It is slightly unfortunate that video game companies seem obsessed with squeezing more and more money out of consumers. DLC and Remasters are a fact of life now, but fortunately, unlike microtransactions and lootboxes, there is actually a point to DLC and remasters and they can be really fun – these lists highlight the ones I consider the best in the business. Enjoy!
Top 5 DLC and Expansions:
5: Dawnguard (Skyrim) Dawnguard is still my favourite of the 3 Skyrim DLC’s. Although Hearthfire adds some welcome features and Dragonborn adds a new location to explore with some fun quests, Dawnguard arguably is the most memorable. Not only does it make playing as a Vampire or Werewolf much more fun (adding perk trees which allow you to greatly expand either’s abilities) but includes one of the best questlines in the game – whether you play as the Dawnguard (Vampire Hunters) or the Vampire Lords, the story is engaging and the quests are memorable (especially the trip to the Soul Cairn). The crossbow is a great new weapon for archers – it packs a hell of a punch but has a realistically slower reload time than normal bows, and can be upgraded repeatedly if you side with the Dawnguard. The DLC also includes Serana, the vampiric daughter of Lord Harkon, the main antagonist of the DLC, who is one of the best companions in the game. Ultimately, if you have Skyrim, you need to play this!
4: Old World Blues (Fallout: New Vegas) Fallout has a very patchy record with DLC, but Old World Blues is probably the first example of them getting it pretty much spot on. The plot sees your character abducted and partially lobotomized by a cabal of crazy scientists (who are now all brains plugged into robotic platforms) and the main quest involves you gathering equipment to help you retrieve your original brain (the scientists having replaced it with a mechanical one). Its mad, its hilarious and gives you a great new area to explore, full of messed up experiments, berserk droids and particularly nasty variants of the Mojave wastelands most irritating mutants. This is fallout embracing its crazy, wackier side for probably the last time (Fallout 4 had nothing as zany by comparison) to the extent that the main boss fight features a giant robot scorpion with a laser cannon in its tail. Fun and memorable, its only flaws are that of its parent game: i.e. occasional crashes or lag.
3: Citadel (Mass Effect 3) Mass Effect 3’s ending was made palatable with the free Extended Cut DLC, but Citadel gave the series and fans a proper goodbye. With a lighter story than the main game, tons of fun Easter eggs, great additions to companion romance arcs and a pulsating new combat arena, its pure fan service, but in the best way. It terms of content, humour and challenge (enemies give out pretty hefty damage here) Mass Effect’s never done better with its DLC. Even ME2’s excellent lair of the Shadow Broker doesn’t have the same depth this does.
2: Kingdoms (Medieval 2: Total War): Every Total War game since Rome 1 has featured some kind of expansion or DLC, but Kingdoms is arguably the best because it is four campaigns in one. No matter your preferred playstyle, Kingdoms gives you something to have fun with. Love stomping your foes into the dirt with heavy cavalry? Fight as Jerusalem or Antioch in the Crusades campaign and you can do just that. Prefer defensive playstyles? Wales’ wide range of missile units in the Britannia campaign are your jam. Want to conquer the map with hordes of heavy infantry? The Teutonic Order and Denmark spend the whole of the Teutonic Campaign doing just that. There’s also the Americas campaign, which pits Spanish, French and English expeditions against the vast numbers of Mayan, Aztec and Apache armies, some of whom are capable of learning the European’s technology and turning it against them. Put simply, if you love Medieval 2, you need to buy kingdoms. Fortunately, steam now sells them as one item!
1: Far Harbour (Fallout 4) Its rare for a DLC to be better than the actual GAME its a part of, but Far Harbour is just that. All of the problems of Fallout 4’s main campaign and side quests are absent here. Whereas the Commonwealth was quite a dull place to explore outside of the Main Quests, the Island is teeming with interesting vaults, warring factions and tough creatures to battle. It has a great atmosphere, with a radioactive fog cloud blanketing the entire island and danger lurking in every bog, marsh or piece of shoreline. The three main factions are all interesting to interact with and aren’t as boring as say, the Minutemen in the main campaign. You can even call in the Institute or the Brotherhood of Steel to deal with the Synth faction if you so wish. Even the stupid, repetitive build mechanic is hardly used here, and certainly isn’t critical to any missions. If you own F4, but don’t have this expansion, you’re missing the best that game has to other. Also – find the hidden vault – it sparks off a murder-mystery quest with Robobrain Residents that is one of the best sidequests in the whole damn game.
