With the Dawnguard expansion coming out for Skyrim this week, I thought I’d look back at what I consider to be my favorite expansions. To qualify for this list, the content must have been released after the initial launch of the game, whether that be threw downloadable content or a physical boxed product. The content must also clearly be an add-on to an existing game, and not a sequel in it’s own right. That doesn’t necessarily mean the content can’t be standalone, only that it must be considered an expansion and not a sequel. For this list, I’m looking only at single player content, not multiplayer add-ons or map packs.
10. Awakening (Dragon Age: Origins)
Released as both a disc based add-on and as downloadable content, Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening was a sizable add-on for Dragon Age: Origins. Consisting of 20+ hours of content, Awakening was longer than many full games, and just as enjoyable. As a big fan of DA: Origins, any content that gives me a reason put 20 more hours into the game is great, but Awakening was more than excuse to play more Dragon Age. Awakening featured an entirely new plot set after the events of Origins, it had new abilities, new party members, and new enemy types; it was everything a good expansion should be.
9. Minerva’s Den (Bioshock 2)
I am not a fan of Bioshock 2. I think it was a needless sequel that completely missed the point of why the first game was so well regarded. I consider it to be a blatant cash-in on something that was popular and successful, even tarnishing the original, if only slightly, by it’s very existence. However, the add-on content Minerva’s Den is better than the actual game. This content basically takes essence of Bioshock, and condenses it down to a bite sized experience. Minerva’s Den may not make up for Bioshock 2′s existence, but it is a solid piece of content in it’s own right.
8. The Ballad of Gay Tony (Grand Theft Auto IV)
Instead of putting out new standalone sequels using the GTA IV engine like they did with San Andreas and Vice City on the GTA III engine, Rockstar decided to put out two downloadable expansions set in Liberty City once again. The first one, The Lost and Damned, was decent enough, but it didn’t wow everyone like GTA IV did. The second one however, The Ballad of Gay Tony, is considered by many people to be better than the original game. Like The Lost and Damned, The Ballad of Gay Tony is an entirely new story with new characters and very few ties to the plot of the main game involving Niko. TBoGT has the same type of quality writing, character development, and humor you’d expect from Rockstar, and was a great way for GTA IV to go out.
7. Opposing Force ( Half Life)
Developed by Gearbox, Half Life: Opposing Force is an all new campaign which gives the player a look at the Black Mesa incident from a different perspective, this time playing as one of the soldiers sent in to contain the situation, Adrian Shepard. The Half Life fiction is extremely rich, and this was the first opportunity players got to see things from the perspective of someone other than Gordon Freeman. Since Opposing Force, players have experienced this universe through the eyes of other such as Barney in Blue Shift and Chell in Portal, but Opposing Force is where it started.
6. Point Lookout (Fallout 3)
Bethesda was aggressive in it’s post release strategy for Fallout 3, releasing 5 content packs in the year after the game came out. The quality of the content was all over the place, with the disappointing Operation Anchorage, the outstanding Broken Steel, and Mothership Zeta and The Pitt falling somewhere in between the two. However, the best add-on for Fallout 3 is without a doubt Point Lookout. The reason Point Lookout is far and away the expansion for Fallout 3 is because the simple fact that it is the best of all the add-ons at capturing what made Fallout 3 great in the first place. The other add-ons ranged from frustrating linear to “fairly open”, but Point Lookout is the only one with a true open world to explore, and exploration is one of the key reasons Fallout 3 is so great.