by Matthew Thompson
Wolfenstein: The New Order was the most surprising game of 2014 for me. I came in with zero expectations and it delivered one of my favorite FPS campaigns ever. It was an old-school run-and-gun shooter, but with new-school sensibilities like its intelligent stealth design. It was a linear game, but delivered a wealth of options when it came to exploring its wide levels and completing its various objectives. It was a game that had you blasting away at Nazi robots, but still managed to have some real heart at the core of its story about a band of resistance fighters coming together.
Needless to say, the announcement of The Old Blood, a new standalone expansion to last year’s Wolfenstein, was met with much excitement by myself and other fans of MachineGames’ excellent shooter. It tells two stories taking place while the war still rages on that act as prequels to The New Order. By and large, The Old Blood looks to deliver more of what made last year’s effort so great, but there are some new touches here and there. A handy pipe acts as a melee weapon and opens up some new traversal elements. New armaments come in the form of a bolt-action rifle and a rocket launcher side-arm. The game also promises some nods to long-time fans of the series as well as a larger focus on the occult than the main game.
While my enjoyment of The New Order is what has me most excited for The Old Blood, I also love the manner in which they are delivering this new content. The increased online integration on consoles over the past decade has brought with it some good and some bad. DLC has been a particularly mixed bag. One recent positive trend has been standalone downloadable expansions like The Old Blood. There are multiple advantages to these. Not needing the disc is one. Obviously it helps filthy renters like me or those who have resold their copy. But it also opens up the series to a new audience. Those that might not be ready to shell out $60 for a full retail release might be more willing to part with $15-20 to try out a series they are unsure about. Last Year’s Infamous: First Light is a great example. Beyond the fact that I actually think it is better than Second Son, First Light would act as a great introduction to what the series offers for first-time players at a lower entry price.
On top of this, it gives the developers a chance to experiment in a way they might not with a full-retail release. Case in point: 2013’s Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, a wacky ’80s action-movie send-up that wasn’t likely to get the greenlight from Ubisoft as a $60 product, but did as a smaller spin-off. Experimentation can also come in the form of small-scale gameplay changes. It is tough to see how much of that may crop up in The Old Blood, but it is certainly an opportunity available for devs who tackle this sort of title.
Finally this type of game seems to lend itself to more substantial content and better value than multiple small DLC releases tied to the main game. Of course, that isn’t always true and the same goes for the rest of my points. Some of these simply don’t pack the value they should. Some play it safe. Some might not act as a great introduction to a series, but my experience with them has generally been positive thus far. I also must note that some games don’t lend themselves as well to these. Games where character stats and the like need to carry over (RPGs, multiplayer-focused titles, etc.) are better off tying into the disc release. These do seem like an especially good fit for the types of games I prefer which is probably why I have become so taken with them.
So I’m very much looking forward to The Old Blood which releases this May and I hope this trend of standalone downloadable content is something that we see more of (though a disc release is always welcome too). It doesn’t fit for all DLC, but when it does I think it is great for devs and fans alike.