Mass Effect, Joker DLC Asterisks: Play Before You Play

I had played 29 hours and 56 minutes of Mass Effect, but last night I could not reach the new content in the game's add-on release, Pinnacle Station. I had forgotten one of the common complications of downloadable content.

In this era of common downloadable content releases for big games, it's worth remembering: You can't always play what you download, not right away, now without some work or play.

The fine print of Mass Effect: Pinnacle Station, the $US5 expansion to BioWare's 2007 science fiction role-playing game does provide the proper warning: "Required: you must achieve Spectre status before embarking on this mission."

The inside of the PlayStation 3's Batman: Arkham Asylum box—the box I made such a big deal about yesterday—explains that its additional Joker content can only be experienced on levels unlocked in the campaign.

So, last night, I was out of luck. My main Mass Effect save files was set in what would be the beginning of my second play-through of the game, last saved on June 1, 2008. My main character was levelled up from one tour of duty through the adventure. She was not yet a Spectre and won't be for at least another hour of gameplay that I'm not eager to re-play. But without earning that Spectre rank, she can't get her own spaceship and venture to wherever in the universe the Pinnacle Station is. I do have other save files, but they date back to the game's final sections, moments that occur after cataclysmic events make exploration of the universe is no longer possible.

The Joker content will also be inaccessible to me for a while. Not having started the game, I have unlocked no levels of Batman: Arkham Asylum. So I can't be the Joker any time soon.

Mass Effect and Arkham Asylum aren't the only games that handle DLC like this. All of the downloadable content released for Fallout 3 required that the player have left the game's Vault, its opening section. Unlike Mass Effect, however, the player can never get too far into the game and not be able to access the DLC because they're locked in an end-game situation.

The standard in effect here is: Play some of the base game so you can play some of the DLC.

These are not the standards of multiplayer DLC. Additional multiplayer maps for Gears of War, Halo or Call of Duty can be accessed by anyone who plays the games, no matter where their single-player save files place them.

These are not even the standards of some single-player DLC releases. Bonus adventures for Grand Theft Auto IV and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed are available, once downloaded, through those games' front menus, no dues-playing required. In the case of Star Wars, that is despite the already-released new level of the game occurring between levels that originally shipped on the disc.

If you're excited about the Mass Effect or Joker DLC this week, do read the fine print. Or remember this post. You've got to play to play what you paid for.


    So what, you prefer DLC experiences to be completely divorced from the story rather than integrated seamlessly in a way that doesn't actually draw stupid levels of attention to itself? Fallout 3's still DO draw attention to themselves and are far to easy to find in a world that should be a complete mystery when you step out of the vault.

    Did you seriously expect the initial levels of Mass Effect should be skipped just so you can zip off to pinnacle station before you have a ship? "Actually captain, I reckon Eden Prime can wait, I fancy a drink and a brawl, lets head to pinnacle station."

    GTA4's isn't really a fair comparison since they're different characters and different story in which you meet the original characters.

      i agree 100%

        I'm not sure that the complaint is in relation to the fact that you have to have started the game. It's the fact that in Mass Effect you can't have gone to far in the game otherwise you can't play it either.

        I agree, it is almost like buying an extended edition of the game and then demanding to be able to access any level at any point. It's not the way the game is set up to be played. As pointed out in the DLC description, it requires a certain level of gameplay to access (Just like every other level/sub-plot in the game). It is not a new game like in GTA IV and it is not simply a new map like GoW or Halo. It is an extension to the pre-existing story line and an intergrated part of the game. Ofcourse you are welcome to be personaly frustrated by your situation, but I hardly think that there is an actual issue here.

    I agree with Aliasalpha.

    I think it is safe to assume that if you are downloading DLC for a game, that you have already played through the original game.

    Unless you area game journalist with far too many games :p

    I was pissed when that first bit of dlc for The Force Unleashed was released as a direct from menu load.

    What's the point of saying it happens mid story, if you can leave the story to access it?

    I'm going to buy the Ultimate Sith Edition, because I'm a Star Wars fan, and a Microsoft whipping boy... but I really hope they intergrate those additional levels into the main story.

    You know, now you mention it I think I'd actually prefer the Mass Effect DLC to be tied even closer to the retail game. I haven't played Pinnacle Station yet, but Bringing Down the Sky felt very separate from the rest of the game. You didn't see the Batarians anywhere else and it didn't really impact your travels.

    In Mass Effect 2 I'd love to see them leave some hooks for DLC in the main story line. So when you download your new content you get say, a major side-quest line, a bonus quest inserted into the main line and maybe in cases like the Bartians a few new dummy NPCs scattered around the Citadel. That way it actually expands the in-game universe rather than just tacking a new room on the side.

    I don't know if any of you guys have played Disgaea 3, but the DLC (even the cheap new characters) don't come into effect until after you have finished the game and restarted in the game+ mode (i.e. same not unique story characters start again to unlock extra items/bosses etc etc) which i can understand, as the game makes use of many game+ runs for added benefits, but it's also kind of annoying not to be able to play what you pay for until you have finished the first run of the story.

    I loathe DLC that you have to 'buy' in the game.

    For example, cars in Forza 2- I never paid for a car pack in Forza 2, because the cars they include (Ferraris etc) need to be bought with in-game currency, which would take hours to save up. Considering how many cars are always in the game, any hope of unlocking everything is just this side of impossible.

    Another example is the sham that was HAWXs DLC (which was on the disc the whole time), where some of the planes are locked until you hit level 40, which takes something like 3 hours worth of cheating on Xbox Live to achieve (players team up to exploit the points system), or dozens of hours of regular playing...

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