One of the leaks that have caught my attention about the future Grand Theft Auto VI is that, instead of going down the path of GTA V – the game has always been complete and it is only its online mode that is updated – Rockstar North wants to add DLCs that complete the main story.
This, in principle, may seem like a bad thing. In the end the question is obvious: why not put it all in the same game? But Rockstar has a very clear precedent that reflects that, for the company, a DLC is not a way to take money from players, but the possibility to further explore an already created universe and to offer new stories.
This precedent is Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City. Released in October 2009, it is a set of two expansions that complement the story of GTA IV. And, although they were seen as simple add-ons at the beginning, they soon became unique experiences for the saga.
DLCs or new games?
As soon as GTA IV came out, it was clear that Liberty City was a unique city full of opportunities. The gamer recreation of New York was something never before seen in video games, and it soon became a wasteland of possibilities for developers and gamers alike.
However, Rockstar could not take full advantage of their city at first, as that would have led the studio to a development of many, many years. Therefore, they decided to channel their efforts into two DLCs of the main title: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony.
The two expansions present new plots and characters that intertwine with the main story of Grand Theft Auto IV. Thus, as was the case with the main game, the narrative was once again at the center, far beyond the already good gameplay or freedom for the player.
After the 2008 release of GTA 4, Rockstar Games began work on the expansion ipso facto. The idea behind Episodes from Liberty City was to further expand the world of Liberty City and offer new perspectives and characters to explore.
In The Lost and Damned, players assume the role of Johnny Klebitz, the second-in-command of The Lost biker gang. The episode focuses on the gang war between The Lost and their rivals, The Angels of Death. A DLC focused on the roads, racing and gritty violence that drank from the series of the moment: Sons of Anarchy.
On the other hand, there was The Ballad of Gay Tony, where the main character is Luis Fernando Lopez, the Latino assistant of Tony Prince, a night businessman known as “Gay Tony”. The episode focuses on the nightlife of Liberty City and the relationship between Tony and Luis; a classic story of mafias and betrayals with many surprises for the player.
Both episodes not only expanded the world of Liberty City, but also added new game mechanics and features. For example, in The Lost and Damned, players can summon the gang to help them in difficult situations. In addition, the plot of The Ballad of Gay Tony features more action-focused missions and extravagance, including parachute jumps and helicopter combat sequences.
A strategy that was abandoned in GTA V
Although reviews of GTA IV were mixed, again for the presence of violence in the title and for other terms such as gameplay in some areas, the critical response to the DLCs was very positive. The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony received praise for their well-written narrative and focus on strong, complex characters. It was clear, at last, that GTA was not just a shooting and bombing saga; it also had an interesting narrative.
Reviewers also praised the improvements in gameplay mechanics and the addition of new features, as Rockstar took the opportunity to optimize some of the worst elements of the game, optimizing the overall experience.
Sales of the DLC were impressive. After the vice to the main title, players were excited to return to Liberty City and experience the city from fresh and unique perspectives. In addition, the ability to play both episodes together in a single gameplay experience provided players with a massive amount of content to explore and enjoy.
Episodes From Liberty City set a trend in the industry, and many video games copied the strategy of releasing joint DLCs -as Pokémon does or The Witcher did-, season passes and other expansions that do not leave the game behind once it comes out.
With GTA V a different strategy was followed, especially because of the new online mode. However, it is more than likely that Rockstar will go back to the old ways, and if we travel to Vice City again in GTA VI we will surely face more than one original story.