Top 5 Remasters:
5: Bioshock: The Collection: The remaster itself doesn’t really add much, which is why this collection is only fifth on this list, but I have to credit how brilliant this trilogy looks in HD. Rapture has always been one of the most memorable and well-crafted settings in video games, and seeing it realised on current gen was worth the upgrade. Shorter load screens are an added bonus, as is the fact this bundle contains all 3 games with all the DLC (it scraps Bioshock 2’s multiplayer mode, but that’s no huge loss) make it great value for money.
4: Modern Warfare Remastered: Call of Duty 4 is for many one of the franchise’s best entries. It has a great campaign and great multiplayer – in my opinion, only COD4 and MW2 can claim that – every other one is weak in at least one area (or has a bad zombies/survival/spec ops mode). Either way, it was no surprise that when Modern Warfare Remastered released, it outshone and outsold COD: Infinite Warfare, which, while superficially fun, lacks any real depth in its campaign and whose multiplayer the fanbase just wasn’t interested in. MWR harkens back to a time when call of duty multiplayer was balanced and had a good selection of maps – there’s only 3 killstreaks here and everyone has them available from the get-go, giving newbies more of a chance. While there are some maps you will dislike (in my case Wet Work, since Snipers and Grenade-spammers have a large advantage) and a couple that are just a bit forgettable (District and Downpour) the vast majority are all fun and allow the use of multiple playstyles. It still has a good player base (at least on main modes) 3 years after release, which is always a sign of quality. It’ll probably fall off the grid if the modern warfare reboot is any good, but MWR was one of the few remasters that people not only wanted, but actually delivered where it counted. Pity it has random loot drops, but this is COD. There’s a reason none of the developers got on my best gaming companies list.
3: Catherine: Full Body: Remasters tend to focus on improving gameplay, performance and graphics (or in the case of lazy cash-grabs, just graphics). Few add new content. Catherine: Full Body not only adds additional levels, but a new key character, new cutscenes, challenges and a complete revamp of its puzzle levels (the player can choose between the original or remix versions). Still one of the oddest games I’ve ever played (half anime-esque drama, half platform puzzle horror game) Catherine is a game that will make you ask ‘what the f*ckkkk?!?!?’ at least twice an hour. The full body edition is sexier, with more depth and more variety. Probably not a game that’s to everyone’s taste, but I have to give them credit for the effort they put into this comprehensive remaster.
2: Skyrim Special Edition: Skyrim was always a great game, but there was some roughness to the original. Load times got more and more ludicrous above level 25 and there were a large number of game-ending freezes and crashes. The Special Edition fixes both issues – loading times are now measured in seconds rather than minutes, and while there can still be odd crashes or freezes, they occur very rarely compared to the original. The graphical upgrade is a welcome addition – with great weather and shadow mechanics which make the world feel that bit more alive and real, and even more of a beautiful place to explore.
1: Spyro: Reignited Trilogy: This is a remaster with ambition – given that the Spyro games were a PS1 trilogy, turning it into a current-gen remaster was no mean feat. Every level and character is lovingly recreated here – the game looks superb, plays brilliantly and retains the charm of the original – they even brought back the original composer to work on the revised but faithful soundtrack. A treat for original fans and newbies like me alike, this sums up everything a good remaster should do – providing a huge graphical upgrade, refining gameplay and level design, and bringing a classic to a new generation. Add in the relatively low price (for 3 games in 1 remember!) and this is a must buy, one that in my opinion, is the best remastered collection out there.
Hope you enjoyed, next update will be up tomorrow, focusing on my favourite writers and directors in TV and film – see you then!