Developer: Going Loud Studios
Publisher: Going Loud Studios
Review Platform: PC (Steam)
Review Copy Provided By: Going Loud Studios
Release Date: March 18, 2013
DLC Quest originally released as an Indie game on the Xbox 360 in November 2011 and even won the Official Xbox Magazine Indie Game of 2011, but that’s old news as DLC Quest is finally available through Steam! Going Loud Studios tells us a story of a future where game companies nickle and dime gamers with downloadable content for features that used to be part of the core game. The game is actually a commentary of the gaming industry presented through the gameplay of a light on action platformer. The Steam release features the original game and its expansion, Live Freemium or Die, which furthers satire beyond DLC to other gaming industry day faux pas like day-one patches and season passes.
DLC Quest is best described as a satirization of the excessive monetization of gaming. The tongue-in-cheek style is matched with a simple game that represents a level of innocence that fits a bygone era of gaming. Underneath the surface is a thoughtful commentary on the bottom of the slippery slope and while things might not ever get that bad, we have to recognize it to prevent it. It is easy to see a world where core features are held for ransom when even today we are seeing the evils of on disc DLC and simple palette swaps sold as extra costumes.
The core of the game is platforming and collecting coins Mario style. The coins themselves are used to buy the in-game DLC that is needed to progress further into the game. Abilities like being able to move left, animations, jumping, and weapons need to be bought leaving you at the beginning with only the ability to glide your static image of a hero to the right. With the world built around gaining access via the DLC, it ends up with a metroidvania feel to it where you may have to backtrack to certain areas to collect coins and unlock more. Functional abilities aren’t the only thing you can buy in-game as it also includes spoofs of useless DLC like horse armor or presentation like particle effects and music.
The original DLC Quest portion of the game focuses on the Hero saving the girl, a classic video game trope. The swipes and jokes at the industry come hard and fast while mixing in some trope spoofing like a Shepherd that has left sheep all across the world and asks you not to hurt them and even has a sign up. Of course the first thing any sensible gamer will do is hack up a sheep. It is a nice throwback to games like Legend of Zelda where you could torment chickens and other farm animals. There is a lot of backtracking back and forth across the smallish map as you buy new abilities from the DLC merchant. The humor and backtracking never gets a chance to get old because the DLC Quest part can be completed fully in less than half an hour.
Live Freemium or Die ups the ante and you can actually die from things like spike pits. The story picks up after saving the girl in DLC Quest with the Hero attempting to save the world from a new rising evil. More advanced gameplay is featured like wall jumping and different regions on the map. Backtracking is amped up and the length of the game is actually long enough to where it gets a bit annoying. Live Freemium is a bit longer than DLC Quest but still should be completed fully within a hour.
DLC Quest features a style that mixes the look of South Park with 16 bit era simpleness. The simpleness presents an image that reinforces the idea that this is an innocent game from our collective childhoods targeted by evil DLC. Once extras like parallax scrolling backgrounds and particle effects are unlocked, DLC Quest ends up being a really good looking game and proves it’s not about pixels or polygons but style.
The length of the full package of DLC Quest might turn off some gamers but the game should be thought of more as a thought provoking piece rather than game. DLC Quest is a commentary filled with spoof, satire, and tropes that most long time gamers should instantly recognize. It is not much unlike Saturday Night Live’s political and pop culture satire packaged into an under two hour package. Despite the deeper message, DLC Quest still turns out to be a solid platformer with no real downside outside of the backtracking.