There was a British gameshow in the far-flung past of 2003 called Time Commanders, which used a game engine to simulate historical battles. Unseen programmers lurked in the back room to control an opposing army while a team of four contestants coordinated their own troops. There are two teams in particular that spring to mind: a family who decimated the challenge by falling into their natural pecking order (apparently when it comes to dealing death and destruction, mum’s in charge), and a team of gamers who butted egos and failed to cooperate until they comically lost at a computer game.
The game engine was gifted by developer Creative Assembly. It was Rome: Total War a year before its official release.
That wasn't leading anywhere by the way; I just thought it was neat. The landscape of Triple A gaming has changed so much since then, nowadays it seems like any pre-release material has an unpleasant duality as if the bigwigs are concerned with maintaining the cosmological balance of the universe. You can’t just have a neat thing, that would destroy us all. The neat thing always has to be packaged with something bad, like a neighbor defiling your Halloween bags with fruit. Enter Warhammer: Total War’s Chaos Pack, day 1 DLC free only to those who preorder the main game. It went over really well.
This pattern has been going on for some time. Rome 2: Total War’s day 1 DLC was called The Greek States, free to those who preordered. The DLC contained Sparta, one of the more popular factions arguably thanks to Zack Snyder’s 300 movie. So … business as usual?
Not quite. Try to imagine buying a copy of Rome 2: Total War after release and finding out that Rome isn't a playable faction. That’s absolutely bonkers, right? Well that’s the scenario we’re looking at. I don’t claim to be a Warhammer fanatic, but I've dabbled enough to know Chaos is the ultimate adversary, the impending storm threatening to engulf every civilized race in the Warhammer fantasy universe. The franchise is built on it! Everyone has their factional preferences (dwarfs rule), but when we get down to the nitty-gritty, the two main forces defining that world are the human empire and the chaos hordes. Good and evil. Light and dark. Tom and Jerry.
Other notable examples of fundamental content being cordoned off are the Mass Effect 3 From Ashes DLC, offering a free companion for buyers of either the Collector’s Edition or Digital Deluxe Edition. That companion turned out to be a Prothean, ancient enemy of the Reapers and lynchpin of Mass Effect’s lore. Alien: Isolation pulled a similar trick, offering DLC with the reunited cast of 1979 film classic Alien as a preorder bonus, meaning those who purchased after release wouldn't get Ellen Ripley in an Aliens game unless they forked over extra cash. The sheer audacity is jaw-dropping, and I think Warhammer: Total War’s DLC is especially irritating because of the poor state Rome 2: Total War came out in.
What do you think, Raptors? Is Sega responsible and will they relent? Is Jerry the ultimate evil? Am I too old to go trick or treating?