Wednesday, 31 October 2012

DLC Quest - Thoughts


Satire. It's bloody tough to do properly, but is truly transcendent when it works. Animal Farm. The Thick of It. Idiocracy. Brasseye. Private Eye. The Onion. Bear V Shark. The Daily Mail (which I assume is satire for the sake of my own mental wellbeing).

You will note that none of the above are videogames. There are plenty of very funny games, no doubt. The Monkey Island games, Portals 1 & 2, and McPixel are just a few examples. There are funny games that parody genres or popular videogame tropes - Cthulhu Saves The World and Half-Minute Hero lovingly poke fun at the conventions of JRPGs. But satire? Satire is a tough form of humour to pull off, as it necessarily involves a degree of scorn and moralizing, which is hard to express through game design. And satirising the state of the game industry is harder still, as the games industry and actual games are hard to mesh. Far easier to throw in some jokes and the odd reference to Aeris or E.T. the Atari game.

DLC Quest is a bona fide satire. It is a game that bristles with anger over the state of microtransactions and downloadable content and expresses this frustration in a witty, entertaining way. Not only that, but it never sacrifices fun for funnies - this is a game that never forgets it is a game, and that games should be fun to play even if they have an angry, funny message to impart.

DLC Quest tasks you with rescuing a princess from a bad dude, which you accomplish through some platforming action and coin-collecting. So far, so rote. The kicker is that at the start, there is no music, there are no character animations. You cannot even move backwards. You have to buy these features in 'DLC packs' from shopkeepers (please note that you pay for these with in-game coins. This game is not asking for real money - that would make it a hypocrite). You can go without purchasing some things - you could go through the whole game without buying the music (don't, though, as the soundtrack by Ozzed is one of the finest chiptune delights in recent memory). As the game goes on, however, it becomes impossible to progress without trawling for coins and buying DLC. Critical features such as a double-jump and access to further areas is withheld from all those who won't pay. This is satire in the finest Juvenalian sense.

With DLC an increasingly prevalent and worrisome feature on the videogame landscape, its nice to see this addressed in a funny yet concerned fashion. Aside from largely useless and often tacky cosmetic DLC ("give us a fiver and you can put your character in a sexy outfit!") there are more troubling depths that are being plumbed. Just in the. last few weeks we've seen the release of a James Bond game where the final mission - described as 'critical' by the publishers - will only be available as a downloadable extra after the release of the Skyfall film. The Prince of Persia 'reboot' from a few years ago had an 'epilogue' that had to be paid for on top of the main game and downloaded so. you could actually finish the story. Pay and pay and pay again, if you want to see how this all ends. That's the world we modern gamers inhabit, that's the world we're being foolish enough to embrace, that's the world DLC Quest is barking a hollow laugh at.

This could all be a bit heavy-handed, but the game is fun and breezy, with the platforming feeling pleasantly solid and the controls just as tight as they need to be. There are a sprinkling of nice gags that mock some of the gamier aspects of RPGs - my favourite being an NPC with a litany of side-quests that your character has no time to do and no interest in doing. The 'awardments' work as both a smart parody of in-game achievements and as a substitute for them to satisfy obsessive-compulsive cheevo hunters.

So, is it worth your time and money? FIND OUT IN THE FORTHCOMING "CRITICAL FINISH" DLC PACK!
  • 2 ALL-NEW PARAGRAPHS!
  • MORE JOKES!
  • MORE OPINIONS!
  • A SATISFYING SUMMATION OF ALL THE WORDS THAT HAVE COME BEFORE!
  • ONLY $5/£3/400MSP!
DLC Quest is out now on Xbox Live Indie Games, and is on Steam Greenlight. Give it a thumbs up.

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