It may have a bad reputation, but DLC can be incredible. Consider, for one moment, The Old Hunters expansion for Bloodborne: it’s a brilliant extension of an already timeless title, which adds exciting new environments, enemies, and armaments to the fray. Of course, add-on packs have a bad reputation because they’re so often flagrant cash grabs, and while Shenmue III’s anticipated Story Quest pack doesn’t quite fall into that category – it’s, well, bad.
Here’s the thing: we were planning to bring you a review of Ryo Hazuki’s re-encounter with Shuqin Zhang today, but we didn’t have the patience to see this short story through. Accessing the content alone is a nightmare: you need to have reached Niaowu or start a new save in that area. Unfortunately, you’ll have to follow a series of steps to trigger the content, and even then there’s no real guarantee it will appear; forums are awash with theories as to why.
The real problem is that this content was clearly designed to be played in parallel with the main campaign, as returning to it once you’ve beaten the story is an exercise in obscene patience. After an alarmingly brief reunion, Zhang will ask you to communicate in Chawan Sign, which fans of Shenmue II will immediately recall. He suggests you align teacups at bars and restaurants and insinuates that finding the right one will further your quest.
And so, you head out into the dense city of Niaowu looking for places you can perform Chawan Sign, with Ryo Hazuki lamenting the location until you find the right one. This would be fine if you were playing the main story, because you’d be exploring the city anyway, but it’s beyond irritating when you just want to see the new content. To make matters worse, when you do eventually find the right location, you’re given an unbelievably vague map and told to go to the highlighted area.
This is where we, as lifelong Shenmue fans, decided to call it a day. The content feels like it’s been stripped from the main campaign and then shoehorned back in, and we just don’t have the time and patience to see it through months after finishing the main story. It may only cost a couple of quid, and it may plot the return of a popular character, but this isn’t how we wanted post-release plot to be implemented. Maybe we’ll come back one day, but developers take heed: this isn’t how you do DLC.
Have you tried to give Shenmue III's post-release plot pack a try yet? Did you get further than we did, or find it a waste of time? Try Chawan Sign in the comments section below.