From Ashes (Released Mar 2012)
Mass Effect 3‘s first piece of DLC begins with a distress beacon on Eden Prime, back where the series started. Known for its extensive Prothean ruins; it is where Shepard first comes into contact with the precursor race through a hellish vision imparted by a beacon. This time around, the Normandy arrives to find Cerberus swarming over the Prothean ruins. The reason: a single intact stasis pod that has survived the 50000 years since the Reapers exterminated the Prothean empire. From Ashes gives players a single mission on Eden Prime. Though a verdant garden world, the mission takes place in and around a box-building habitat with lots of space for decent firefights against Cerberus mooks.
The primary draw however is that on conclusion of this mission From Ashes adds to Shepard’s crew a new playable party member, Javik the Prothean. An Avatar of Vengeance, Javik cuts a grim and often savage presence, remarking on the events of Mass Effect 3 and the races of the Milky Way with rarely-tempered disdain. His comments are undercut though by a distinct and deep gloom, unsurprising given his awareness of being the very last of his species, and awoken to watch what is potentially the ending of another cycle at the hands of the Reapers. Having Javik along to offer his opinions and advice is absolutely worth it; in fact, once you have the DLC I would suggest you’re unlikely to ever try playing Mass Effect 3 again without him.
Leviathan (Released Aug 2012)
A consistent piece of set dressing in the Mass Effect franchise concerns a corpse of a vast alien ship recovered from a crater deep in Batarian space. This ship, the Leviathan of Dis, is revealed to be the remains of a Reaper during the wake of Mass Effect 3, but for the Alliance what is more interesting is the question of what killed it. Shepard finds themselves asked to rendezvous with an Alliance science team researching the Leviathan have drawn a new conclusion: that the Reaper corpse is less interesting than the real “Leviathan”, which they suspect to be something capable of killing Reapers with ease.
However, shortly after Shepard’s arrival at the lab, the head researcher is killed and his assistant appears to be indoctrinated, leaving the Normandy with only a faint lead on a roving scientist stationed somewhere in the Milky Way. Like From Ashes, Leviathan delves deep into the history of the Milky Way’s inhabitants, touching on previous cycles’ attempts to repel the Reapers. It’s part detective puzzle as Shepard tries to piece together each part of the mystery surrounding the Leviathan and part cat-and-mouse chase across the galaxy as the Normandy crew frantically follow their dwindling leads.
These leads do take Shepard to some fascinating locations – my personal favourite is the eerie Village of the Damned-style asteroid facility where the Normandy ground team gingerly pick their way around vacant workers, each slowly droning that they shouldn’t be there – and the wider lore and history of Mass Effect‘s universe is definitely a very real draw. It also doesn’t clock in at too long an experience, making it worth the time to play.
Omega (Released Nov 2012)
Back in Mass Effect 2 Shepard’s travels took them to the lawless hive of Omega, a city ravaged by criminals, built into an asteroid, and ruled with an iron fist by a single asari warlord, Aria. There, Shepard learns Omega’s one rule: “Don’t fuck with Aria”. By Mass Effect 3 it has become Aria’s battlecry. Driven from her home, Aria meets with Shepard on the Citadel to ask for help retaking Omega from a Cerberus general named Oleg Petrovsky. Omega is as dank and grimy as ever but at points it’s suffused with a filthy brand of beauty; when the skyline looms over, or as Shepard’s team descends deep into the core of the station, there’s a bleak sense of wonder that takes over. It’s a shame then that in between those moments are a lot of bland elevators and dingy corridors.
Aria herself partners up with Shepard and proves a very capable party member, backed up by her extensive biotics: Lash can tear enemies off their feet and Flare is a straight up bomb. They are joined by Nyreen, a turian huntress and part of Omega’s revolt against Cerberus. In contrast, Nyreen has a slew of techs, including a deployable barrier as well as staples like Overload and Incinerate that allow her to easily take a variety of enemies apart. The DLC offers as a couple of new enemy types to take on; Mass Effect 2 veterans will recognise the ever-ubiquitous LOKI mechs, repurposed here into sleek black killer droids, while later stages give centre-stage to an all new enemy. To say too much is to spoil but certainly their introduction carries shades of horror, a welcome change of pace to the franchise’s usual gung-ho sci-fi action.
Omega is not a stupendously strong piece of DLC. Most of the arenas are relatively plain, Oleg is a predictable villain (he even plays chess and sports your standard-issue evil goatee), and Aria is, in all honesty, quite a boring character. Her controlling and scheming comes across as flat, and Carrie-Anne Moss’ voice acting is equally so; this is especially noticeable in a scene in which she addresses the people of Omega. That scene also showcases some animation glitches and bugs, a small but no-less visible problem with Omega.
Citadel (Released Mar 2013)
Mass Effect 3‘s final piece of DLC starts out very sedately. Shepard is invited to take some shore leave aboard the Citadel while the Normandy is repaired, and Anderson, trapped defending Earth, gifts the Commander his swanky apartment on the space station. Dotted about the place are excerpts from Anderson’s biography, allowing you to listen to his musings about all sorts of things from across the trilogy, fleshing out an already enjoyable character. Shepard wanders out to an exclusive sushi restaurant with Joker, but unsurprisingly things go spectacularly and explosively wrong.
It’s a very light-hearted DLC – it begins with Shepard being shot through a fish tank, and not one of the crew let the chance to crack jokes at their expense slip by. The general plot concerns someone attempting to steal the Commander’s identity but none of the main cast take it even vaguely seriously; there’s an awful lot of wise-cracks made amid shootouts and the team chatter away, throwing banter back-and-forth as bad guys are sent flying. The villains of the piece do try to play things straight but it’s a losing battle in the face of the Normandy crew doing their best Guardians of the Galaxy impressions. That light-hearted silliness is the big draw though; it provides such a blissful, joyful relief from the dour and depressing events of the base game that it functions as more or less a giant celebration of everything good and fun about Mass Effect.
A giant celebration is the name of the game as well; after the plot concludes Shepard is tasked with throwing a huge party, and practically everyone is invited. It’s a love letter to the franchise’s fans; Wrex returns to your party in spectacularly destructive fashion, while in the playable battle arena every past party member can be unlocked and upgraded to join in with Shepard. There are casino games to play, battles to be fought, and plenty of touching scenes to be had with all of Shepard’s old comrades. It’s tinged with bittersweet sentiment, knowing what will come after finishing up with Citadel, but for at least a short while you can forget everything and lose yourself in a thoroughly fun time.
7/7 TOP TIER