Well, it’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it? We’ve followed Commander Shepard across the years, and across the galaxy, battling against nothing less than our complete annihilation. But there’s one last shot in the chamber, it seems, as a sinister conspiracy seems aimed at killing off the legendary Commander Shepard. Such is the plot of the new Mass Effect 3 “Citadel” DLC, now available for 1200 MS Points.
Note that this review openly discusses details from the original Mass EFfect 3 game. So if you somehow still haven’t played it and still want to, come back and read us later. It’s alright, I won’t be offended.
I know that people have mixed feelings about content DLCs for Mass Effect 3, the ending of which is very definitive. Even with the “best” ending and the added fluff of the “Extended Cut” DLC released last summer, there isn’t anywhere else for Shepard’s story to go after the credits roll. While the “best” ending leaves Shepard’s ultimate fate ambiguous, Bioware has told us that Shepard’s story is over. So what is there to add to the gameplay of Mass Effect 3? I actually think Bioware has done a decent job of addressing this; I enjoyed the “Leviathan” DLC if only for its interesting story reveal. “Return to Omega” is cutting room floor stuff; the conclusion of Aria’s plot arc belonged in the original game, but at least its spot in the Mass Effect story makes sense. But “Citadel”… “Citadel” is one fine DLC. I would have said that the gold standard for Bioware’s DLC before this one was probably “Lair of the Shadow Broker”, which added substantially to my Mass Effect 2 experience, had an interesting plot, and some interesting combats interwoven with some great moments for Liara and Shepard.
“Citadel” is better, and it is better because it honours what has been Mass Effect’s biggest strength all along: the characters. The party interaction. The dialogue. The combat system in Mass Effect 3 is very polished, and it functions very well for what it needs to do, but I would not play Mass Effect 3’s campaign for just the combat sequences. Instead of just fighting through waves of mooks, Shepard finds himself blending into a gala at a casino, blending in at the roulette table and socializing with the who’s who of the Citadel… in between casually shutting down cameras and bypassing security while a companion distracts nettlesome guards. Meanwhile, another companion is sneaking through the ventilation system, all so you can get one single crack at someone who may or may not have answers Shepard wants. It is probably worth noting that this DLC is simply not self-serious in the way that the rest of Mass Effect 3 is. If you feel a shift in tone is dramatically inappropriate, this DLC could rub you the wrong way I suppose.
Things open with orders to put the Normandy in to the Citadel for refits and repairs, where our old friend Admiral Anderson has given over his (ridiculously) swanky Citadel apartment for your use. Anderson does not anticipate ever leaving Earth again; even if he survives the final confrontation with the Reapers, the effort to rebuild Earth is something he knows he can’t walk away from. Once there, you end up meeting Joker for sushi in a highly exclusive restaurant on the Citadel. Things go south soon after, and Shepard is forced to deal with yet another problem dragging him away from the master situation of the Reapers. Things culminate in what could possibly be the most difficult combat in the game (about which I will reveal nothing at all; better that way). I found that I didn’t mind.
The thing about “Citadel” is that it’s genuinely lighthearted and funny, with razor-sharp writing. It’s a remarkably refreshing detour from the otherwise dour tone of Mass Effect 3. The game’s tone is, largely, completely warranted… but this DLC provides a break from the agonizing struggle of the war that the original game really, for the most part, lacked. Combat sequences breezed by in a frenzy of faced-paced action and constant party banter, making me think fondly on the constant party interactions from Dragon Age II. The respites between the action sequences are more of the same. Granted, just shoving characters into the setting of Shepard’s ultra-unbelievably-luxurious-swanky Citadel apartment doesn’t feel as organic as another scenario might… but gathering party members on the Normandy is a bit of a contrivance as well, isn’t it? Let’s give Bioware a pass here. They try hard to get your old squad members involved. Tons of characters return from the previous games, offering them more screen time than they otherwise received in Mass Effect 3… including the opportunity to once again use fan-favourite Wrex as a squad member (really, what’s a squad without a Krogan?)
If you’re still angry about Mass Effect 3’s ending, after all of the time, discussion, and the “Extended Cut” DLC (and, if you are, I certainly don’t blame you – it was a travesty) then you may not find the send-off this DLC gives to the characters and the scenario any more satisfying… but, on the other hand, you might. I thought it was a nice fan-service sort of addition to the Mass Effect canon, and a fun adventure besides. Incidentally, this DLC occupied me for at least three hours so far, and I haven’t gone through everything it offers. You should make your own decisions on whether it is priced fairly based on this.