By Dave Gilmore
7:27 AM EDT, June 26, 2012
Hopefully, you haven't traded in "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" or "Mass Effect 3" yet.
New life will find its way into two of the best games of the last eight months, with "Skyrim's" expansion pack and "Mass Effect 3's" extended ending sequence available for download today on Xbox live.
While both are critically-acclaimed gaming masterpieces, the road to the first significant single-player DLC has been as different as Whiterun and The Citadel.
"Mass Effect 3's" ending was as controversial as a game has offered in this console generation. It was literary, ambiguous and moody.
It offered a general audience the sense that the end of something epic had happened, but for the player who had trudged through the entire trilogy, there was a noticeable emotional letdown.
"Mass Effect 3's" add-on endings seek to right an alleged wrong that was done to the faithful fans waiting on the definitive resolution to what happens to the galaxy based on their decisions.
The only thing potentially more controversial than the original ending was BioWare's decision to go back and clarify what happened in order to appease their hardcore fans.
The big question, of course, is whether the new scenes will actually placate those who got Electronic Arts voted worst company in America and were responsible for the game's 1-star rating on Amazon.
While gamers fervently petitioned for a new ending, are they willing to have waited over three months to change their tune? Even if the new resolutions in the "Extended Cut" DLC are breathtaking and satisfying, the question still remains as to whether the people most upset by the ending haven't already moved on.
"Skyrim," meanwhile, came like lightning in a clear November sky. It set a new bar for the fantasy RPG genre, and allowed an unprecedented amount of control in the player's experience.
The open-ended gameplay and organic storyline each player creates has become a double-edged sword in some ways. After playing through the main quests, a player needs to truly love aimless adventuring and exploring to keep "Skyrim" in their rotation.
"Dawnguard" will be the first of several additions to the narrative experience of "Skyrim." The key for Bethesda is that "Dawnguard" not only introduces a vampire-heavy storyline, but brings with it some new gameplay mechanics (like crossbows and flying) that should make for a fresh take on the game.
Whatever the sixth "Elder Scrolls" game will be is at least years away. It may not even come out on this generation's consoles.
"Skyrim" is a great game but ultimately, a critical mass of playable hours exists when there isn't new storytelling or toys to mess around with. The PC community brilliantly sidesteps this challenge with the ability to easily mod the game and share player-created add-ons.
"Skyrim's" open world philosophy begs to be tinkered with, and continued expansion packs on the console just might keep it chugging along until "The Elder Scrolls Online" is released.
All told, this week might be a good time to clear your calendar and fall back in love with two of 2011 and 2012's best games.
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