Besides new game releases, we also see a lot of expansions and re-releases coming out. We’re taking time to look at three of them, as we explore World War Z: Aftermath, Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye and the Wavelengths DLC for Life is Strange: True Colors.
World War Z: Aftermath
We were surprised when the 2013 movie World War Z received a videogame adaptation a few years after the fact, and now Saber Interactive’s surprised us yet again with World War Z: Aftermath, a heavily expanded version of the original game that’s out as a new release but can also be purchased as an upgrade for people who already own the game.
There’s a next gen version that’s coming next year (as a free upgrade), but Aftermath already has 4K visuals at 60 frames per second in this new version, so the game’s performance has been improved even though the developers have also added in a few new visual upgrades as well. The most noticeable is the enhanced lighting, which of course can make a big impact in a zombie-themed videogame. It may not look “next gen” in its PS4 version and the long load times don’t help, but it certainly looks better than it did in 2018, with a stronger sense of atmosphere thanks to some ominous light and shadow work.
Although its Left 4 Dead-like gameplay made it likely that a World War Z expansion was going to focus online play, it’s fantastic to see two entirely new campaigns with new locations added to Aftermath. One takes you to the streets and catacombs of Rome, while the other takes place in Kamchatka – another location from the film. Maps are generally large, as are the places you need to defend, but luckily you have a few new tricks to do so. Ammo crates can be used to resupply mounted machine guns and a new character class (the Vanguard) can charge forward and push down a bunch of zombies to create a path when you’re in a pinch, just to name two.
There are also new things to overcome, including deadly rats and the biting cold of Kamchatka. Fire works pretty well in both scenarios, but isn’t readily available and you might need to rely on a teammate for help when a pack of hungry rats descends upon you. They’re almost as terrifying as a zombie horde trying to get to you by climbing the bodies of those who tried earlier, although sometimes they get stuck in a climbing animation and they sure seem far less ferocious that way.
With all the new content, the new Aftermath bundle offers great value for money, but we haven’t even touch on the brand new first person mode that was implemented. While the original game had a third person perspective, you can now switch to first person and enjoy more accurate aiming as well as a more terrifying perspective – partly because you can’t see things next to you and behind you as well, offsetting the aiming factor. Having the choice is great, and although we feel the third person mode is the easiest one for learning the ropes we’d encourage any existing players to try out first person as well. For existing players not interested in story content the upgrade price can feel a little steep (compared to a regular update with new features), but anyone looking to jump in will find a good deal in World War Z: Aftermath.
Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye
When Outer Wilds launched last year, it provided a very new kind of narrative experience in an open world. One with plenty of physics- and time-bending puzzles, but also one that was far less objective-driven that your typical open world game. Here, exploration and discovery were crucial, as you stumbled upon a clue that led you somewhere that gave you a new or different perspective on things and/or events. And yes, a different perspective, because Outer Wilds also features a time loop mechanic that lets you experience things multiple times during the game.
The new DLC addon Echoes of the Eye takes players back to the mesmerizing universe of the original game, and manages to do it in an almost seamless way even though it’s largely a self-contained six to eight hour story. That’s still meaty, especially for an expansion, but Echoes of the Eye feels like a smaller scale adventure because you do far less traveling around the solar system here – instead staying confined to a collection of all-new areas. Although these still offer that “difference perspectives” feel as you follow up clues, it does feel like you’re stuck on earth rather than exploring the entire solar system like you would in the base game.
Besides a change in scale, the DLC also delivers a change in tone. There’s still plenty of exploration and puzzle solving to be done, but the new campaign also emphasized atmosphere and scares far more than the base game did. Light and darkness play a big role in delivering them, but because the puzzles also use them as mechanics it still feels organic – even though the more horror-like sections won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s a menu option to make things less scary, but because we enjoy the scarier kind of games (and because it’s October!) we didn’t try it out.
Although it sadly lacks some of the exploration and wonder that made Outer Wilds feel so special and unique, Echoes of the Eye does have that excellent gameplay loop of narrative-driven exploration and puzzles. With an excellent story, it’s an expansion that fans of the original will definitely want to check out. Expect things to be a little different than before, and you’ll fall in love with exploring all over again.
Life is Strange: True Colors Wavelengths DLC
Life is Strange: True Colors only came out a few weeks ago, but we’re already getting a major expansion for it. The Wavelengths DLC is part of the Deluxe Edition of the game (which you can also upgrade to) and features a brand new story to explore.
In the new narrative, you follow Steph, who we already got to know in True Colors. It acts as a prequel as well, as the events take place before the arrival of Alex in Haven Springs. It also functions as a bridge between True Colors and Before the Storm, which first introduced us to Steph. Here, you go through a full year in which Steph gets to Haven Springs and establishes it as her new home – though this doesn’t mean you’ll run into the cast of True Colors. It does give you a better understanding of Steph as a character though, which will shed new light on some of the interactions in the base game as well.
Much of the narrative is based around jobs and chores that Steph has, which serve as ways through which we get to know her colorful and multi-faceted personality better over the seasons. As with all Life is Strange games, the narrative and characters are the biggest driving forces, and Steph’s story is one that enriches both her as a character and our understanding of the narrative universe that binds these games together.
Gameplay-wise Wavelengths doesn’t break into any new ground, but it’s great to see how Steph’s environment changes as our understanding of her as a character deepens. This is easily visible in the record store, and the way everything wraps up makes you feel ready to dive into True Colors again – though I imagine most will wait a while before doing that if they’ve already been exploring its different narrative paths. If you haven’t, then definitely play Wavelengths before diving into your second playthrough – if you enjoyed True Colors you won’t want to miss this one.