I hate being nickel-and-dimed when it comes to pointless add-on DLC for major titles, but I wholeheartedly approve of expansive additions that are released months after release for a fair price. Rather than flood the Sony PlayStation Store and Microsoft Xbox Live Marketplace with alternate costumes ("Ooh, a superhero cape and a pith helmet!") for protagonist Ezio Auditore, Ubisoft is working on a DLC package for last year's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood called "Da Vinci's Disappearance" that adds several hours of new single-player storyline content in addition to some new multiplayer material. Honestly, my interest is in the new solo missions. David Hinkle of Joystiq had a chance to sit down with a preview build of the upcoming release and offers some thoughts.
The DLC spans three different areas: Rome, Belguardo (the new area I got to slink around through) and another undisclosed location. The DLC kicks off with a brief meeting between Ezio and Leonardo at his workshop, which initiates a go-fer quest: Ezio must track down Leo's assistant, Salai.
Salai is down at the local tavern, gambling. His hot hand has seemingly upset a gang of cloaked men who are evidently fond of not only the color brown but, more importantly, Salai's company. They want him to keep playing and follow Ezio and Salai out of the tavern, which initiates a combat sequence. After the battle, Salai reveals that the conflict wasn't about money, but rather a discovery that Leonardo has made and apparently been quite vocal about: a hidden temple.
Returning to Leo's workshop, the place is a mess and signs of a struggle indicate he'd been kidnapped. A note scribbled on the floor refers to paintings which were thought lost during the attack on the Ezio's villa earlier in the game. So aside from finding Leonardo, Ezio must now track down five different missing paintings for clues about Leonardo's discovery.
My hunt for the first painting took me to an estate in Belguardo. A brief cutscene shows this is the manor of Lucrezia Borgia, who has decided to shut the gates and bar entry for everyone. She's kinda afraid of being stabbed by an assassin, you see -- a very valid fear, granted how many stabbings that have apparently occured in Italy in the early 1500s.
Da Vinci disappears the week of March 8, 2011 at a cost of $10 (PC players who spring for the deluxe edition get it for free when the game itself launches for that platform next month). I know I'll go for this one. Any excuse to spend more time running through the Renaissance on worthwhile missions is welcome. If this DLC turns out to be as good as it looks on paper, then I'd say that other publishers and developers could learn a thing or two from Ubisoft about how to do paid DLC properly. We need fewer $5 costume packs and more $10 single-player expansions that add a several hours to the experience (and aren't already on the retail disc).