Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Citadel DLC: A Curtain Call and a Fond Farewell

The best mission objective in all of Mass Effect?
**I'll try to avoid major spoilers, but this review does contain some minor spoilers.**

Mass Effect 3: The Citadel is the final DLC mission in the Mass Effect Trilogy. It's been an amazing ride, with some memorable characters, epic moments, tough battles, and hard choices. The Citadel DLC isn't so much a conclusion as it is a curtain call. It's one last opportunity to take your ME3 squadmates (and Wrex!) on a great mission, and then kick back and party with your space bros.

When I heard that the final DLC would be a party, I knew I had to buy it as soon as it came out. I had been less than impressed by the Leviathan and Omega DLC that came before, though, so I tried to keep my enthusiasm in check. I figured the writing would be cheesy, but I was okay with that. I also knew that the DLC would begin with a combat-focused mission, which I expected to be a throwaway plot to add some token combat.

I needn't have worried. The writing was top-notch. Sure, it was cheesy, but also heartwarming, nostalgic, witty, and genuinely hilarious. And the combat half blew away my expectations, with a well-crafted mission against a compelling villain. There were great set pieces, interesting combat, and more squad banter than you can shake a pyjack at.

Welcome back, Wrex
 Let's start with the most important thing: Urdnot Wrex is back. Not only is he available for the party at the end (as is every other surviving squad member from the history of Mass Effect), the chieftain of Clan Urdnot joins Shepard in the first half as a squad member and a major part of the plot. I spent most of The Citadel grinning like a fool, and a good part of that was because of Urdnot Wrex.

Wrex isn't the only character to feature prominently in the story. I was playing as a FemShep who had romanced Garrus, and the turian vigilante showed up in full swagger to help me out. The Citadel plays up the romance, giving you an opportunity to fight side-by-side with your space S.O., and then go on a date with him or her later. If you previously romanced one of the characters in Mass Effect 2 who does not return as a squad member in Mass Effect 3, you now get a chance to go on a proper date with them.
I got what I wanted, and so much more
I won't go into details about who the villain of The Citadel is, because it's something you will want to discover for yourself. I was very happy not to have it spoiled for me, so when the reveal came, my jaw dropped. I had expected the villain to come out of left field, like Balak in ME1's Bring Down the Sky DLC or Donovan Hock in ME2's Stolen Memory DLC. Instead what I got was a character who not only fit into the existing story, but whose role helped us learn more about Shepard and her crew. Perhaps just as importantly, it provided an excellent opportunity for the whole squad to go on a mission together once the enemy's identity is revealed. Though Shepard can only take two people with her, the remaining squad members form their own squads and come along, much like in the Suicide Mission of ME2. This allows for lots of friendly banter between the characters, including some competition to see whose squad is the best.

The Citadel can feel like canon fanfiction, in the best way
Once the combat half of the mission is done, it's time to kick back with your squad. As fun as the first half of the DLC is, the second half is where it truly shines. Mass Effect has always been packed full of great characters, and now here's your chance to see almost all of them one more time. You can hang out with most of them one-on-one, and somewhere along the line throw a party so that everyone can hang out together. Seeing the characters banter, chat, and dance together, and then joining in, was the perfect way to say goodbye to my favorite video game RPG of all time.

The Citadel offers a lot of potential for replayability. The writers added a huge amount of great dialog, and you'll want to play through the DLC in several different ways to make sure you hear it all. Once you've finished both the combat half and the party/hanging out half of the DLC, there's still a lot to do. There's several forms of gambling in the casino, video games in the arcade, and a "combat simulator" that lets you set up brief battles against Ceberus, Geth, Reapers, and Collectors alongside a whole host of squad members from both ME2 and ME3.
I was surprised at how well some of these guys can dance. (Don't worry, Shepard is still hopeless.)
In order to get the most out of the DLC, you'll want to know a few things:
- You only get one chance to throw a party, so you may as well use the "Invite All" button to make sure you get the most possible opportunities for dialog.
- While you can hang out with your squad members individually either before or after the party, some of them will have extra dialog if you hung out with them before the party.
- There are a few party members you can hang out with that don't show up on your map. Explore the casino to find the places where you can trigger their scenes.

I'm reminded of a story Scott Kurtz told where he was watching an episode of Star Trek with his father. The episode ended with the crew on the bridge, joking around and enjoying Spock's reaction to their humor. Kurtz's father got teary-eyed at this, and when Scott asked why, his father simply said, "They're friends." That's how I felt after playing the Leviathan DLC, and I think that's easily worth fifteen dollars.

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