Recently, Striking Distance Studios and KRAFTON, Inc. updated The Callisto Protocol with some optional content. Instead of improving the game, however, this DLC might be yet another nail in Callisto Protocol’s coffin.
On March 14, Callisto Protocol players could start purchasing the game’s Contagion Bundle. This $10 DLC includes new skins for player outfits and weapons, 14 new death animations, and the titular Contagion Mode, which is supposed to be The Callisto Protocol’s ultimate challenge. Anyone who partakes in Contagion Mode deals with stronger enemies, fewer resources, and no manual saves, and, if you die once, it’s back to the beginning of the chapter. Sounds fun, right? Well, according to players, it sadly isn’t.
If you read the Steam reviews for the Contagion Bundle, you will notice they are overwhelmingly negative with only one positive review as of writing. The fact of the matter is that many fans don’t see why they had to pay for the DLC. As many have pointed out, the DLC’s titular Contagion Mode is just Hardcore mode (which was patched into the game in February) but with a worse death penalty. To make matters worse, most of the DLC’s touted additional death animations are apparently just variations of a headlock.
Usually, alternate game modes introduced after release are added free of charge, either in a patch or as free DLC. Harder difficulty modes are usually worthwhile, but they don’t really add anything of note aside from stricter challenges. It’s generally considered to be bad form to charge for that feature, especially when a variation of that concept has already been released for free. Plus, we can’t help but pine for the old days when the only way to unlock harder difficulty modes was to complete the game.
The common complaint among reviewers is that the Contagion Bundle simply doesn’t work. According to a few gamers, the DLC doesn’t even function on its own; you need the season pass to access its “content” (at least on PC). That decision is unfortunately par for the course for The Callisto Protocol. Since when the game launched, multiple outlets and critics, including Eurogamer and GmanLives, reported monstrous performance problems that left the PC version nigh unplayable. It’s not exactly surprising to learn that the DLC has its share of technical problems as well.
That’s the most disappointing thing about this DLC. The Callisto Protocol was supposed to be the unofficial Dead Space sequel we’ve been waiting for. Right out of the gate, though, the sci-fi horror game was criticized for its many technical issues and questionable design decisions that left the game feeling unfinished. To make matters worse, the excellent Dead Space remake has since come along and given gamers the chance to return to that franchise that they’ve been looking for.
So what comes next for The Callisto Protocol? The game’s season pass page details two more upcoming expansions: the Riot Bundle and unnamed story DLC. The Riot Bundle teases a new mode that reads like a new, wave-based survival mode, as well as even more skins and death animations. However, the Contagion Bundle described Contagion as a “new mode” with permadeath, yet it is actually Hard difficulty 2.5. This unfortunate reality calls the Riot Bundle’s promises into question. Will it be an actual new difficulty mode, one that is worth your money, or will it be just another difficulty mode with some new levels thrown in for flavor? And what about that story DLC? How much faith can fans put into story DLC for a game that has struggled so much so far?
Callisto Protocol‘s DLC could have kickstarted that redemption tour that helped get the once-promising game back on track. Instead, it’s poisoned an already murky well. At a time when many are ready to root for new horror from Double-A and Triple-A teams, it’s easy to see why some are choosing to be patient towards and understanding of The Callisto Protocol. We just may soon see how far that patience gets you.