Dr. David's Indie Spotlight: DLC Quest is an important piece of video game satire
Last month DLC Quest landed on Steam, finally giving PC gaming indie enthusiasts a chance to experience its humorous take on the video game industry. For $3 you get about two hours of unbridled humor and what can only be considered a parody of the state of gaming as we know it. The end result is a satirical piece of storytelling that will likely resonate with indie fans. But even if you enjoy only major releases and don't invest much time into smaller titles, you should really check out DLC Quest. Chances are anyone who's played video games in the past five years will “get" it.
The first thing DLC Quest aims to do is tackle the unabashedly ridiculous practices of game publishers. More often than not, these practices revolve around add-on packs — “extra” in-game content that often feels like it should've been part of a video game right from the get-go. DLC Quest takes things a step further, forcing you to “pay” for minor gameplay elements that should already exist within the game. All of your transactions are made with collectible coins that are scattered across levels, and in order to “purchase” new DLC, you need to pay a visit to the local merchant. Remember: no refunds!
When you begin DLC Quest, you immediately notice the lack of sound, movement animations, a pause function, and even a jump ability. You're forced to buy these “packs” in order to proceed. While this is a bit of an exaggeration, it's a hilarious nod at video games that oftentimes don't feel complete at launch. Purchasing new content is a constant mechanic in DLC Quest, and the features you're forced to buy get more and more hilarious. At one point, your path to a new area is blocked off and the only way to progress is to purchase a “Map Pack.” All this DLC does is allow you entry to a new part of the game. Oh, and if you want to go back to the previous area, you're going to have to buy another piece of content.
DLC Quest doesn't just take on DLC practices, though; the game pokes fun at many of gaming's other longstanding tropes. Fetch quests, disposable items, one-liners, and colored fonts that point out key words in character dialogue are just a few of the things that this game blatantly points out. Admittedly, this can be annoying at times, because while DLC Quest is making fun of other games, it's simultaneously doing the things it's bashing. Still, the game is funny almost every time it decides to point out other titles' annoying quirks, and because it's doing it to mock those games, it's easy to let those occurrences here slide.
One of the absolute best jokes occurs early on in the additional Live Freemium or Die quest. As you drop down to a lower area, you're treated to a loading screen that halts the game. Once the next part of the game opens up, you unlock a “day-one patch” that removes loading. As someone who absolutely detests day-one updates (Doesn't everyone?), I found this to be quite the hilarious little jab. (Seriously, developers, stop doing that! I miss the days when patches didn't exist on console games.) There's also a server issue later in the game, forcing you to sit through a couple of wait times and then putting you at the end of a queue.
Thankfully, even with everything that's going on in DLC Quest, this game is put together quite well. You can easily complete both quests in under two hours, but during that time you get to engage in some fun platforming and coin collecting. There are secrets to uncover and achievements (known as “awardments” here), so you can probably clock in a few more minutes of play time. Ultimately, though, while the game aspect of this satirical adventure is pretty good, it's the themes it covers that really make the experience worthwhile.
A number of indie games have managed to set a standard for the vision they attempt to achieve. Journey created a wondrous, emotional world that was fun to visit due to its mystery. To the Moon delivered a plot that was actually worth caring about thanks to its excellent premise and delivery. To mention DLC Quest alongside those instant classics may be a bit hasty, but this project from developer Going Loud Studios successfully dishes out criticism about the gaming industry in ways that make you laugh out loud while being shown evidence that this industry is in a pretty nasty rut as far as publisher-consumer relationships are concerned. For that, it deserves to be played by gaming aficionados that are sick of the standards we've been forced to accept.
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