Friday, January 18, 2013

Mass Effect 3: DLC Roundup!

FAIR WARNING: If you haven't played BioWare's Mass Effect 3, you might want to skip this one. It's not going to make a whole lot of sense.

Last night I finished another play-through of Mass Effect 3 (my third), and I realized that it had been a while since I mentioned something about the game here. That surprised me, seeing as they've released four DLC packs for the single player game, the most recent being released a few weeks ago. Well, more than four if you count the alternate appearance DLC and weapons. So let's talk about the four packs that somehow alter the single player campaign's story:

From Ashes - This was the first DLC to be released and boy howdy, did it cause a lot of frustration for players. A lot of people threw a fit because it was released the same day as the game itself. They didn't like the idea of having to pay money for something that's supposed to be on the game disc itself. Not only that, but everyone knew that this somehow involved the Protheans, the extinct race that's rested at the heart of the franchise for the previous two games. Given the fact that the Catalyst is supposedly a Prothean invention, the Prothean in this DLC obviously has something to do with this, right?

Well, no, actually. Javik, the last Prothean left, knows nothing of the Catalyst. As a matter of fact, Javik adds very little the game. Sure, he's a useful extra squad member, but that's about it. He's a surly, mean-spirited individual that I've wanted to kick on more than one occasion. About the only time I like having Javik in the game is during the Thessia mission. If you've played the game, you know why.

So basically, this DLC rates a lukewarm "meh" from me. Not worth the stink it caused, that's for sure.

Extended Cut DLC- Out of all the DLC, this one was the most necessary. The original ending of Mass Effect 3 was, in a word, awful. So much so that I actually took the time to share my feelings in a YouTube video. Yeah, I know. I'm a nerd. That's not news to me.

The stink over this one grew so large that the folks at BioWare acted and fixed this and they did a pretty good job. Originally, the game shoe-horned the player into one of three barely explained choices and then bang, the game just ended. There was no closure to . . . well, anything. Saved the krogan from the genophage? You won't know how that turned out. Picked the quarian over the geth? No clue what happened after that. All you were left with was a strange coda that was poorly voiced by Buzz Aldrin. Seriously.

So they went back in and they added in some extra dialogue to help us understand what was happening in the final moments. And they added a epilogue that helped give closure to the entire franchise, showing us through bits of video and pictures how everything turned out. I shared my favorite. What can I say, I'm a sucker for the krogan.

Overall, this one was a great addition to the game because it fixed a major defect in the game. In its original form, I didn't really want to replay Mass Effect 3. With the Extended Cut, I want to go back and see how my decisions change the ending. So this is definitely worth it.

Leviathan - There's something lurking in the darkness, a powerful force that once took out a Reaper. Commander Shepard and his team have to race against the Reaper forces to locate the Leviathan and convince it to join their war against the Reapers. But Leviathan does not want to be found. Not by Shepard, not by the Reapers, not by anyone. The darkness must not be breached.

I loved this one! While it didn't add any new enemies or any new squad mates, it added a lot to the Mass Effect mythos, further explaining the Reapers' goals and motivations. I wouldn't normally have thought that's a good thing (something that I explain in this post over at Speculative Faith), but in this case, it helped. I got chills when Shepard finally found Leviathan. It was a great addition to the game.

But I do have one gripe with it. The developers didn't do a good job of integrating the Leviathan missions with the rest of the game. Once the DLC missions become available, you can basically play through all of them in one long burst, which means that you can wind up facing Reaper forces you haven't encountered in the main game yet. For example, at one point, the Reapers unleash banshees after Shepard's squad, and one of the squadmates correctly identifies them. That's even though the player hasn't gone to the ardat-yakshi monastery yet. I would think it would have been easy to stagger the Leviathan missions so that you can't complete them until you've reached certain parts of the game (i.e. you can't play the mission with the banshees until after the ardat-yakshi monastery).

But that's a minor quibble and not that big of a deal. This one was great and helped make the game even more complete, so far as I'm concerned.

Omega - So in Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard visits a mining outpost called Omega, one run by a ruthless asari named Aria T'loak. Well, in the chaos of the Reaper invasion, the human terrorist organization called Cerberus has invaded Omega and taken it from Aria. Now Aria wants Shephard's help to reclaim it once and for all. Shepard leaves his team behind to join Aria in a desperate fight to retake Omega.

There's a lot going for this DLC pack. For starters, there's one of the squad mates you gain for these missions, namely Nyreen Kandros, a female turian (something heretofore unseen in the Mass Effect franchise). Nyreen is a noble individual, an interesting counterpoint to the very cynical and cruel Aria. And your Cerberus opponent, General Petrovsky, was a fascinating individual. Then there's the bonus powers that Shepard gains access to once the Omega missions are completed. I switched from warp ammo to Aria's flare power and never looked back. As a matter of fact, I have a feeling that flare is a bit overpowered; it allowed me to slice through enemy forces through the rest of the game with a little too much ease.

And yet . . . and yet there are problems. Once again, we have the same problems as in Leviathan. I was fighting Cerberus phantoms before encountering them in the main game. Not such a big deal this time around, I guess. But what did bother me is how underdeveloped the story on this one seemed. While Petrovsky was a cool opponent, the final showdown with him seemed anticlimactic. And the adjutants, while creepy, didn't seem to add much to the story either. So while this was an interesting addition to the game, once I finished it, I felt very underwhelmed.

THE VERDICT:  So how to sum all this up? The Extended Cut DLC was a must because the game is incomplete without it. Leviathan makes the game that much cooler. Omega is okay, I guess. And as far as I'm concerned, Javik can go crawl back into stasis.

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