DLC Review: Relics of the Past

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This title is DLC for Monolith

Monolith itself is an incredibly tight package of retro charm and bullet hell action, which makes the task of marrying an expansion with it all the more challenging. Plenty of DLC out there is used to expand on incomplete features or paper over flaws in the original release, but there’s really none of that to address here. Relics of the Past instead seeks to broaden the already excellent experience, and does so with some fantastic creativity and flourish. If you were already sold on the original game, this package simply gives you more to explore and experiment with, in a way that fits seamlessly with the base.

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There’s a surprisingly deep story to Monolith, casting you as a zippy little ship exploring the titular structure following a global catastrophe that left it populated with machines, magic users, and monsters from beyond the pale. Most of that story focuses on the two playable characters, Null and D-13, but Relics of the Past expands the tale to reveal more of the Monolith’s nature. The biggest draw is perhaps the two new floors, one that comes after the harrowing sixth level and another that exists parallel to the normal progression. The seventh level is a proper escalation in both challenge and style, but the Temple is a unique stop that introduces new progression mechanics and brutally flashy new enemies. Both are tuned to tax even the most skilled players, but the nature of the Temple makes it accessible for newcomers alike.

Not content to simply add new levels, the developers also jammed in some tantalizing new loot. You can find dozens of antique weapons, each a unique configuration of traits and gimmicks that range from hilarious to hilariously powerful. Along with those you’ll find cartridges, a new kind of item that provides sometimes dramatic passive effects like preventing damage over a certain multiplier or lessening ammo consumption. There are several new playable characters, as well, thousands of new room configurations, and an entirely new hacking system that challenges you with different fast-paced minigames to get through certain doors and into special systems.

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The big upshot of all this additional content isn’t just new stuff to see, but also important new decisions to make as you play. Bombs and ammo have many more uses, gambling on a cartridge could change your entire run, and there’s more reason than ever to hang onto a solid weapon instead of swapping up all the time. You’ll even have some handy new quality-of-life features like visual indicators if items are mutually exclusive or permanent fixtures. The new enemies and bosses are also steps up in design and creativity, giving you even more reason to keep plumbing the depths of the place. It’s not often that DLC so effectively broadens and deepens the experience, but Relics of the Past does just that. It gives an excellent game even more space to be excellent, and as such is an indispensable addition for players of all levels.

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