I don’t know what it is about games with character customization, but I’ll usually put up with just about anything if it means I get to make my own in-game persona and kick butt in a universe I love. Maybe it’s the sense of inclusion and involvement that comes with it, artificial though it may be. However, it will always feel like a great way to immerse myself into the experience even if you’re not the main character, even if there’s not much there to immerse myself into.
The character creation is just about all that Final Fantasy 15’s Comrades DLC has to offer, as everything else that comes with it is extremely minimal in nature: the open world has been turned into a progression tree, the story is actually pretty dull even though the setup has infinite potential to be some really heavy and intriguing stuff, and the general gameplay is all about putting you into an arena where you have to kill X amount of monsters in a very limited, closed off area. But it’s got one heck of a cool character editor that gave me surprising leeway for a game that wasn’t supposed to have one in the first place, and feeling like a badass fighting back the nightmarish horde as one of the Kingsglaive really gave me a rush as someone who was surprisingly hooked into the base game’s story, limited though it may be.
The Comrades DLC has been around for quite a while, but I’ve only recently experienced it as part of the PC package. I didn’t expect much going in, and thankfully I set the bar low or I’d be disappointed. I can’t imagine actually paying $30 for something so throwaway, even though the DLC has its moments, to be frank. But as a package deal for the Windows/Royal Edition I’m actually having quite a bit of fun investing my time in it. But most importantly, I’m really glad that I can come back to the game’s multiplayer mode any time I want - especially after the servers inevitably go offline.
Video games have gone on to become a very Internet focused medium. Many of the major games to release lately require an internet connection for the game to be playable in any capacity as part of the new “games as service” initiative that companies are pushing for. While for a lot of games this makes sense, as any multiplayer focused game will inevitably require some kind of connection to support multiple players (of course), it’s distressing to me that as of late this has started to become the norm for single player games as well. While it hasn’t hit full swing quite yet, the practice has indeed become normalized. Nobody bats an eye anymore that the PC version of Battleborn, Rainbow Six: Siege, Diablo 3, and for a time Hitman required total internet connection despite having a single player mode (or being a single player game for the matter). Games like Destiny or the Division are out classifying themselves as MMOs despite largely being 1-4 player co-op games and are capable of being played without encountering another human soul. Multiplayer games like Overwatch do not support any sort of offline mode even though the game has bots.
Of course, some people would say that for the amount of content they offer that the drawback of not being able to play them down the line isn’t that big of a deal for how “cheap games are” (the price being a separate discussion altogether), and that after putting hundreds of hours on a game I probably won’t be coming back to it any time soon. I get that, and I certainly don’t replay every game I ever bought, otherwise I’d have an infinite lifespan. But I am the type of individual that does like to revisit games I played long ago. I still like plugging in Mario 64 from time to time. I go back to DMC3, 4, and DmC again and again when I want to feel like a badass. Even though Runic has gone under, I love dungeon crawling in Torchlight 1 and 2 on the go on my laptop whenever I’m travelling. I love to get my tactical groove on in SWAT 4 and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, be it in campaign or R6’s terrorist hunt. I play the original Doom even today as fanatically as if it was my oxygen supply. These are all exceptions to my library, of course, but I can easily see Comrades being one of those exceptions down the line when I’m in the mood for a fantasy beat-em-up. The notion that I won’t have that option for a lot of modern games is kind of scary, especially when the reasoning behind it is usually so arbitrary, rooted more in control over the consumer than it is to any actual benefit to them.
For as much as Rainbow Six: Siege updates itself and for as much content it adds, for as solid as the mechanics itself are and as refined as it gets over time, each time I sit down to play it I can’t help but think “someday, all the money I put into this is gonna go up in smoke.” Which is especially concerning as I only ever bought the base game when it was on sale. That same internal logic made it difficult to come back to Battleborn, as much as I loved the campaign mode. Nor did the fact that Siege and Hitman have temporary content that would be forever gone after a set time period, which actually prompted me not to buy the latter even after they added an offline mode (I’m aware Final Fantasy also did this with the Assassin’s Creed DLC, and I’m pissed about that, but this is about Comrades). Even if I were to spend hundreds of quality hours, I can’t help but feel like everything I’ve done up to that point has been a waste of time and money.
Yet here I am playing Comrades, an absolutely repetitive grindfest akin to something like Toukiden as opposed to the main game’s far more expansive Monster Hunter. Most of the quests are exactly the same, putting you in some closed area to fight monsters and then going back to unlock better stuff. Despite it being multiplayer, the matchmaking is (as with any game that uses matchmaking) atrocious, often leaving me to fend for myself among AI allies essentially rendering the whole DLC single player. Even though it is a waste of time absolutely, it’s my waste of time, and I’m loving it. Yes, I know that’s backwards, yes I know it doesn’t make any sense, but the human brain is a funny thing that way.
Maybe apart from the character creation, that’s why I enjoy Comrades so much: the irony. A DLC that’s entirely focused around online multiplayer has far more to offer to players who don’t have a connection to its servers than several modern games even with single player offerings. For all its faults regarding its lack of genuine content, wasted story potential, and its high price, I take solace in my purchase and even enjoy it for what it does offer. Down the line when the servers go down, maybe ten or fifteen years from now, I can always go back to fight for Hearth and Home among the Kingsglaive. Who knows? I probably will.