Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review: An End, Once and For All
This is it, isn’t it? One last ride with Commander Shepard as we take on a group of well-armed and ill-intentioned bad guys in order to save the galaxy with our friends in tow. BioWare made us well aware that this was going to be the final piece of DLC released for Mass Effect 3. In effect, Citadel would be a send-off for the series that people had invested so much time and energy into over the last six years.
So how was our ride into the sunset with Commander Shepard and crew?
SPOILER WARNING: As per usual, in discussing the story, I’ll be spoiling parts of the main plot of the game and previous DLCs as well as plot points revealed in the DLCs trailer and official description.
Shepard, crew and ship have been going hard since the start of the game and Admirals Hackett and Anderson think it’s time that the Normandy gets some repairs and a tune-up. So while the Normandy is in dry dock, Shepard and crew can take a little R&R and get some shore leave.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure with Shepard unless somebody got shot. This time out, the target is a band of mercenaries who are hellbent into turning our intrepid hero into Swiss cheese while he/she’s trying to grab a bite at the Citadel’s best sushi place with Joker. We’re also introduced to Maya Brooks, an Alliance intelligence analyst who found that Shepard’s communications had been hacked and the mercs were using it to get to him.
Having narrowly escaped that dust-up, Shepard calls in the troops to help you out with this mess. Does he really need to call in everyone? Probably not. Do you care that everyone gets called in to deal with a merc group that wants to kill Shepard? No. You’re not buying this DLC for a gritty, depressing adventure that piles on top of the other dark subject matter of ME3.
Anyway, Shepard eventually bests his foe (shocking, I know) after a couple of plot twists and a firefight in the Citadel archives with your crew. One plot twist was kind of predictable. The other was so unexpected that I had to check the news to see if EA had sold off BioWare. There’s no way that EA’s BioWare could have written that but it turns out that they did.
After the mission is over, Shepard thinks its time for everyone to blow off a little steam so he organizes a massive party for all his friends at his new apartment. You also have a chance to catch up with your friends outside of mingling at the party. It’s kind of like the one-on-one moments you have with your crew during the main campaign but in new settings. And, yes, you get another special moment (or two) with your love interest.
Perhaps the best part of this DLC was the dialogue. It really shows that the writing staff had a lot fun writing this DLC. This is full of funny banter between squadmates and some lovely character moments with friends. Best of all, there are scads of meta jokes in the DLC. There are jokes about all the near-death experiences the crew has faced, Shepard’s dancing, his catchphrases and just about every other meme that Mass Effect has generated. I think we were a “I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favourite (blank) on the Citadel” short of getting them all. And, yes, Shepard dances in this DLC. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen Shepard and crew star in a Harlem Shake video yet. I think that it’s possible after Citadel.
The story of this mission feels fairly disconnected from the rest of the war against the Reapers but that’s understandable. Citadel was written as the final mission of the SSV Normandy, not as another adventure of the Normandy. Sure, there’s that looming dark cloud of the actual ending looming over the horizon but no one really brings it up, nor do I want them to. This is a DLC for fans of the series to enjoy while everyone from Shepard’s friends to the actors to the writing staff blows off a little steam. After six years of doing this, I think we’ve all earned this little bit of R&R.
The combat is pretty status quo for ME3. The enemies do feel tougher than your standard foes, though they look like a reskinned Cerberus setup, right down to the troopers with riot shields (though these ones are see-through). The final boss battle was greatly designed though. BioWare designed the final boss to mimic your Shepard’s class which means that everything you dish out is something that you have to take which makes for a unique fight and a tough challenge. I’d hate be a vanguard for this one.
The main Citadel mission only takes two to three hours but there is so much more to the DLC than a little bit of running and gunning. There’s a whole reunion part of the DLC too. While it took me about three hours to do the mission proper, my total time for the DLC after cleaning up all the reunion moments came close to seven hours.
The Shepard reunion tour involves a lot of mini-games (such as rock ’em, sock ’em robots and a space defence game), gambling (including the return of quasar) and the combat simulator. The casino is introduced in a Kasumi’s Stolen Memory-esque section of the mission while the Arcade (with mini-games) and the combat simulator are introduced during the reunion moments.
The combat simulator is kind of funny, though, when you consider that it’s similar to the multiplayer horde mode but is in single-player. I recall seeing a dev once address the possibility of adding AI allies to multiplayer by saying that it would never happen. It might not have happened in multiplayer but it did happen in single-player.
So while the gameplay might not really introduce much new, it does present a rewarding challenge. You even get a bunch of things to do outside the mission which are fun little distractions. It’ll keep you occupied for a bit. And it’s always fun to throw your weight around in discussions with squadmates and have it affect how things play out.
