It seems like the Downloadable Content (or DLC) sector has been increasing over the years and so to has the quality. Below is the list of my favorite downloadable games and content from the year that was. As much as I love playing video games, I’m a one man show over here so I obviously can’t get around to everything. What I’m trying to say is that this was a great year for downloadable titles and DLC, so don’t be surprised if some of your top picks are not present below. I just couldn’t get to everything. Let me know your top picks in the comments section.
Let us see what did make the list though!
And the winners are…
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
The funny thing about Blood Dragon is that it started out life as a April Fools Day rumor. It made sense when you think about it because unlike the game it was named for, Blood Dragon basically looked nothing like a shooter set in a tropical island setting. Set up to be like a cheesy 80’s action movie, the game had everything you’d expect of it from the overly neon lights, clichéd one liners, a classic sounding action soundtrack, and all the action machismo you can handle. The premise is also about as crazy as you’d expect from a classic action movie as players control a ‘Mark IV Cyber Commando’ named Sergeant Rex Power Colt set in a dystopian 2007. It’s up to Rex to stop Colonel Sloan, a rogue agent in charge of a large cyborg army, bent on taking over the world. While the gameplay remained relatively intact from the core game, Blood Dragon represents a crazy leap of faith by Ubisoft and I am so glad they decided greenlight this content. I would absolutely love to see companies take risks like this with established franchises in the future.
Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
I’m not afraid of saying that the first three DLC packs for this excellent shooter were just okay at best. While the majority of them were (at the very least) decent, they seemed to be missing that certain creative spark. Enter Tiny Tina. For this final major DLC, gearbox decided to take the established Borderlands formula and add a twist to it. Instead of the familiar dusty landscape players are familiar with, Assault on Dragon’s Keep is actually be a board game (based on Dungeons and Dragons) being played by the main characters with Tina acting as Dungeon Master. You, as the player, will be living out these scenarios in Gearbox’s take on a Borderlands meets fantasy game. The shift from the familiar western setting, seeing characters fit common fantasy roles, and seeing the world shift around you based on what Tina says provides a refreshing and unique experience that I hope continues into the future. As I mentioned in my review, if there’s one piece of DLC you absolutely need to have for Borderlands 2, it’s this one by far.
The addiction returns. PopCap seems to excel at creating simple games that have one major hook to keep players coming back time after time. While Peggle 2 doesn’t deviate too much from the established and addicting gameplay, honestly it doesn’t have to. Essentially, it’s still that mix of pinball meets plinko style gameplay that remains simple to learn and difficult to master. The game introduces players to new Peggle Masters, new brick types, and new super abilities. The sound design is just amazing as well also featuring new “Extreme Fever” songs and other awesome little sound details. It’s the simple joy of Peggle that keeps you coming back. Launch a ball, sit back, watch it light up the board and accumulate massive scores. There’s just something so satisfying about that.
Here’s an interesting premise for you: Luchadors meet Day of the Dead holiday meet wrestling meet MetroidVania gameplay. Do I have your attention? Good. Developed by the good folks at DrinkBox Studios, Guacamelee is a side scrolling action adventure with MetroidVania elements mixed in for good measure. You play as Juan Aguacate, a relatively simple agave farmer who eventually becomes a super powered Luchador and sets out to stop the evil charro skeleton, Carlos Calaca. Guacamelee is a 2D action platformer where your character can purchase upgrades in addition to gaining additional abilities, allowing you to progress further in the game. The twist it brings to the formula is the ability to switch between the Living world and the Dead world. Doing so will make certain enemies and platforms visible where it once was not. This mechanic leads to many interesting puzzles, platforming sections, and combat situations as well. With great writing, a toe tapping soundtrack, a fantastic art style, and engaging gameplay, Guacamelee is a game that shouldn’t be missed.
Some of the best games tend to be the ones that sneak up on you. As with most of my Steam purchases, Gunpoint was done on a whim after watching the launch trailer which featured this “Inspector Gadget” looking fellow crashing through panes of glass and hacking electronic equipment. I was hooked. You play as freelance spy, Richard Conway, who takes on missions from various clients to infiltrate and sometimes extract data which eventually leads to the spy trying to clear his name on a murder charge. The major hook to this title is that Conway is outfitted with the “crosslink” device giving him the ability to rewire electronics and electrical circuits. This completely opens up the game letting the player use his/her imagination to solve a number of puzzles and gameplay situations. Flipping a light switch could trigger a door to open smashing a guard unconscious. Perhaps you’d rather hack a motion sensor to unlock a door when a guard walks by. How about hacking an elevator switch to trigger a guard’s gun to fire? There’s literally a ton of different (and hilarious) solutions to come up with. With a great progression upgrade system as well, Gunpoint is well worth a purchase.
State of Decay
Many people say that Zombies have been over used in games. If you feel that way, give State of Decay a go because it flips the tired formula on its head. Like any good zombie story worth its salt, the world has essentially gone to hell. You’re on a vacation of sorts when you and a friend come across a “zed” for the first time. Unsure of what’s going on, you search for other survivors and quickly realize that things are not going well for the world. Players will need to keep their collective of survivors alive through actions such as defending your base, upgrading it, finding valuable supplies around the world like medical, food, weapons, and gas, and saving your fellow survivors. It’s an open world to explore and survive in. What’s interesting is that the world you’re in is constantly in motion, whether you’re logged in or not. Other NPCs can gather resources, live their lives, and your home base can even start to decline while you’re away. Characters can also get injured, fatigue, or die in this world as well, so there’s a number of factors going on which really pull you in and keep you engaged. It may be a bleak and rough world, but State of Decay is a whole lot of fun to play.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
A cinematic and unique adventure game that surprisingly comes from the folks at Starbreeze Studios. You know, the guys that gave us games like Syndicate and The Chronicles of Riddick games. What I found so refreshing about this game outside of the wonderful art style is the control scheme. Essentially, the game asks the player to control both brothers at the same time. The left stick controls one brother while the right stick controls the other. It’s really kind of mind bending at first, but once you get some time with it, it really starts to feel natural. You’ll be using both brothers to overcome obstacles and puzzles in the world through teamwork. What’s great is that even NPC characters react differently to each brother as the older one tends to be more serious and to the point, while the little brother is more of the troublemaker/goofball. All of the little animations had me smiling. You can tell a lot of love was put into this title through the fantastic storytelling, great visual style, and engaging gameplay.
Ever since I was growing up in arcades during the 90’s, Rare’s unique fighter dominated my time and quarters. Unfortunately, the franchise kind of disappeared even though the fan base was loudly asking for more. It’s been a long 17 years, but the franchise is back, this time led by Double Helix Games. There was a lot of doubt leading up to release, seeing as Rare was no longer really involved, but Double Helix proved the doubters wrong and created a fantastic new experience that brings back many of the staples for which made the originals popular including over the top combos, an over excited announcer, a memorable soundtrack and a great cast of fighters. Sure, the content is a bit light at the moment, but Double Helix has laid down a great foundation to expand and build upon the game. It’s also free to play right out of the gate, so how can you really complain? I’m just glad this fighting franchise is back in action.