Review: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC (PC)

Mass Effect 3: Leviathan
Developer: BioWare
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 8/28/2012

And so it begins. The first non-multiplayer DLC that has some actual story to it that players of Mass Effect 3 will have to shell out cash for. Is it worth it? That depends on if you’re looking to extend your single player experience with the game and are looking to deconstruct the Reapers history just a little bit more, with some mystery to go along with it. Personally, I enjoyed it, but I can see people who don’t want more explanation passing it up, as it doesn’t add a boss fight or offer that much of a challenge, and all it does gameplay-wise is drop in some multiplayer weapon mods for the single player experience. Let’s break it down.

Leviathan is a side quest to the main game that actually sets up some important information and adds a small introduction for something that just gets dumped on you otherwise later in the game. If it wasn’t DLC, I’d say it’s actually more of a main quest in terms of story-telling and quality. It starts off with an e-mail from Admiral Hackett directing you back to the Citadel to talk to a Doctor Bryson, who is investigating rumors and old tales, and is onto something with the Leviathan of Dis, a Reaper corpse that the Batarians discovered. He’s looking for what killed the Reaper, a legendary weapon known as Leviathan. He’s about to divulge all his information when his assistant comes in and wastes him, leaving Shepard to play investigator and piece together the Doctor’s research. EDI gets involved to help Shepard out, and after checking out a mining facility and fighting your way through that, you figure out that Ann Bryson, the Doctor’s daughter, might be able to lead you to Leviathan as she was working with him on it.

Without giving too much away, the DLC gets into the history of the Reapers and the race that started it all, so if you don’t want more on the Reapers, that part might fall flat. There are some great interactions between the characters, and squad banter is a plus, and if you bring your love interest along on the actual missions there are some touching scenes there as well. Overall, I think the story in this is probably the strong suit, as it is in most everything else we’ve been through before.

Visually there’s no change from the main game. This is DLC, not a patch. The lead characters in this, though, do have unique looks to them. Both Doctors you encounter aren’t a face you’ll have seen some place else in the game, which is very cool. The look of the new areas is interesting, and the visuals while you’re fighting off Reaper forces on a crashed ship as it rolls on the ocean waves are fantastically done. The voice actors here do a good job, and you really feel for what Ann is going through. The squad banter is here throughout, which was one of my bigger issues with the DLC for Mass Effect 2, as even in Lair of the Shadow Broker the only one you really heard anything out of was Liara. It’s in this DLC in abundance and I loved it. Leviathan also has a certain sound to him, even though it’s not the same voice actor, that Mass Effect 2 players will recognize immediately.

There isn’t any change here from the base Mass Effect 3 controls and gameplay, however, they did introduce a few of the multiplayer mechanics into this DLC. The Drone Escort mission pops up, for example, only you’re guarding it while it makes repairs. The package mission from the multiplayer is here as well, as Shepard has to carry battery packs around at one point, but unlike in multiplayer, you can sprint, use abilities freely, and other than the back-pack you’re carrying, nothing changes, so it’s a little different from the multiplayer version there. There are a few achievements attached to this, but those should unlock with one playthrough of the DLC. There are some really good assets to add to your single player readiness as well, so there’s plenty of reason to follow through with it on every playthrough. Four hundred asset points from the Leviathan alone is worth it.

I did think this was a little easy, especially after gold matches on multiplayer. Waves of Reaper forces just aren’t that scary anymore; when you’ve had four Banshees or Brutes barreling down on you before in gold or platinum, two or three of them in single player just doesn’t hold the same weight. It’s not a breeze, but it’s not as much of a challenge. There are no boss fights, and while I don’t think that’s a huge issue, something a little tougher than standard forces would have been cool. It took me about three hours to get through the DLC, and that seems to be about the average run time for most people. By that rationale though, comparing the prices, the DLC is about four dollars over cost for the single player experience, based on time played versus a singe run through in the main game. Sure there are a few nice bonuses, like previously multiplayer-only upgrades being brought into the single player game to find in the DLC areas, pretty much none of which I’ll use… and then there’s the head. There’s a Husk head on a stand that, if you select it, freaks out and roars at you. If you follow through on a conversation tree with Vega, you can take the head for “├ő┼ôscientific purposes’ which then ends up in Shepard’s cabin right next to your models. If you mess with the head in your cabin, then play with the Hampster, the head will see the Hampster and roar at it all on its own. The Husk head alone makes up for the extra cost.

While they did add in a few multiplayer aspects into the single player, these are mechanics they’d already put in the game used elsewhere, which isn’t terribly original. The dive down to find Leviathan was well done, but felt very much like a scene out of James Cameron’s film The Abyss, which is still okay, but it’s an homage, not original. It was a lot of fun tracking the clues down and seeing what worked and what didn’t, and it’s only three hours, but I didn’t want to put it down the first night I was playing through, though, alas, work called so I had to split up my play time. The price is decent, and you’re getting some decent story for the game, but ultimately it’s a side quest with little overall bearing on the final moments of the game, except in the player’s head.

I also ran into a few bugs while I was playing which were insanely annoying. Firstly, the achievements on the PC version are bugged so that even if you do complete it, you’ve got about a fifty fifty shot of actually getting the achievement unlock. Since you can’t really brag about them anyway, it’s not that big a deal, but I like seeing everything in color on that screen. There’s also some weird things going on if you’ve customized out your Shepard with other hair. While it looked fine in regular scenes in the game, in this DLC, the Allers hair looked like I had a huge part on Shep’s head where the hair had split extra wide. This is a mod, so I’m not holding it against it the DLC, as it wasn’t intended, but it’s something to think about for you modders out there. The last one is game breaking and took me a good twenty minutes to get around. On one of the planets you’re running across, you have to go over and through cargo containers, and at one point you have to use a ladder to drop down, as you can’t simply drop over the side onto the platform below. The ladder is bugged. You go to use it, do the animation like you’re going down the ladder, but you’re at the top of it the whole time and end up back on top of the container at the end. It’s annoying and frustrating, and while I hadn’t encountered this before, it’s an ongoing issues in the regular game as well. There are several workarounds on the forums, none of which worked for me. I ended up having to reload the game over and over again until the ladder loaded properly so I could continue. This is, incidentally, where I gave up and went to bed, as I grew tired of fighting with it. Not as game breaking as a black screen during the chase scene in Lair of the Shadow Broker which never did get fixed, so I’m not expecting a fix for this either, and quite a few pissed off people because of it. The only other problem I had is that running through the end game apparently put me on the way to the Cerberus base, where I should have been able to play the DLC straight up, but a certain event had already occurred according to my in-game e-mail, so I had to load up a previous save game. Not a big deal, but something to bear in mind. Playing through the first time you’re supposed to be able to take this after Palaven, which I haven’t tried yet.

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Incredible
Sound: Amazing
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Great
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Amazing
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
While not quite up to the hype of being as good as Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2, Leviathan does provide a solid three hours of content with some interesting tidbits on the creation of the Reapers and the race that started it all. There’s squad banter, it feels fleshed out, and overall feels like it should have been a part of the single player experience instead of tacked on as DLC, but was developed after the game. You can get by without it, but if you enjoyed the single player experience in Mass Effect 3, you’ll want this to go along with it.

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