Ghost Recon Wildlands, Ubisoft's latest open-world shooting game under the Tom Clancy banner, isn't quite done releasing new content. Ubisoft detailed today the game's second major expansion, Fallen Ghosts, for a release at the end of the month on Tuesday, May 30. This DLC will feature a brand new story, continuing where the base game left off, with the Ghosts now being hunted by a new dangerous faction.
While an expansion such as this would normally inspire excitement, Ghost Recon Wildlands' latest announcement has been met more with cautious optimism, with a healthy dose of skepticism. What's working against it? Ghost Recon Wildlands last expansion – Narco Road.
The Road Not Taken
Take it from me, Narco Road was not worth your time, nor money, acting much more as a shallow, cash grab than a faithful expansion. It introduced new side missions that were as boring as they sound (i.e. crop dusting), progressing in the game relied on gaining Twitter followers, and the story was completely incomprehensible. But, Narco Road was perhaps best summed up by the inclusion of a llama-skinned dirt bike that squawked and farted rainbows as nitrous – it's stupid, tone-deaf and obnoxious.
It seems fans liked it even less than I did, seething with rage after the release of Narco Road, with one of the most popular Reddit threads on r/Wildlands simply titled "F*** this DLC." At the same time, players in the Ghost Recon Wildlands forums called for Ubisoft to "rethink" their DLC," with a list of reasons why Narco Road didn't resonate, to which Ubisoft only responded "Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this guys, we appreciate the feedback."
Recall, too, that Ghost Recon Wildlands was largely a successful open-world game that defied typical genre conventions and handled stealth better than most other modern stealth games. That makes Narco Road an even bigger disappointment, because the base game set a high bar.
That should serve as a thorough explanation of the skepticism surrounding Fallen Ghosts, even if there seems to be a lot of promise in the details of Wildlands' latest expansion. In fact, many of the details contrast very well when put up against Narco Road.
The most obvious aspect is that Fallen Ghosts seems more serious. While no one could have predicted the farcical nature in which Narco Road played out, we should have seen the warning signs when they started busting out trailers featuring neon-painted monster trucks and started talking about gaining "followers." Fortunately, there are no such red flag (neon flags?) with Fallen Ghosts. It seems a sincere attempt to portray the Ghosts in a truly desperate, life-threatening situation.
For clarification, I'm not suggesting that these situations can't play out with a little levity, but, if Narco Road is any indication, Ubisoft isn't particularly adept at injecting that kind of humor.
Fallen Ghosts will also return to four-player multiplayer, whereas Narco Road was only playable by two players and some of the side missions (i.e. crop dusting) suggested that it was only meant to be played by one person. So much for cooperative tactics. Other improvements in Fallen Ghosts include new unlockable skills, which actually seem useful, and a "retooled" weather system, all painting a picture of an expansion that seems bent on improving in areas Narco Road failed,
I Smell A Narco
But it's not all sunshine on the horizon. For one, Fallen Ghosts doesn't appear to have new maps in the game, actually making it similar to the way Narco Road simply redrew borders in already-existing areas of Wildlands, which ultimately made for a stale experience (in addition to the other problems).
Most importantly, however, Fallen Ghosts will once again start you off with a pre-made character. It will be a level-30 character, so you're not starting from scratch, but it won't be the character with which you played through the main campaign. To this day, no one is sure why that is and Ubisoft has yet to offer a satisfying explanation. I'm hard-pressed to think of another example where an expansion to a game couldn't be played with the same information you ended the base game.
This earned a lion's share of the ire in Narco Road, and it's already picking up steam again for Fallen Ghosts, with people wondering if you will again lose all your weapon unlocks and be started with a seemingly arsenal, after you had to go through a lot of effort in the base game to get the exact weapons you wanted.
So, it's not all promising, but it's certainly much more promising than Narco Road, but this healthy dose of skepticism is more than fair. Fallen Ghosts is set to be Wildlands final expansion covered under the season pass, unless further announcements of new content are made, so it is Ubisoft's last opportunity to convince those who purchased the $40 season pass that their money was well-spent. Narco Road certainly didn't do that.
Fallen Ghosts will release to season pass holders on May 30 and as an individual purchase (likely around $15, per Narco Road), a week later on June 6. We'll see.