by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 5th September, 2019
Downloadable content packs, even when they add new story content, usually suck. Check out 10 great story DLCs that expand their games stories and noticeably improve their quality in multiple ways.
I usually don't care about DLCs, even story DLCs. Most of them are plain and simply cash grabs included in order to take extra cash from preorders (it seems these days every single game comes with preorder bonus DLC), from season passes and deluxe editions of their favorite games.
DLC packs are usually made with less care and zero passion leading to content that is usually tepid, tedious, and tiring.
But from time to time we get a proper piece of story DLC that not only adds to the story but also features interesting gameplay improvements and new elements that make the game it came for better, revealing its hidden potential and using new ways to bring players fun times.
This doesn't happen often but when it does story DLCs can push games they've released for to new heights, both in terms of the story and the gameplay.
Here we have ten (fourteen if we are strict because Dishonored is featured with two DLC packs, Bioshock Infinite also with two, and AC: Odyssey with three but in each case those DLCs form coherent story episodes) story DLCs that are the best of the best, bringing new story moments, cool quests, excellent gameplay, basically making the games they've come for better in every way.
Before we start, you'll probably notice some obvious omissions which aren't omissions at all. When creating this list we were guided by the official wiki pages and other sources on various games and if the content was marked as DLC, it could be included.
But, if a piece of content was marked as an expansion pack, story pack, or any other description that didn't mention DLC, it was a no go. This is why there's The Ballad of Gay Tony here (it's marked as story DLC for GTA IV) but content such as Blood & Wine for The Witcher 3 or The Old Hunters for Bloodborne or Shivering Isles for Oblivion aren't (all three are listed as expansion packs).
Now that we settled this let's talk about some cool story DLCs that actually don't suck.
Borderlands 2 is a great game but most of its DLCs are hollow husks that don't offer much in terms of the story and (Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty or Mr. Torgue's Campaign of Carnage) and are good only because they allow players to shoot more baddies and get more loot.
The exemption to the rule was Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep, which really added to the game. And if the latest piece of DLC wasn't released seven years after the game came out, that one would be featured in this list.
But since Gearbox decided to treat us with a free story DLC pack made to bridge the gap between Borderlands 2 and 3 we have to include Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary because it's awesome in more than one way.
First of all, the story is excellent and it depicts events happening after the original game along with the reason why you'll travel between multiple worlds in Borderlands 3. Next, you have a nice collection of new maps that feature unique art styles and aren't just a rehash of the old content.
And finally, the game shows us glimpses of new features that will be found in Borderlands 3. More specifically we noticed that the game finally offered bosses that are actually more than simpleton bullet sponges with high damage output.
On top of that, the second major flaw found in Borderlands 2 also got alleviated. In other words, poor loot quality is no more. I got more powerful, high-quality weapons during a couple of hours of Commander Lilith & the Fight for Sanctuary than during the whole Borderlands 2! I really hope the sequel keeps the awesome boss design and the loot drop generosity (and quality).
The Fate of Atlantis is made out of three DLC episodes and together they follow the story of the city of the sea and depict trials of the Heir of Memories. Combined, the three episodes account for more than 30 hours of gameplay, longer than most full-fledged games! But the sheer scope of this DLC pack isn't the sole reason for including it our story DLC list.
Each episode takes place on a new map and each map is a small work of art. Elysium and its unreal cliffs with awe-inspiring vistas is a beautiful map exhibiting what AC designers are capable of when given the chance to be creative. Hades domain is a bleak place with little life but it plays so well in the context of the story and is also a breath of fresh air in terms of world design.
And the City of Atlantis is a masterpiece of art that allows players to finally visit the city of the sea, depicted in the classic way as described by Plato.
And there's also lots to do. New quests, new achievements, and new gear (but bear in mind that legendary gear sets are rather disappointing) will give players lots of hours of interesting gameplay. And once you come to the Atlantis the real fun begins, with tons of lore pieces detailing the Isu and their culture. A must-play for all fans of the First Civilization.
Old but gold, Knights of the Nine is probably the first example of a story DLC that doesn't suck. Released way back in 2006, it was the first piece of any DLC that was, you know, actually good.
Telling a tale of the holy order of knights, long forgotten by men, it led players across the map into new and interesting dungeons, rewarding their efforts with a gear set that was pretty dope.
Almost a dozen quests, each excellently designed and with proper environmental puzzles (something that really lacked in Oblivion compared to its predecessor, which was filled with cool puzzles), Knights of the Nine gave us a glimpse of Morrowind, which to this day has the best quests in any The Elder Scrolls game. Knights of the Nine is awesome and you should definitely play it in case you decide to revisit Oblivion.
Skyrim had a ton of DLCs but only a few stood above the pack. The best was the Dragonborn, which expanded the story and brought an interesting new area to explore. After the story concluded, the Last Dragonborn set his sails and traveled (well, he just used a portal) to the island of Solstheim, where he met the first Dragonborn, a dragon priest who first tasted dragon blood.
The island is pretty big and contains almost 100 locations, creating a rich world filled with stuff to do. There is more than 30 new quest and while main ones are few and far between (just seven) side quests are what made Dragoborn so damn good.
Players can craft new legendary armor sets which actually are usable and pretty powerful and the DLC pack also brought new dragon shouts. And yes, you can ride dragons, which is still the coolest thing ever and the ultimate add-on for Skyrim.
Bioshock Infinite dealt with complex themes of alternate realities, destiny, the endless entanglement of the past present and future and all of those found place in Burial at Sea. This is a two-part story DLC that takes us in the alternate universe where both Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth are living their lives in the pre-disaster Rapture, the city under the sea.
