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Default Mass Effect - Bring Down the Sky Review @ Eurogamer

March 25th, 2008, 15:59
Eurogamer posts a review of Bioware's recently released Bring Down the Sky downloadable content pack for the XBox360 version of their RPG Mass Effect, and give it a less than enthusiastic 5/10:
We tend to measure the worth of our RPGs in terms of hours spent scouring them for every last experience point, so eyebrows were certainly raised at the fact that Bring Down The Sky lasts - at best - an hour and a half…
Also inducing sighs and shrugs is the lack of any real narrative meat. There's minimal NPC interaction, and the motives behind the asteroid attack are vague at best. This is really just a medium-sized combat-heavy side-quest that, had it been squeezed into the main game, wouldn't have had many players rushing to check it out… So instead of plot twists and role-playing, it's just blast, blast, blast, drive, drive, drive, blast, blast, blast…
In fact, it's only at the end, as you confront the Batarian extremists in their HQ, that this mission really comes to life. The building is - gasp! - a new layout, and while there's a ton of combat in this section, you at least feel like you're taking part in something other than a shooting gallery. The story and action finally work in harmony, rather than as separate entities.
The price - 400 Microsoft Points, or GBP 3.40 / EUR 4.80 - is certainly right for an experience this slender, but personally I'd rather have paid twice as much and got something with more substance.
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March 25th, 2008, 15:59
EuroGamer annoys me. They always seem to gripe about everything when everyone else says it's good. I always expect EuroGamer to give a title a mediocre score when it catches reasonable media attention and is generally liked by other outlets. It almost feels like they just want to be different, or (like those GameSpot user reviewers), give it a bad score to, uh, "balance it out." That said, most of the time I don't agree with them (they gave Sam & Max episode 4: Chariot of the Dogs a bad rep— everybody else loved it).

They just don't come across as very professional to me, throwing too much subjectivity and bias into their reviews. *shrugs*
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March 25th, 2008, 16:05
I have to agree a bit, Thaurin. The way I read it, the pack was too short, was all combat and no story, but I'm not sure what else an inexpensive download is supposed to provide. It's not an expansion, it's some addtional content meant to appeal to those who want a little fresh gameplay.

The premise here is that a $5.00 product shouldn't be made and the reviewer wants a $30 product. That's apples to oranges, in my mind.

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors.
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March 25th, 2008, 16:16
Words can't express how much I disagree with that business model. Not because of the choice, as that's always great, but because of what could have been done in its place.

1.5 hours of combat and little else? That must have taken someone with the editor an eternity to come up with.

If what they say is true, I'd have to agree with this criticism.
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March 25th, 2008, 16:54
It's not what I've read elsewhere. I don't know how much dialogue there is, but I've read that is combat-heavy. I'd be surprised if there isn't a satisfying amount of story and dialogue as well. It's just that the original game has so much, that many people complained that there is too much.
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March 25th, 2008, 18:41
Has there ever been any downloadable content that isn't overpriced crap?
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March 25th, 2008, 18:47
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
Has there ever been any downloadable content that isn't overpriced crap?
Well, that's kinda subject to opinion, isn't it? Obviously, there are plenty of people that disagree.
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March 25th, 2008, 19:50
Originally Posted by doctor_kaz View Post
Has there ever been any downloadable content that isn't overpriced crap?
Just off hand I can think of some. Several of the NWN downloads were quite good. A couple of the Oblivion downloads were good, too.
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March 25th, 2008, 20:21
I remember fondly everybody saying that the NWN1 module 'darkness over daggerford' is very good. And so it the Premium Downloads like Wicth Wake and the like.

However, I do agree that 1.5-3.0 hours seem to be a very short DLC - at least for Bioware. As for the DLC itself, I think the premise is good, and the story of course is there somewhere. I just think that the whole 'let's make ME so that both FPS games and RPG games like it' notion a very bad idea, since this is exactly what you get. An hour of combat or so to satisfy the FPS gamers, then maybe 20-40 or maybe even 60 minutes woth of rpgness…thus making a game that is split down the middle instead of blending the two genres: as we say in Danish, they're trying to sit between two chairs. (trying to please both crowds at the same time that is; sorry don't know the saying in English..)

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March 25th, 2008, 20:46
as we say in Danish, they're trying to sit between two chairs. (trying to please both crowds at the same time that is; sorry don't know the saying in English..)
I'm danish, and I didn't even know that one
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March 25th, 2008, 20:48
Oh yeah I forgot about Bioware's NWN mods. The had some good ones at good prices.
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March 25th, 2008, 23:14
I can't play ME until it hits the PC, so I don't know if they are off base - but they are the best general site on the 'net in my opinion.

