Mass Effect 3 has been pretty successful since launch despite the controversy over the endings. We’ve seen four story-driven DLC releases for the single player game including From Ashes, which was included with the Collector’s Edition and introduced the Prothean squadmate, the Extended Cut which tried to smooth things over a bit for the endings, Leviathan introduced us to a more in-depth look at an ancient race, and Omega let us work with Aria to take back that asteroid. So almost a year later the last bit of single player DLC launches with what will also be the last multiplayer DLC as we get a chance to revisit with our old squadmates that didn’t make the cut this time around and give Shepard some much needed shore leave with Citadel. Is it worth dropping the $15 for this? That depends on what you’re looking for with this DLC. If you’re looking for something to reinvent the wheel as far as ending content, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a bright spot of fun with a brief stint into Mass Effect‘s universe and Shepard dealing with some long-standing sci-fi clichés and getting to banter and play with old squadmates and a new area of the giant hub of the galaxy to play in, you’re in for a treat. This is a love letter and a labor of love for the fans from the original team at BioWare that worked on the first three games in this franchise before it gets handed over to one of the other BioWare teams for the next installment. Let’s take a look.
You trigger this after resolving the Citadel coup attempt in the main game with an e-mail from Admiral Hackett ordering you to dock the Normandy for needed systems overhaul and repairs and while you’re at it, to take an extended shore leave for yourself and your crew while the ship is getting a well-baby visit from Alliance engineers. Anderson loans you his apartment on the Citadel for your stay there, especially since he’s stuck on Earth, but is even thinking about staying as he feels much closer to it now that he’s been fighting there. You get to explore a bit, datapads scattered about with audio logs from Anderson for a biography he was getting written, really getting you into Anderson a bit, but an e-mail from Joker inviting you to dinner at an â€˜authentic French’ Sushi bar nearby has you heading out, and of course into trouble. An Alliance soldier breaks in on Joker and Shepard dining and tries to convince the pair that someone is trying to kill Shepard, a fact that has not been lost on either of the two diners. But Brooks is having none of it and her point is driven home as a group of unknown mercs burst into the restaurant and begin shooting up the place as they are looking for Shepard in a scene very reminiscent of the Joker’s goons crashing the party in The Dark Knight.
Things get hairy and Shepard ends up having to take a back route as the floor of the Sushi place is shot out from under them and they have to fight their way back to the apartment with just a pistol until Wrex and their love interest show up. Yes, Wrex can be used as a squadmate in this DLC. Brooks begins working with the rest of your crew from the Normandy to try and figure out who’s out to actually kill Shepard and why. The dialogue is witty and fun and while your life is on the line, it feels like a nice break from Reapers, Geth and Cerberus to face an enemy that is taking things far more personally. You end up crashing a party at a casino to get information and from there you end up in a chase and fight through the Citadel archives, a huge area warehousing some more of the galaxy’s interesting history, to confront who’s trying to kill you as well as even through the Normandy. I won’t spoil it as to who the main villain is, only to say it was fun seeing yet another sci-fi cliché played out so tongue-in-cheek in the Mass Effect universe. Wrex is the only non-squadmate from Mass Effect 3 you’ll get to play with during this story-line, however the missing squad members from Mass Effect 2 do get little moments after the main story line, provided you’ve completed their main quest lines.
On top of decent character moments, there’s a casino to make credits in, and for those looking to run with squadmates in something akin to multiplayer with the Armax Arena, a combat simulator that will net you new toys like custom armor or new decorations for your apartment along with the ever present marker on the high score board. Messing around with the apartment is kind of interesting as well if limited in what you can do with the furniture and decorations you unlock as well as interact with the datapads you can find with Anderson’s dialogue and later one of Mordin’s. If it was just the main story line I’d have been ok with this, but the extras like the arena and getting to see the rest of your squadmates during their down time really added to it and made it feel more alive.
While you can play the Citadel DLC at any point after the Cerberus faction tries to take over the station, I actually recommend saving this until after Horizon and the Sanctuary mission. Yes it’s late in the game, but you’ll miss out on some of the Mass Effect 2 squadmates joining you if you do it earlier, and story-wise it makes sense at that point as Hackett and everyone else can see Shepard is at a breaking point and needs the rest, plus it’s a believable point in the Mass Effect 3 story for them to do a major maintenance haul on the Normandy while Hackett tries to square away the location of the Cerberus base as well as organizing the fleet to take it out. Perfect time for side missions like Omega and Citadel really.
