Final Fantasy XIII-2 is almost two weeks old and it has already been given some DLC (Downloadable content). I am generally a proponent of DLC, as for every dozen or so wastes of money there is usually one shining example of DLC brilliance. However, there is no denial that the vast majority of DLC are lazy cash-ins. Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series is as prestigious as they come, but Square Enix has never implemented DLC in any of their games. This makes sense, as DLC is a modern invention, only coming to consoles this generation, and only two Final Fantasy games have been made for the PS3/360, and most of the DLC ideas for XIII seem to have been transferred over to XIII-2. There have been some serious allegations of cashing-in for the Final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC, and the community is up at arms for the future story expanding DLC. The question at hand is whether or not Final Fantasy XIII-2’s DLC is damning, a simple cash-in, or if it’s one of those examples of good DLC. We’ll start by looking at the various kinds of DLC that exist.
|Now with a new $3.99 map pack!|
The first time I was made aware or DLC was the infamous horse armour release for Oblivion. Bethesda released a cosmetic change to the horses in Oblivion that made them armoured. This change cost the player $2.50 and has been made legendary by the internet. You see, people were not happy about spending real-world money on such a small change to the game, which had no gameplay implications at all, especially since horses were useless in Oblivion to begin with. PC users were used to being charged for expansions, but this really struck a cord with gamers. Unfortunately for opponents of the horse armour, it sold quite well and this form of DLC has become increasingly popular.
|Totally worth the money. Am I right?|
Cosmetic DLC is one of the most common forms of DLC for single player games. This usually consists of costumes for characters, or weapon skins. Sometimes the skin actually affects gameplay by granting various effects such as the various DLC weapons for Dead Space 1 and 2; however, these items are always an unnecessary addition conferring only a minor or superficial benefit. Despite this, I would not characterize this form of DLC as inherently a ripoff. The real determining factor lies in the price. This type of DLC relies heavily on the microtransaction model, which is gaining popularity in gaming due to mobile and social network gaming. In other words, this form of DLC can be really good if it is really cheap. A player has to balance this with how useful/prevalent the change is in the game. For example, a Street Fighter 4 costume might be a good investment if you are the kind of player who will get hundreds of hours from Street Fighter 4’s online component, and you have a character you main. Going back to the horse armour example, it affects a very minor part of the game in a very minor way, and its cost is much higher than much better DLC. This is one of the kinds of DLC that was released last Tuesday.
|Oh Noel, you and your pointy shoes.|
Noel’s Battle Attire (Above) was released on Tuesday and it is one of the main sources of community backlash right now. Like the DLC mentioned in the last paragraph, this is a simple cosmetic change and has no effect on gameplay. It effects one of your two party members, so it is indeed prevalent throughout the game. Unfortunately, its cost is very prohibitive. You see, internet, as cosmetic change DLC, and microtransactions become more and more prevalent, gamers expect this kind of DLC to not set them back very much. Noel’s Battle Attire costs $3.00, which is fifty cents more than Bethesda’s horse armour. Sure it’s more visible in the game than horse armour ever was, but it still costs far too much for a simple reskining.
|It sill isn’t as big of a ripoff as Gears’ weapon reskins|
Next we move to more substantive DLC: the minor add-ons. This kind of DLC does indeed affect gameplay, but often not in any huge way. This type of DLC includes items such as map packs in shooters or new characters in fighters. It is rarely attacked too hard by the gaming community, as the general purpose of this form of DLC is to expand gameplay in a very small way and rarely costs too much. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example $5 was seen as excessive for each individual DLC character for the new Mortal Kombat game. Similarly, map packs are usually liked by gamers, but only when they aren’t lazy, or developers didn’t short change the gamer in the first place. For example in the new Alien Vs Predator game (Both this and Mortal Kombat use the same name as the original coincidentally) had very, very few maps in the original release, so map packs were seen as a bandaid on a gaping fatal wound.
|Uh… that’s a big gun you have there captain.|
The other DLC that was released on Tuesday was a colosseum battle against XIII protagonist Lightning and minor side character Captain Amodar (Above). Both can subsequently be recruited by the party and will act the same way a monster teammate does (No control, feral links). The battle itself is fun and repeatable, and the characters are good in battle, but not game breaking. The XIII-2 colosseum is set to be used by various other future DLC including Omega. At the $3.00 price point, this DLC actually isn’t a ripoff, especially when compared to Noel’s costume that offers none of the benefits, but costs the same. Consequently, this DLC hasn’t been attacked as much by the community as the other forms discussed today; although, the introduction of the colosseum in the main game, which is only used for DLC can be bothering.
|Come on! It’s the FFV version, and you get to put a cute hat on it!|
The final principle type of DLC is the substantive major add-on release. Full game expansions can be categorized in this type. Most commonly this type of DLC involves new single player scenarios, or story segments, or full new multiplayer modes. This is almost always the most expensive type of DLC, and it is the type of DLC, which is the least likely to be a ripoff. The main examples of major add-on DLC that I can think of being a ripoff are DLC that was released concurrently with the game, showing that it was completed before the game was released, such as the Warden’s Keep in Dragon Age. This type of DLC is what has gotten Final Fantasy fans most riled up.
|No madam, your armour isn’t worth real world money… well, it is rather pretty.|
The biggest controversy concerning Final Fantasy XIII-2’s DLC comes from the announcement of story expanding DLC. The reason this has fans so upset is the open ended nature of the story’s ending, which has led many fans to assume that this DLC is meant to be the conclusion of the game, and, therefore, should have been included in the game from the start. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Fallout 3 released DLC, which changed the ending of their game in their Broken Steel add-on. Of course the details of this yet to be released DLC have yet to be announced other than vague details on that it will expand the story. This controversy leads me to my final point: Square Enix’s incompetence in creating and marketing their DLC.
|Totally going to be playing it cool in the DLC|
As I mentioned earlier, DLC is a first for the series, and Square Enix has not handled it very well. The best kind of DLC is something that comes out of nowhere and enhances the game in a totally unexpected way. Something that the player knows the developers worked hard on. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is littered with red flags telling the player that DLC is coming. The colosseum as I mentioned before, as well as card games in Serendipity, which provoke a “coming soon” sign to appear. Releasing DLC last week was also a bad idea, as it provokes the question from gamers as to why it wasn’t released in the game to begin with, whether it was of a good quality or not. Finally, having an open ended story and then announcing story extending DLC, again ignoring quality, is sure to upset fans on a deep level.
|I don’t have a good idea for a picture here, so gaze at the mighty Gigantaur and despair!|
All in all, Final Fantasy XIII-2’s DLC looks to be a weird mix of total ripoff, and quite promising. Noel’s Battle Attire is most certainly not worth the same amount as the Lightning/Amodar fight/companions, and I question the sanity of the person who decided to price the DLC this way. The promise of story extending DLC is interesting and could be very good, but most gamers will agree that Square Enix has been handling this in a bad way. This is of course their first try, and it is similar to an toddler learning to walk: there have been many missteps, and we can only hope that Square Enix learns how to handle DLC before we simply don’t care anymore.
– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer