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Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods should be the template for video game DLC

One year after its release, Doom Eternal is now complete. The first-person shooter just got its second expansion, The Ancient Gods Part Two, which caps off the Doomslayer’s story for now. The paid DLC offers some of the game’s toughest content yet, as well as a new weapon that completely changes the flow of battle.

The Ancient Gods Part Two is an excellent way to round out a successful year for Doom Eternal. Despite boasting a relatively short campaign, the game remained relevant over a 12-month period — an ideal that many modern games desperately aim to achieve. Unlike some of its peers, the game managed to pull that off with only two DLCs and a handful of tweaks along the way.

The secret to Doom Eternal’s success isn’t such a secret. By resisting modern live-service trends, the game’s boilerplate approach to traditional DLC shows that studios may be trying too hard to keep players hooked. The answer is, quite simply, good content.

One year later

When Doom Eternal launched on March 20, 2020, it faced stiff competition. That was the same date that Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed on the Nintendo Switch and took the world by storm. Despite that, Doom Eternal still broke franchise records, selling 3 million units in just one week. That tripled the launch sales of its 2016 predecessor.

Rather than rolling out constant updates to push the momentum, id Software took its time. The game got its first significant update on October 20, 2020, with The Ancient Gods Part One. The paid DLC brought an all new single-player campaign to the game and a whole bunch of additional demons. For those who loved the base campaign, but were left hungry for more, it provided a good five hours of extra content.

DOOM Eternal: The Ancient Gods – Part Two | Official Trailer

Just last week, almost exactly a year after the game’s launch, id finally dropped The Ancient Gods Part Two. Like its predecessor, the new expansion is a welcome trip back to Doom Eternal. It’s a shorter campaign on paper, but it forces players to show a mastery of everything they’ve learned this apst year. It’s a blisteringly difficult few hours that serves as a final challenge for committed players.

That probably sounds like a run-of-the-mill DLC rollout, and it is, which is why it worked.

Rather than inflating the game’s life span with a constant barrage of updates, id gave players a better reason to log in. Both expansions added significant story content to the game and new mechanics to enjoy. Part Two’s hammer is an especially fantastic addition that brings another layer of complexity to the fast-paced combat.

There was still more for die-hards to do. The game’s multiplayer Battlemode offered new monthly cosmetics for players to hunt down, and the game’s several difficult options gave masochists a good reason to replay the campaign. More casual players, on the other hand, were free to leave and then check back in six months later without feeling like they’d missed anything.

Keeping players hooked

This traditional approach to DLC stands in stark contrast to today’s aggressive gaming landscape. Studios have spent years tinkering to find the best way to keep fans playing longer. That’s resulted in the rise of the live-service game, a long-tailed approach to content that’s been a mixed bag for players and developers alike.

Keeping up with a game like Destiny 2 can be exhausting. The constant churn makes it so that there’s never a moment to rest. Taking a few months off can leave players with a laundry list of grinding to do if they want to stay up to date. FOMO often ends up fueling the experience more than fun.

Doom Eternal
Image used with permission by copyright holder

As a Destiny die-hard, there have been plenty of moment’s in the game’s life span where I wished it would just pause. The seasonal changes quickly became overwhelming, demanding more time than I could realistically give a single game. At times, I’ve almost wished that the game would drop its live-service premise entirely and go back to dropping two big expansions every year. What I wouldn’t give to pop in twice a year to enjoy some fresh content and log out without the guilt.

That’s what the experience of playing Doom Eternal over the past year has felt like, and it’s a breath of fresh air by comparison. I played it because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to.

Doom Eternal didn’t demand players’ constant attention — it earned it. The strong content gave fans a good reason to boot the game up again every six months. It certainly isn’t the only game to take that approach, but it makes a strong case for focused expansions over a drawn-out breadcrumb trail of content.

If it ain’t broke, don’t rip and tear it.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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