In this day and age expansions are way more than just a few bells and whistles, and these are the top five expansions that really added some meat to their respective games.
5. Splatoon 2 - Octo Expansion / Nintendo EPD
It must be said that Nintendo doesn't tend to follow the examples of others, and their DLCs and expansions are no exception. Instead of releasing them soon after the main game, we're often made to wait a while, but it's often worth it.
This summer saw the launch of the Octo Expansion for Splatoon 2 nearly a year after the main game launched on Nintendo Switch. It added a new single-player campaign where you played as an Octoling providing players with new mechanics and lots of levels to conquer, and this was way more substantial than the existent offering that the original provided. It gave meaningful content to explore for those playing solo, and a lot more challenge as well, all of which was packed with flavour and variety.
4. Total War: Warhammer II - Multiple / Creative Assembly
The Creative Assembly has unleashed two excellent expansions for Total War: Warhammer II this year in shape of Rise of the Tomb Kings (January) and Curse of the Vampire Coast (November) and we thought we'd bunch them together as one entry as they both add meaningful high-quality content to what's already a very accomplished game.
Adding various new features and systems on top what's already there, a new race in Tomb Kings, and four Vampire lords in Vampire Coast, what's great is that not only do they provide new content, but they also update and make the main game more interesting - just how we like our expansions. The mechanics they introduce also change the way we play and understand the battlefield, for an added burst of freshness.
3. Prey Mooncrash / Arkane Studios
Announced with an excellent trailer at E3 accompanied by Dead or Alive's 'You Spin Me Round', Prey's DLC Mooncrash offers something quite rare in the world of AAA video games as it's a bit of a remix, a Roguelike remix, if you will, of many of the ingredients that went into the main game. While Prey wasn't a big hit commercially it is encouraging to see Bethesda and Arkane taking the time and effort to create a truly meaningful expansion.
What does it mean in terms of the gameplay then? Well, players take on the Typhon and try to piece together what happened from the perspective of a contractor experiencing simulations of the events. It's a neat set up for the fact that there's a procedural twist to the level as enemy placement and loot changes between runs. In many ways, Mooncrash is a full game experience in its own right and it offers plenty of new content, but most of all it provides a great challenge and an opportunity to test your skills if you've mastered the main game.
2. Mario + Rabbids: Donkey Kong Adventure / Ubisoft Milan, Ubisoft Paris
When Ubisoft started working on the Donkey Kong expansion for Mario + Rabbids they didn't plan on making it as big as they did, but the adventure just kind of grew as they started working on the separate campaign and the many new mechanics introduced with Donkey Kong as a playable character in this wonderful strategy mash-up.
One of the major ways in which Mario + Rabbids innovated the turn-based strategy genre was the way in which it treated movement, as it made for much more dynamic options than what's usually the case in these sort of games. As you'd expect, bringing someone like Donkey Kong onto the playing field makes things even more different, particularly as he can act as a bit of a tank, allowing him to draw the attention of enemies, use area of effect attacks, and set up his squadmates.
Donkey Kong Adventure is an expansion done right and while it is a little pricey, it's certainly worth picking up if you're up for a slightly more bananas take on Mario + Rabbids.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country / Monolith Soft
Released late last year, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was an excellent game that was sadly overlooked by many. Torna offers a new adventure, in some ways more of a sequel than an expansion, but not as large in scope as the main game. However, in some ways, this expansion is even more memorable thanks to its narrative and tightened focus. There is less Blade management and more side stories to explore, if you will.
The plot takes place hundreds of years prior to the events of the main game as you follow Lora on her adventures. It's a brand new story, one that's enjoyable without prior knowledge, but will certainly fill in plenty of gaps for longtime fans of the series. It's really interesting to know where Alrest ends up later after the conflict that is at the core of the Torna - The Golden Country. This is a more focused effort in many ways that maintains the core gameplay of the main game while trimming down some systems (while also adding a few new systems on top).
We were a bit surprised when we realised three expansions for Nintendo Switch exclusive titles made our list of the best expansions of 2018, but it speaks volumes about the approach that Nintendo themselves - and developers like Ubisoft and Monolith Soft - take to expansions. An expansion isn't just there to give us more of the same, but something different, something that feels meaningful, and something that has been designed after the main game and that has taken feedback into account. For this and the reasons stated above, Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna - The Golden Country wins our award for best expansion in 2018.
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