Almost exactly a year after the initial release, Bioware is wrapping up their post launch support of Mass Effect 3 with the third and final (not counting the day 1 content) single player addition to the game. The first piece of content, Leviathan, added some interesting lore and further expanded on some of the information originally presented in the ending, while offering a bit of a change of pace in regards to its mission structure. The second add on, Omega, consisted of largely unoriginal levels with some interesting character work and some unfortunate presentation issues. The final piece of DLC, Citadel, has been pitched as a way to say farewell to all of your favorite characters, and it delivers on this promise in an incredibly enjoyable way.
The most immediately apparent thing about this DLC, and something that was quite unexpected for me having not watched trailers or read too much about it, is the drastic shift in tone from pretty much every Mass Effect experience of the past three games. The DLC is incredibly light in tone, with an abundance of humor, fourth wall breaking, and self parody. To put it bluntly, this is fan service pure and simple, but the strong writing, genuinely funny dialogue, and multitude of fantastic character moments keep that from being a negative. This content felt a lot to me like the 100 and 200 episode specials from Stargate SG-1; that being a completely self aware, canonically debatable piece of content that shows incredible reverence for both the fiction and the fans that love it.
The story content can be broken up into two distinct parts, the mission and the party. The DLC opens with the Normandy docking on the Citadel for repairs, giving the crew some shore leave. While having dinner at a fancy restaurant with Joker, Shepard finds himself the target of mysterious mercenaries and thus begins the mission to figure out who is after him. The mission is very character focused, with pretty much every main character from the game having a major role. The DLC does a great job of really making the crew of the Normandy feel like family, and if you have any investment in these characters you will undoubtedly find yourself with a permanent grin on your face for the majority of this mission, just as I did. The plot is pretty goofy, but it’s a lot fun, with plenty of hilarious moments for fans of the series.
After the two and half hour mission, you are then given some freedom to explore the new hub area on the Citadel as well as Shepard’s new apartment. During this sequence, there are many character moments taking place both in Shepard’s apartment and in the new hub. Every living squad-mate from all three games has at least one conversation or event, and they range from good to fantastic. This culminates in a party at Shepard’s apartment, with every living squad mate from the entire series along with most other major characters in attendance. The party is great, with these character we’ve gotten to know over the past 5 and half years just relaxing and having a good time. Even though it technically takes place before the end of the game, this feels like the perfect way to say goodbye to these characters that so many of us have grown attached to over the course of the series. These character moments range from silly and self parodying to serious and emotional, and it all works.
While the majority of the story content is fantastic, there are a few blemishes. At times, the references to internet memes and running jokes among fans can get a little too much. The “calibrations” jokes in the main game was a little much as is, and I honestly didn’t need a rehash of that here. However, the real issue with the story is how it will it fits into the main game. There is no getting around it, the tone of this content is just about the polar opposite of the overall tone of Mass Effect 3, and I can’t really see this integrating well into a complete playthrough. I just can’t see Shepard and the crew spending this much time goofing around while the galaxy is burning. It is great as a stand alone experience taken as a fun piece of content, but start thinking too hard about how it fits into the story or try to force it to make sense canonically and things start to break down. I don’t know what the official word is on whether or not this is actually canon, but it’s best to just think about it as a stand alone experience anyway, even though you do play it with an active save.
The mission itself is split into four parts, and each has its own unique feel. Unlike Omega, each of the four “levels” has at least one unique aspect that you wouldn’t find in any mission as part of the main game. The first level has some light stealth elements, and has Shepard solo for a brief bit and without armor for the entire sequence. The second level is completely combat free, taking place at a high society charity ball at a crowded casino. The third level is the closest to standard Mass Effect level design, but it stands out for having your whole team (plus Wrex) taking part, split into three squads. The final level can’t really be described without spoiling things, but it’s safe to say it has some really cool unique elements.
As I said earlier, the actual mission part of the content took me about 2 and half hours of in-game time, but that is only the beginning of the content. The character interactions and party took me another 2 and a half hours, resulting in about 5 hours worth of story content for your $15. That’s not the end of the content though, there are also a handful of minigames at the casino and arcade in the new hub area, as well as a combat simulator. The combat simulator consists of wave based survival, similar to the multiplayer, but it has it’s own wrinkles and 8 original maps to set itself apart from the multiplayer. The combat simulator has a decent number of challenges and achievements, as well as the ability to use squad mates from past games that haven’t previously been selectable in ME3. By the time I unlocked the last achievement associated with this DLC, I had put in over 8 hours of playtime, making it by far the longest and most content rich piece of DLC in the series.
Gameplay is largely the same as what’s been in the game thus far, which isn’t at all surprising, but the combat remains fun and engaging. There are a handful of new enemy types in the main mission, but they are mostly just re-skins of typical Cerberus enemy types. The combat simulator however, has some interesting challenges and some devious new enemy types that present tough encounters. The combat simulator is by no means the highlight of the DLC, but if you’re looking for some interesting new combat encounters with a high degree of challenge, you should enjoy your time with the combat sim.
One of the big problems I had with the Omega DLC was the extremely unpolished feeling of the presentation, but luckily this isn’t an issue with Citadel. The environments are all new and up to the standards of the main game, and there are a handful of pre-rendered cutscenes that look great. The content runs at a steady clip and it doesn’t suffer from the missing sounds effects or glitched animations that Omega did. The only technical issue I had was that the game froze twice during play, but the autosaving was such that I never lost any progress. The best aspect of this DLC is without a doubt the audio presentation. Almost every major voice actor returns and they are all just as good as they have ever been. The DLC also makes excellent use of music, both original and familiar.
Mass Effect has had some great and some not so great pieces of DLC over the past 5 years, and Citadel is among the best in the series. If you have any sort of attachment to the series, and more specifically the characters, you are likely to love this DLC. It’s a big tonal shift from the rest of the series, but it’s a rare piece of content that had me smiling for 5 hours straight. This is 100% for fans of the series, and being a huge fan of Mass Effect from the very beginning, I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to these character I’ve grown so attached to over the past 5 years.
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- Genuinely funny
- Great character moments
- Interesting mission design
- Pretty much every character (and voice actor) returns
- Great use of music
- Combat simulator provides a nice challenge
- May not integrate well into a complete playthrough
- Memes and running jokes go too far in spots