncan's very own sword taken from Ostagar

...the pernickety git.[/i]

Certis wrote:

I find it kind of sad that in general, DLC without achievements is a disincentive for some people. They're a meaningless number that does absolutely nothing. Who cares if you're not getting a pat on the back for passing the tutorial?

And yet you didn't want the discussion to devolve into how dlc was ruining the industry.