Tobold's Blog
Sunday, June 23, 2024
Different types of expansions

I didn't buy the expansion pass for Age of Wonders 4 when the game came out, but I did buy it after the first DLC was released. Now all 4 DLCs included in that expansion pass are out, and I don't regret my purchase. Age of Wonders 4 itself and all 4 DLCs are rated as "very positive" by the Steam user base. And as every DLC added numerous options to the game, and affects AI opponents as well as players, the presence of every DLC is felt in every game to some degree. I am actually happy to have learned that Triumph Studios is planning on making DLCs beyond the 4 contained in the expansion pass.

That is insofar surprising as Paradox Interactive doesn't have the best track record for DLCs. The Steam ratings for the DLCs for Crusader Kings 3 for example are all over the place, from mostly positive to mostly negative. And some DLCs, like Fate of Iberia, only really impact your game if you actually play in that specific region, while Royal Court only applies if you play at king or emperor level. On the other hand, games of Age of Wonders 4 are more structured and following a more predictable scheme than games of Crusader Kings 3; so the ability to play CK3 in a very different style explains that then not every DLC applies to every style.

While definitively fitting for the general philosophy of Elden Ring, the just released Shadow of the Erdtree expansion (ratings on Steam currently "mixed") can't even be played at all by 60% of the players of Elden Ring. You first need to "beat" Elden Ring more or less before you can access any of the content of the expansion. While the DLCs for Age of Wonders 4 or Crusader Kings 3 make the games broader, Shadow of the Erdtree makes Elden Ring only longer. Which is welcome for people who reached the end and are looking for more content, but not very helpful for anybody who didn't.

The different types of expansions also exist for board games. In fact, some reviews for board game expansions mention exactly the same issues as reviews for video game DLCs. Forest Shuffle, a recently popular card game, has been blasted for basically needing the expansion in order to have balanced gameplay; the base game without the expansion is said to feel "incomplete". Now where have I heard that before? But my main problem with board game expansions is that I rarely have any use for an expansion that makes the game longer. I have a handful of board games that I played through completely, like Roll Player Adventures or Clank Legacy, and then decided to buy more of that game. But I have far more Kickstarter board games where I decided to pledge for a bundle that contained an expansion, but I never even finished the main game, so I never needed to add to the length of the game. These days I am much more careful with crowdfunding, often only taking the base pledge, as I have the experience of unused expansions only taking up shelf space.

I am a fan of board game expansions that make a game broader without increasing the play time. They work especially well "completely random adventure" type games like Talisman or Arkham Horror, but they can also work well in more strategic games by adding interesting new mechanics.

On the other hand, in a game the runs on discrete scenarios, it's pretty damn rare that I run through all the ones that come with the base game and need more. I think a long Heroes' Quest campaign when I was in college may literally be the only time I've done it.
I absolutely loved Elden Ring and I completed the original game even though I am pretty bad at it. It took me 600 hours to complete the campaign through dogged persistence.

I have all the unlocks for Shadow of the Erdtree. I could buy it and start playing straight away but I am holding off because I am afraid of how difficult it is. Early reports suggest it is a significant step up from the original game and the bosses in particular are a good deal harder. I know that the first game was just about the extreme limit of my persistence. I am not ready to step up to an even harder game.

Of course this being a FromSoft game you have to try and read between the lines to see if the reviewer was handicapping themselves in some way. There is a whole culture around the game that views certain playstyles as being too cheesy and best avoided. In the original game the frowned upon playstyles included over levelling, the use of summons, certain overpowered weapons and the use of magic in general. The expansion may well add to this list of features which moderate difficulty. If the current crop of reviewers are already using such features and still finding it a big step up in difficulty then I know that the expansion isn't for me. If on the other hand they are deliberately not using them or perhaps haven't found the new ones yet then there is hope that I will be able to play the expansion in the future. Time will tell.
@mbp : at least the one the PCGamer journalist had the issue of finding the extension too easy with an overpowered weapon. From reading his article, the weapon itself was hard to obtain in the base game, but he was cruising through the mobs with the weapon, and able to defeat the boss without too much difficulties. He then switched to a new weapon, and find the sweet spot of difficulty he prefers.
Context : I have never played any FromSoftware game, knowing my skill was far too lacking for the low time commitment I can manage. For exemple, I found Shadow of Mordor too hard for me. So I have no idea how to judge the skill of anyone playing Elden Ring.
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