Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
Over the years, gamers have grown less and less tolerant of DLC. Some complain when it's not announced beforehand, but others complain when it is. Pay-to-win microtransactions are grouped in with purchasable cosmetics, and an overpriced multiplayer map pack will be placed in the same category as a fairly-priced 20-hour expansion. The reality is that not all DLC is the same, and it should never be looked at as inherently bad. For every poor use of the system, there's a great one, and this week I'll be proving that by discussing my all-time favorites.
5.) Battlefield 3 - Close Quarters
It was only last week, when I shared my best multiplayer experiences, that I name-dropped this expansion. Close Quarters was the direct opposite of what a Battlefield game is supposed to be. The vehicles were stripped away completely in favor of infantry-only combat. The jaw-dropping landscapes and massive open areas were nonexistent, replaced by small and tight maps. Sniper rifles became worthless and shotguns were the go-to weapon. All these things should have been controversial, and the expansion should have been a failure. Instead, they gelled together perfectly. The fact that Battlefield was able to beat COD at its own game is a testament to the refined, fun gameplay of BF3. DICE offered an expansion that was completely different from the original batch of content, and it was a move that made Battlefield 3 an even deeper game that allowed for wildly different styles of gameplay.
Up next, the best Borderlands expansion of all time...
4.) Borderlands - The Secret Armory of General Knoxx
Borderlands is a series with consistently great DLC offerings, so for this to stand above all the others speak volumes about its quality. A bevy of unique weapons, tons of new quests, a series of new locations, dozens of secrets, strong new characters, a different vehicle type and plenty of humor were all available in one ridiculously cheap expansion pack. The sheer amount of content is impressive, but the fact that it is all so good is even more ridiculous. I'll never forget the ending of the story, as raiding the thirty+ chests in Knoxx's armory made up for the lack of rewards given in the main game's conclusion. That feeling is only surpassed by the one that comes after defeating Crawmerax the Invincible, as this optional boss fight was an incredible challenge for even the best players. Failing over and over was addicting and fun, and the encounter was essentially a Destiny raid boss that existed before Bungie had even started to make Destiny. I loved the original Borderlands game, but this expansion surpassed it in every way imaginable.
In the third spot, Treyarch's surprise recreation of their most iconic Zombies maps...
3.) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 - Zombies Chronicles
From an abandoned asylum to a zombie-infested Moon base, Zombies Chronicles delivers the best version of some of Treyarch's greatest creations. The Call of Duty developer's Zombies mode only became what it is today because of its community, and it is for that same reason that this expansion became a reality. This expansion broke all of the rules for a Call of Duty game, coming years after Black Ops 3's release and well after the season pass had been filled out. It was a huge risk, putting in a huge amount of resources for what many consider the "bonus mode" in a series known primarily for multiplayer. Yet Treyarch proved it was a risk worth taking, as the zombies community had been waiting for this for years. I was one of the many who was thrilled by the announcement, and one of the many who helped to make this DLC one of the most successful expansions of all time. It was worth every penny, as this was a leap in graphical fidelity on the level of Isomniac's Ratchet and Clank remake and Bluepoint's Shadow of the Colossus. Every line of dialogue from the insane storyline was re-recorded. Every texture recreated. Every iconic weapon returned. For Zombies fans like myself, it was a dream come true, and it's because of Zombies Chronicles that I find myself playing Black Ops 3 nearly every day.
Next up, an expansion that outclassed the main game's strong story...
2.) The Witcher 3 - Hearts of Stone
The first expansion of The Witcher 3, Hearts of Stone, delivered one of my favorite storylines of all time. The tragic story of Olgierd and Iris, and the terrifying villain Gaunter O'Dimm, elevate the tale in a way that completely surpasses the Wild Hunt storyline. Throughout its solid ten-hour runtime, I was impressed by the voice acting and writing. Every moment that was supposed to be sad was sad, everything that was supposed to be funny was funny and every moment designed to be intense was (you guessed it) intense. I implore anyone who even liked the Witcher's world and characters to play this expansion. It's an absolute masterpiece in storytelling that is worthy of an endless amount of praise, and for that, it takes my #2 spot on this list.
1.) The Witcher 3 - Blood and Wine
The only expansion that can outdo Hearts of Stone is The Witcher 3's second and final expansion, Blood and Wine. With a brand new open world to explore, Blood and Wine comes in at a mind-blowing 50 hours of content (nearly 5 times as much as Hearts of Stone). While the story might not be as memorable as the one in Hearts, it's still very strong and juggles both new and old characters extremely well. A new gameplay feature known as mutagens adds a deeper level of upgrading Geralt as he battles a new batch of monsters. The opening boss fight and final boss fight are mesmerizing, the dozens of sidequests are fun and exciting, and the customizable vineyard and home are awesome additions. Finally, Toussaint is one of the most visually pleasing open worlds I have ever seen and is a great change of pace from the dark and dreary locales that make up most of Velen. Fable Land was one of the most clever and delightful segments from any game for me, and something that everybody should play through. If the message wasn't clear, let me make it so: PLAY BLOOD AND WINE!
That's all for this week, but feel free to leave your favorite expansion in the comments below! Another top 5 will be live next Friday, so check back then for another look at some of my all-time favorites.