Visually there’s not much different here than in the main game. The new areas are very pretty to look at and have a few interesting design choices that make it fun to run around. Anderson’s apartment is huge and comparatively bare, but oh so Anderson when you get down to it. The arena has a neat effect of being a fake battlefield with holographic walls and real floor and cover places with holographic enemies, and the effect of tracking hidden wiring from Kasumi’s mission in Mass Effect 2 makes a come back. Overall I hadn’t run across any issues visually compared to the last DLC where Aria’s speech had her twitching all over the place. The images in this review are screenshots form my PC run through.
There are some great audio moments and deliveries from all of the cast. You can tell they had a lot of fun putting this one together. There are more Easter eggs here as you walk around you can eavesdrop in on a lot of conversations, this time it’s dialogue from what sounds like multiplayer characters who are on shore leave along with Shepard. These are all pretty well done and only slightly mocking of the fans on the forums and situations I’ve seen posted there. The music in this has some great touching moments to it when they need to be and has an interesting score when you’re in the action moments as well. There’s a great bit with Liara and a piano that I’m sure most people who’ve played the games will recognize. I’ll gloss over the controls and gameplay as they are not changed with this from the main game at all except with a few mini games that are explained as you walk up to them in game.
Going back to this would be a lot of fun with different Shepards and the way you handle different situations. While none of the main events can change, the party before you head back to the Normandy can start off and end very differently and you can play matchmaker at different points. Then there’s a few other surprises if you never actually romanced anyone else in the game as well. I played through once on my PC and once on the PS3 and while some of my major decisions were the same, I had two different Virmire survivors in each with different events triggering for both as well as ongoing conversations between the squadmates. If you have a completed game with several Shepard saves, or even just one, going back through again can yield some very entertaining results. I will say this is much longer than any of the other DLCs released so far. Omega at most ran me three hours, Leviathan about the same. Citadel with all its side missions and distractions like the Arena netted me at least five hours on both my PC and PS3 versions and on neither version have I finished unlocking all the goodies in the Arena yet. It’s a fun time sink you can go back to even when you’re done with the overall DLC as you still have access to the apartment area after you leave.
While I will say this was a unique DLC for Mass Effect 3, like Mass Effect 3 itself, the ideas for the story contained within have been done many times over before. In fact that’s been one of the bigger complaints about the villain of the main story, but I think they handled it more like a good episode of Farscape or Firefly rather than a bad episode of Lost in Space. What wins you over is how the characters are written and the banter above all else. The Citadel areas are neat to see and move around in and it is an all new areas we’ve never been to before, so there is that. You don’t buy this just for seeing something new and original though, you buy it to play with old friends in your squad and the side adventure.
Honestly, I couldn’t put this down once I actually got into the story line. My PC version I basically ran through in one big sitting much to my wife’s dismay. The PS3 version is my Insanity run so that was a bit harder and took me a few more days. I usually play on normal. Being the last hurrah for Shepard and company has a big appeal especially expanding on squadmates who really got the shaft in the main game, like Kasumi, Zaed, Jack, Miranda and Grunt. This won’t make it all better as the endings are still out there, waiting, but if you have a completion, going back and playing this ends it all on the message from the other two games, hope. My only wish was that this took place after considering my usual choice for the ending, but it’s still a great send off.
So is this worth your fifteen bucks? If you were into Mass Effect for the characters and the setting, absolutely. If you’re in it for the story, this isn’t going to do much for you. In fact, I’d hesitate to recommend it to people for the story as it is a much lighter toned set piece compared to the main game and the other two paid DLCs. It can be fun, but it doesn’t take itself that seriously and has so many homages to other media ad references back for the fans it’s almost ridiculous. This is much more a side adventure and a last shot with the whole crew than anything else and playing it during the actual game will be a fantastic break before heading into the rest of the ending. But I think this is something more akin to a love letter to the characters and the writers way of giving the fans a little fanservice before the torch got passed to another part of BioWare to develop the next game in the Mass Effect universe. This is as much a heartfelt goodbye as it is a nice endcap to Shepard’s saga. As Shepard and your love interest put it before heading onto the Normandy after the end of the party, â€œWe’ve been through a lot haven’t we? But it’s been a good ride.â€ â€œThe best.â€
Short Attention Span Summary
Mass Effect 3: Citadel is as much a love letter and heartfelt goodbye to the characters as it is chocked full of fanservice. While the story is borderline cliché but still taking it with a different spin, it’s the character interaction with your squadmates, the new areas and events as well as the party banter, and party in general that really help sell this DLC as being worth your fifteen bucks. If you’re looking for something to change the ending to the game or something more story driven to the main game, you won’t find it here. What you’ll find is a lot of love for Shepard and crew, a fun side story that brings some hope to the game when it’s at its darkest and a four gig set of extra content that I thought was worth every penny.