Well, we all know what to expect from the game’s graphics at this point. The Silversun Strip is just a fantastic area that looks gorgeous thanks to the unique design and scads of neon lighting. Shepard’s new apartment is also likely to be your new dream apartment. However, all the combat areas are fairly status quo.
I didn’t run into too many glitches. Early on, I had some issues with the camera getting caught on the scenery when I was moving between cover. There were a few instances of characters having their head snap in place during a conversation but that was about it. Considering I didn’t get the so-called Jesus glitch in Omega, I figure that I was due for a glitch and it was nowhere near as bad as Leviathan’s ladder glitch.
One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was how your crew was animated during the trip through the archives. While your two squadmates look fine, the rest of the team look stiffly animated as they run through the archives. They really just move in a straight line with their guns up. There’s just no life to their movement.
Speaking of graphic annoyances, I was quite disappointed that the group photo wasn’t saved somewhere for me to access it outside the game. It’s quite clearly saved somewhere because it’s on the TV in Shepard’s apartment. If someone from BioWare is reading this (I highly doubt it but I can always hope), can you guys tell us how to extract that photo from the game. It’d be nice to add a picture of my crew into my gallery of Mass Effect wallpapers.
Well, when BioWare said that they were going all hands on deck (a phrase that Shepard conveniently says when rounding up the troops at the start of the DLC [another meta moment]), they weren’t kidding. Damn well near everyone was back for the DLC. The only absence of note is your ship’s doctor.
While the voice acting work was very good overall, there were a couple of oddities. Analyst Brooks’ voice actress seems to drop into and out of accents. I couldn’t quite pin down what her accent was. At points, I thought it was British, American and Scottish. That could just be down to my ears but I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t going insane.
The new member of the team wasn’t the only one to present a head-scratching acting moment. EDI’s voice left me puzzled. Sometimes EDI sounded like Tricia Helfer but at other points she sounded like someone else with a higher-pitched voice or like Tricia forgot how to do EDI’s voice. It’s kind of jarring when EDI gets a reasonably prominent part in the DLC (presumably to make you think twice about choosing destroy at the end of the game) but it doesn’t always sound like the EDI that you know from the rest of the game.
The conversations you eavesdrop on in the Silversun Strip are some of the more interesting ones you can eavesdrop on in the game. The majority are tips for multiplayer gamers or, perhaps more accurately, frequent complaints about bad MP gamers. It also confirms that adding the Collectors to multiplayer did retcon them back into existence per the game’s lore. (Yeah, I had no other place to wedge that in so I thought I’d put it here.)
We also had a new soundtrack composed by Sam Hulick and Cris Velasco. There were some pretty good tracks but I didn’t particularly find anything particularly memorable from the mission portion of the DLC. However, the music definitely picked up in the more fan service-y and reunion moments of the DLC. There’s some new dance music and a very good closing song to end the DLC. Personally, I loved the theme music from the combat simulator arena. I would say that it’s better than every piece of music frequently used by the sports networks up here in Canada. And, of course, we wouldn’t have fan service without the reprisal of Vigil, this time as a piano piece.
As with the other DLCs, Citadel suffers ever so slightly from being a pre-ending DLC wedged into the middle of the plot that’s driving us toward one specific ending. However, unlike Leviathan and Omega, Citadel is able to stand on its own as a self-contained adventure without seemingly constantly reminding you that it’s a tacked on adventure that’s largely inconsequential to the overall plot of the game as was the cast with the two previous DLCs.
Citadel easily stands up to Lair of the Shadow Broker in terms of overall quality. That’s all we’ve really been asking for from BioWare for these DLCs. Something that rivals Shadow Broker in terms of a fun and worthwhile experience from a gameplay and story perspective.
The biggest strength of this DLC might be its biggest weakness, however. The fact that it’s clearly written as a send-off for all of Shepard’s friends, new and old, makes the actual ending a bit pointless. If I ever decide to play through the game with my sentinel or vanguard Sheps, why would I ever play beyond this DLC? Forget catalysts, the star child and coloured explosions. To me, this is Mass Effect 3’s ending.
Even if you’ve given up on Mass Effect, BioWare and EA over the various controversies of the past twelve months, it’s worth your time to strap on your armor one last time. This was a great DLC and a fantastic send-off to the trilogy.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC was reviewed on PC but is also available for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Sorry but it looks like Wii U players aren’t likely to get their hands on any post-Extended Cut DLCs. Your impression of the DLC may change depending on your PC specs, which platform you played the game on and whether or not you hate EA and BioWare with every fibre of your being.
Cross-posted from The Lowdown Blog.