There's been a lot of talk lately about what DLC shouldn't be. Capcom was practically burned at the stake for some of its recent DLC snafus (and I was one of the people doing the burning), like Street Fighter X Tekken's on-disc DLC. Worse than the SFxTK controversy, though, was Asura's Wrath, which featured a "true ending" that had to be purchased as DLC. Now that's just dirty. When you pay for a game, you expect a complete story, not something you'll be asked to shell out additional cash for when you get to the end, right?
Well, Arkham City's final DLC was just released, dubbed Harley Quinn's Revenge, and it ties up the story of Arkham City. Sort of.
Now, before I go any further, I must warn you that this article is going to contain massive spoilers for both the Arkham City main game and the Harley Quinn DLC. If you don't want the ending ruined for you, turn away now, check out my spoiler-free Harley's Revenge review, and then finish Arkham City, for crying out loud!
Still reading? Well, here come the spoilers.
So, the ending of Arkham City was incredible, wasn't it? I mean, Batman emerging from the city carrying the limp dead body of his longtime nemesis Joker. It was shocking, to say the least. We had been primed for such an event throughout the game with several decoy Jokers biting the bullet, and each time we were thinking "They can't kill Joker. They just can't." So when Joker finally did die, it had us in a state of denial. Something wasn't right.
So when the Harley Quinn DLC was first announced, my immediate thought was that it would resolve the main storyline of Arkham City in a way that allowed for Joker to somehow still be alive. I was praying it wouldn't be another decoy, though, as that would have been a little too predictable and overdone already.
But a lot of us held onto the hope that there was still a spark of life left in that emaciated little body of his. After having played through all of Harley Quinn's Revenge, I assure you that Joker does not miraculously come back to life at any point during this story. He's as just as dead at the end of the DLC as he is at the end of the base game.
But this got me thinking. If the DLC would have brought Joker back to life, would we have been upset? I mean, wouldn't that have been exactly what Asura's Wrath did? Holding back the game's true ending so it could be sold as DLC? If the Joker storyline were resolved, wouldn't Arkham City then deserve the same poison and spite we've been spewing at Asura's Wrath?
I don't think it would. Now, part of me wants to say there's a Batman fanboy inside me that's going to champion the Arkham series no matter how many bad decisions the developers make. But I don't think that's exactly the truth here. I honestly feel like an end to the Joker storyline wouldn't have deserved the same sort of reaction as the intentionally held-back true ending of Asura's Wrath.
See, there are two major differences between Arkham City's DLC and Asura's Wrath's DLC. First of all is the sheer amount of content included in each game. Arkham City has a ton of content. Even if we had to pay for the ending of the game, the content that was actually on the disc was well worth the $60 price tag. Asura's Wrath, on the other hand, was basically a six-hour quick time event. When we got to the end of the on-disc content, we just felt cheated. Being asked to pay for the rest of the game made us feel like we were being bullied out of our lunch money.
Another key difference is time. Asura's Wrath's "Nirvana" content came out just two months after the game did. Obviously it was well into production by the time the rest of the game was pressed to disc. This was confusing, because if the real ending of the game was only a couple months from being done, why wasn't the game delayed long enough for it to ship in a finished state? The only conclusion we could come to was that the "true ending" was intentionally being held back so that we'd have to pay extra for it.
Arkham City's DLC came out seven whole months after the base game. This is a big enough window that we can be pretty confident Harley's Revenge was nowhere near completion back in October when the base game came out. It wasn't held back just to squeeze extra money out of Bat-fans. It was an exciting piece of supplemental content that needed to spend a lot of time in production. By the time it finally arrived, we were salivating for it, ready to dish out ten bucks so we could return to Arkham City, if even for a couple hours.
I think the bottom line here is that there's a right way and a wrong way to implement DLC policies. Obviously, Asura's Wrath is an example of how not to do it. Arkham City may not be a shining beacon of perfection as far as DLC is concerned, but fans have a lot less to complain about with Harley's Revenge.
Console DLC is a new enough thing that it's still evolving. As such, developers are allowed to make some pretty wild mistakes. We can only hope, though, that more companies pay attention to fan reaction and figure out some sort of balance between making their consumers happy and making profitable content. That way everyone wins.
Editor / News Director
Date: June 1, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*