The private detective noir story that follows is some of the best storytelling in video games we've ever seen. The story is a complex ordeal that takes the subjects from Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite and uses them to their full extent.
Multiple universes, hidden agendas, superpowers, time travel, and intense emotional scenes that will make you shed more than a couple of tears; all this and more can be found in Burial at Sea, a piece of story DLC with the story that easily trumps the one found in Bioshock Infinite.
Stories from Liberty City was a set of two massive story DLCs for GTA IV that brought new single-player campaigns and massively expanded upon the lore of the game. Each one is played by a new character, each one features new locations, mini-games, and side hustles and each one was filled with gripping storytelling a la Rockstar.
But when picking between the two I have to pick The Ballad of Gay Tony, one of the best story DLC's of all times.
In The Ballad of Gay Tony, you play as Luis Lopez, a small-time criminal and gang hustler that discovers a new world of glamour when hired by the titular "Gay" Tony Prince, the king of Liberty City's nightlife scene.
And from then on, the story gets better and better with each new mission showing the slime of the celebrity life, the struggles of friendship, and the general satire of the American Dream explored in every GTA game.
The story is expertly crafted and introduces new and returning characters (from the main game) that shine in their roles as living embodiments of various sins.
The relationship between various characters shines new light on some of them (Brucie's reaction to his older brother, Yusuf's honest desire to help Luis and Tony) and story missions include both serious ordeals and insane stunts that are one of the highlights of the DLC. And at the end, both Luis and Tony have atoned for their sins and their friendship is stronger than ever.
A happy ending that's extremely rare to find in GTA games.
Point Lookout is the last and best story DLC released for Fallout 3. The titular location is a small island off to the coast of the Capital Wasteland that plays as a scenery showing fates of people who were away from major cities when the bombs fell.
The isolated island is the home of peculiar mysteries and some gruesome fates that show all the horrors of mass hysteria and spy stories of centuries past.
The DLC pack doesn't have many side quests (there are just five of them) but each one is amazing and better than 95 percent of side content found in the original Fallout 3.
The map itself is pretty large (about a fifth of the map of the main game) and brilliantly designed. You have the eerie amusement park, strange camps that tell their own gruesome story as well as the swamp that looks like it came out of some B-horror movie. The natives look like taken from The Hills Have Eyes and can really fright you during the first couple of encounters.
There are plenty of new weapons and gear but the island is so interesting to explore that you don't need any extrinsic incentive to look under every single nook and cranny.
The main quest is one of the best quest chains in the whole Fallout universe that tells the tale of family feuds, mind control, and the human pettiness that can ignore even the apocalypse in its quest to settle the scores.
Left Behind was released after the main game and it serves as a piece of the story that shows one of the defining moments of Ellie's life. While this story DLC doesn't have the same effect when played after you beat the game for those who were lucky to play the game after Left Behind was released (myself included) this DLC really impacted the game and was an excellent addition to the story.
The DLC takes place before Ellie met Joel and is presented as a memory, with parts if it taking place during Ellie and Joel's survival in the huge mall when Joel got stabbed and was feverish, fighting for his life. Ellie then remembers an afternoon of delight she had with her best friend, Riley.
There goes the story of the simple joy of being a kid, even if the kid is living in the post-apocalyptic world filled with horrors; the story of growing up and having your first crush. But also, the story about a personal loss and how it impacts a child's psyche.
In the present-day Ellie has to fight off scoundrels and the Infected and this part is the complete opposite to the memory of times past and the perfect afternoon she spent with Riley.
The gameplay with Ellie is massively different than with Joel, perfectly showing just how hard it is to survive when you're just a kid with your wits and not much ammo. An amazing story DLC that should've been in The Last of Us from the start.
You have story DLCs that expand upon the original story or add new stand-alone experiences that are continuation of the world and events found in the main game (like The Knights of the Nine or Point Lookout) and then you have story DLCs that reinvent the story and bring events that will be remembered by players but that don't have any official tie with the main game. Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare is a strong member of the latter group.
The DLC is all about zombies and Wild West filled with zombies works surprisingly well. Of course, the events in this story DLC are tied with the main game (it all begins after John returns to his homestead but before he gets killed by federal agents) but they don't fit into the official canon.
And since writers got loose with the fact that none of the stories is considered an official part of Red Dead Redemption universe, they went wild.
The story is insanely good and follows a plethora of rumors, each one being a classic trope from movies that deal with the zombie apocalypse or ancient curses seen in games like the original Uncharted trilogy and movies like Indiana Jones.
And it all plays amazing. Undead Nightmare is a short but sweet alternate reality storyline that did all the right things and is the best part of Red Dead Redemption.
And finally, we will talk a bit about two-piece story DLC for the legendary Dishonored. Both expansions have you play as the infamous Daud, the one who killed the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and put Korvo onto his journey of revenge.
Daud, who realized he's been tricked into killing the good emperor of Empire of the Isles and who got summoned to the void by the Outsider just seconds after accomplishing the gruesome act.
There, he finds out that he will soon die but not before unraveling mysteries surrounding a single name, the name that will later appear in Dishonored 2.
Both DLCs have an exemplary story and Arcane's signature "choice and consequence" gameplay that can affect the ending of the story and that set the events of Dishonored 2.
The gameplay is way better than in the original, with Daud having cool powers and being fitted from the start to either raise chaos or become an invisible assassin. The story is complex and intertwined with the main campaign story. The ending is one of many and depends upon many variables, in the best fashion of Arcane Games.
Check out the 10 Best PS4 Exclusives Games (PS4 Games Ranked) here.