2018 has been filled with some fantastic standalone experiences, but its also been host to some of the best DLC we’ve seen in years.
Narrowing it down to three has been tough because there’s multiple things to consider when judging it against the competition.
What does it add to the game? Is it just more of the same or does the experience change? Is more of the same or a new approach necessarily the best for the franchise, would it benefit from a bit of both instead?
Longevity. Will it be a one and done DLC, or will I be going back to it weeks, months, maybe even years down the line.
Has it been rushed out the door to continue a flow of momentum, or have the developers clearly taken their time to get the content right.
While I loved more than three pieces of DLC in 2018, these were – far and away – my stand out experiences of the year.
#3 Prey Mooncrash
Of the three games on this list, this is a piece of content I never expected to talk about this year. I, among others, suspected Prey might be a dead franchise. The relaunch was well received critically in May 2017, but it sold below expectations. For some reason, it didn’t click with consumers, which is a real shame as it’s one of the most refreshing shooters to release in years. But things went very quiet from Bethesda and Arkane shortly after launch and from there on in, we assumed it was being swept under the carpet to be forgotten about.
But then rumours start to pop up earlier this year that something moon related was happening at Arkane. And when E3 rolled around, the huge Mooncrash content stealth-dropped on all of us. Quite possibly, the best ‘you can play this right now’ moment we’ve had to date in the industry.
Prey Mooncrash takes the best bits of the shooter – exploration, investigation – and uses them in a creative new way. Rather than focusing on one character, Prey Mooncrash gives you the chance to play as 5. The aim? Escape the Moon with all 5 using various different escape routes. The overall goal is to ensure all five characters escape in one run. But the game is entirely ‘winnable’ even if only one of them gets out alive.
Prey Mooncrash is a roguelike that sees the enemy and loot positioning change every time to keep you on your toes. Each character also has different abilities and skills which can make their route through more challenging than their counterpart. You can prepare for each run ahead of time, though, by spending Sim points – earned for beating Typhon – and changing loadouts for every run.
Personally, as a fan of Prey I was just excited for more. But truly, Mooncrash actually enhances and improves on the base game in many ways, while also offering more reasons to stay with it and continue to play long after the base narrative is complete.
And to really sweeten the pot, Prey: Typhon Hunter has just been added to the mix as a free multiplayer extra. In it, a team of five Typhons go up against one lone human in an elimination-style deathmatch. You can even try out a Prey VR experience called Transtar.
Mooncrash is the expansion that keeps on giving and it’s still superb fun months later. Easily deserves its place as one of the best, most generous offerings this year.
#2 Destiny 2 Forsaken
Speaking of DLC that improves and enhances the base game, taking the whole experience to new heights, Destiny 2 Forsaken does that and thensome.
The inclusion of Gambit mode alone would probably be worth the price of admission. For me, it’s the most fun multiplayer experience I’ve had in years as it blends PvE and PvP together seamlessly. In a best of three rounds, two teams of four must defeat a particular breed of PvE creature determined at the start of the battle. When an enemy is defeated, they drop a mote and this can then be deposited at the centre of the arena.
The aim is to deposit 75 motes and summon a Primeval, boss-like creature. If you’re the first to beat the Primeval, you win the round. But you can also hamper the enemy teams’ progress by sending blockers over to their world and even visit it yourself to kill as many as you can in a time limit. It’s a brilliant mode that never fails to entertain me whenever I dive in for a few rounds.
But the campaign itself is also very special and for the first time it feels like Bungie have figured out how to offer a gripping story in context of the Destinyverse. It’s not only coherent but offers flexibility in approach, and truly adds something to the game as well as takes something away in the form of beloved character, Cayde-6.
On top of that, Forsaken adds loads of new armour and weapon types, four new Crucible maps, four new Strike mission, a brand new faction, stunning locations, and even a competitive Crucible mode in Breakthrough.
Forsaken goes someway to making up for the rather miserable Curse of Osiris and Warmind but it really sets the tone for the future of a franchise that has definitely been on rocky waters these past few months.
Because of that I ummed and ahhed many times as to whether Forsaken is my favourite expansion this year. I enjoy so much about it and love that it’s not only got me back into Destiny 2, it’s made me enjoy it more than ever before.
The truth is, it’s still more run-and-gun action and doesn’t fundamentally change the Destiny formula. In that regard, it’s not going to change anyone’s mind about the game. If they already didn’t like it, unlike Prey Mooncrash, the formula is still very much intact. It’s just been refined to a point where, I believe, Destiny has never been better than it is right now.
#1 Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna, The Golden Country
For Xenoblade Chronicles 2, however, I believe Torna, The Golden Country not only makes the game more enjoyable and accessible after playing the expansion, it might also be one of the finest RPG expansions I’ve had the pleasure of playing.
Let’s be honest, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 spams you with info dumps from the very early stages. It’s not the most user-friendly RPG on the market and it’s certainly not one any RPG fan can just get into with its deeper, more complex systems, and full on dynamic action. Especially if you’re new to the franchise.
The plot is also pretty heavy as you not only try to understand the relationship between Drivers and Blades, but also get to grips with the wider world and connect with its characters. This is one of the more intense mainstream RPGs of recent years
Torna, The Golden Country stripped away a lot of those problems almost immediately. First, it’s a direct prequel to Xenoblade Chronicles 2, set 500 years prior, so it sets the scene for the base game, giving you a lot more context going in, and helps you understand what’s actually going on over its twenty hour duration.
The gameplay mechanics are also similar to the base game, but tweaked slightly to ease players in a bit more with the ability to control both Drivers and Blades, switching them out during battle. They can enter attack or support positions and share stats, which makes it easier for you to manage individual characters with gear changes and level upgrades.
And perhaps the biggest change of all is that you immediately feel invested in both characters and story. The relationships grow organically, the characters are more engaging, and the whole world just feels much more approachable with its inbuilt community system and the range of activities available.
What Torna shows is that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a good game but between the performance issues and the complexities, a few more layers needed to be peeled back before most could see its full potential.
Torna does exactly that while giving existing players a strong, enjoyable, fulfilling campaign to play through and a way to connect with the IP better than ever before for those who’ve been intimidated by the game.
It’s been very difficult to judge between the top three pieces of content because each changes their respective game in interesting and enjoyable ways, but the sheer impact that Torna has on Xenoblade 2 not only changed my feelings on the base game, but has seemingly helped others connect with the game better than ever before. Add to that, it’s one of my all-time favourite RPG expansions next to the likes of Dragon Age Awakening, Blood and Wine, and Lair of the Shadow Broker, and it becomes clear that this was the obvious choice for Expansive’s DLC of the Year 2018!
Happy New Year to one and all. See you in 2019!