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March 26th, 2008, 09:20
I think people are often disappointed with DLC because they forget that it *is* a small bite-sized experience that they are paying for. If you think of something like "Bring down the Sky" as a full add-on or maybe even a small sequel, then you are bound to be disappointed. Buying a piece of DLC is more like buying a single piece of filled chocolate, buying a single ticket for a ride in an amusement park etc. You are paying a small price for a fairly short time of amusement and you shouldn't expect it to last for several days.

Try scaling the price vs. gameplay time up on this one: EUR 4.80 - that's at most 1/10 of the price of a full game (it's even less if it's a console game we're talking about). Now scale up the gameplay time 1.5 * 10 - that's 15 hours of gameplay, which is not very short for a full game these days. Also, being in the games business myself, I think people tend to underestimate the amount of work that goes into creating even just 1.5 hour of quality game time.

Now, since I haven't played neither Mass Effect nor this add-on I must admit that the above is just how I see DLC in general. Of course a piece of DLC has to be *fun* for the short while it does last before I'll argue that the price is fair.
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March 26th, 2008, 09:43
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
I can't play ME until it hits the PC, so I don't know if they are off base - but they are the best general site on the 'net in my opinion.
But they hated Sam & Max episode 4!!
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March 26th, 2008, 10:05
Originally Posted by KasperFauerby View Post
I think people are often disappointed with DLC because they forget that it *is* a small bite-sized experience that they are paying for. If you think of something like "Bring down the Sky" as a full add-on or maybe even a small sequel, then you are bound to be disappointed. Buying a piece of DLC is more like buying a single piece of filled chocolate, buying a single ticket for a ride in an amusement park etc. You are paying a small price for a fairly short time of amusement and you shouldn't expect it to last for several days.

Try scaling the price vs. gameplay time up on this one: EUR 4.80 - that's at most 1/10 of the price of a full game (it's even less if it's a console game we're talking about). Now scale up the gameplay time 1.5 * 10 - that's 15 hours of gameplay, which is not very short for a full game these days. Also, being in the games business myself, I think people tend to underestimate the amount of work that goes into creating even just 1.5 hour of quality game time.

Now, since I haven't played neither Mass Effect nor this add-on I must admit that the above is just how I see DLC in general. Of course a piece of DLC has to be *fun* for the short while it does last before I'll argue that the price is fair.
I know there are multiple ways of estimating worth, and I can only speak for myself.

To me, it's not a simple matter of minutes or hours of added content. It's about how the DLC changes the game or enhances the experience. Since I've completed Mass Effect, I know what I'm talking about. The sidequests were - 9 times out of 10 - totally derivative and pointless, almost like randomly generated stuff with a few lines of unique dialogue. Again, that's just my opinion. This DLC sounds like it might be 1.5 or 2 sidequests worth of content.

That translates into ~2 * 0 = 0 content for me.

That's putting it harshly, of course, but that's really how I read the info I've seen about Bring Down the Sky.

Naturally, if you thought of the sidequests in ME as something special, then your views will differ.

I'd much rather pay a small sum for, say, a new vehicle that worked better than the MAKO. Perhaps a few new skills for the characters, or something like that. That would enhance the game as a whole and would make it a slightly richer experience for the next playthrough.

About how long it takes to make 1.5 hours worth of content, again it's also not a simple matter of measuring length. It depends on the kind of content and the game itself.

If this content is indeed similar to the sidequests, then I'm absolutely convinced it was a tiny effort on the part of a few developers with their powerful editors in hand. Not necessarily very cheap, and I guess they paid some voice actor to read a few lines - though I suspect they have a lot of extra dialogue from production left they decided to hold on to. That would have been the smart thing to do, anyway.

But it goes much deeper than that, and I find it hard to put into words. I simply don't think tiny packages (no matter how cheap) are a good way of expanding the game. That depends, again, on the type of gamer you are.

Personally, when I sit down with a game, I sit down expecting a good long and fulfilling experience. I didn't complete ME just so I could get an extra hour here or there in the future. The game was done, and adding tiny bits won't make me sit down again. Perhaps if they continue to release these quests, I might buy them once it becomes similar content to an expansion, but even that I doubt.

I simply find the wholesome nature of an expansion much more interesting, than small packages lumped together that have little or no correlation to each other.

