In the modern age of video games, DLC has become such a huge part of game release schedules that it's not unheard of for a DLC to develop a mind of its own and wander away from the main game entirely. It happened with Ubisoft's psychedelic, tongue-in-cheek '80s action B-movie homage Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and now another Ubisoft DLC is getting the standalone treatment.
Freedom Cry, the story DLC for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, impressed critics with its tale of slave-turned-pirate-turned-Assassin Adewale, who in the main game was merely Edward Kenway's quartermaster but got upgraded to protagonist status for the DLC. Ubisoft has announced that Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry will be available as a standalone game that can be purchased on PS3 and PS4 from February 18th, and on PC from February 25th (releases on Microsoft consoles are currently unconfirmed). Players do not need to own Assassin's Creed IV in order to play Freedom Cry.
It's definitely a move that makes sense, and could well be indicative of the way that Ubisoft - and perhaps other game publishers as well - are planning to approach DLC in future. Story DLC like Freedom Cry makes additional use of the resources and mechanics that were created for the main game, but can open up the game world even further. Making the DLC available to those who didn't buy the main game also opens up the opportunity for more profit.
It will be interesting to see whether new players use DLC like Freedom Cry as an apÃ©ritif for the main game, rather than a digestif. $60-80 is a lot to invest in a game that may turn out to be not at all to the player's tastes, so standalone DLCs like Freedom Cry - which costs $14.99 - could be a good way for people who are on the fence about the main title to try out some of the new pirate-themed gameplay mechanics.
One issue that has been repeatedly brought up when it comes to add-ons like Freedom Cry, however, is whether or not these games are worth the pricetag. BioShock Infinite's DLC Burial at Sea: Episode 1 clocked in at well under two hours for a lot of players, which led to complaints about lack of value for money, and Freedom Cry is only a few hours long compared to the 80 hours it can take to get 100% completion in Assassin's Creed IV.
In the end, however, it's probably quite appropriate that Freedom Cry should become unshackled from Assassin's Creed IV. Perhaps a full game featuring Adewale isn't out of the question, especially since the seafaring adventure seems to have resurrected the franchise.
Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry will be available on PS3 & PS4 from February 18, 2014, and on PC from February 25.