It's not about price either, not at all. I'm not in a tight spot financially, and if a game is good the price is not really a concern - as long as it's within reason of course. I don't mind paying extra for quality, and I might even pay a lot more than most people would be willing to part with.

It's really about whether the combined worth constitutes a significant addition to the game or not, and with the typical DLC I don't see it. I just see greedy developers trying to make a buck, simply because they can. Nothing wrong with that, just not something I want to support.
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March 26th, 2008, 11:45
I think that's a valid point: if you've completed a game, how attractive is 1.5 hours in the middle of the game (you have to reload a save within a certain range, as I understand it).

I'm not opposed to DLC at all but developers need to be careful with their approach. The NWN Premium Mods are the best examples I've seen, so far.

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March 26th, 2008, 13:45
I've mentioned the Sam & Max episodic content already and in my opinion that's an example of something that works extremely well, too.

As for Bring Down the Sky, I've read it's similar to the side-quests in a way, but lots better. Where the side-quests were the "almost like randomly generated" sort like you said, I've seen more people claim that BDtS is what these side-quests should have been.

Personally, I'd rather have new missions than an enhanced MAKO vehicle or something (what was wrong with it, anyway?), but I see your point. In many ways, having a full-length game ahead of you is the preferable experience when you sit down to a game, but over the years I think I've started to appreciate bite-sized better.
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March 26th, 2008, 14:04
Originally Posted by Thaurin View Post
I've mentioned the Sam & Max episodic content already and in my opinion that's an example of something that works extremely well, too.

As for Bring Down the Sky, I've read it's similar to the side-quests in a way, but lots better. Where the side-quests were the "almost like randomly generated" sort like you said, I've seen more people claim that BDtS is what these side-quests should have been.

Personally, I'd rather have new missions than an enhanced MAKO vehicle or something (what was wrong with it, anyway?), but I see your point. In many ways, having a full-length game ahead of you is the preferable experience when you sit down to a game, but over the years I think I've started to appreciate bite-sized better.
Just to clarify, I don't mind the idea of episodic downloads in general. I'm talking about these tiny packages that have become popular since Oblivion - or perhaps even before that.

It's a personal preference thing, of course, and I guess they wouldn't be doing it if there wasn't a market for it.

About the MAKO vehicle, well, one of the most agreed upon criticisms of ME was the vehicle controls and how the vehicle itself was used. Not that a new vehicle would necessarily fix that, but it was just an idea of something nice to have in a new game. Perhaps an upgraded MAKO you could get when you had enough cash accumulated in the game. I like those little prestige driven rewards that some games have, but it's obviously not a big deal.
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March 26th, 2008, 14:25
My main concern about DLC is simply the time between releases. I bought ME within a week of its' release and played through it 3 times in row all before christmas. Now 2 months later we get an hour and a half's worth of playtime … but no matter how great this DLC is, I just can't be bothered to start a new game and play for about 10 hours before I get to see the new content.

I didn't buy any Sam & Max adventures until the entire first season was available in retail and I doubt the second, third, etc season will be any different for me but at least the time between episodes seem about right, especially considering that each episode is a story onto itself and can be played individually. The Half Life 2 episodes, on the other hand, is just horribly executed. 18 months of waiting for 4 hours of gaming is just not good enough.

I'm not particularly against DLC but for my usual playing preference they are simply too little, too late … and if not too little, then at least too late because I mostly play one game at a time until I'm finished with it (or fed up), so if I get a game around release then it has already been collecting dust on my shelf for weeks/months when the first DLC arrives.

Even so, I must admit that I bought and downloaded Bring Down the Sky as soon as I saw it on Xbox Live Marketplace

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March 26th, 2008, 14:31
Even so, I must admit that I bought and downloaded Bring Down the Sky as soon as I saw it on Xbox Live Marketplace
Therein lies my problem with the concept as a whole. It's so cheap that many people just pay the trivial cost because "what if" the DLC was good.

I personally suspect that's the reason DLC works so well, and not because people have such a strong desire for that kind of content. What's equally sad about human nature, is that we have a tendency to justify our expenditure by denying its actual value to us.

Note that I'm not accusing you or anyone else of that, but I fear it might be a factor in allowing these developers a way to the buck that's simply too easy. I don't mind them making easy money, who wouldn't want that, but if the tendency grows we might start seeing less and less quality and quantity, and more and more of these insignificant tiny packages of chocolate.
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