Wow. There are so many things I could say about Bioware’s last piece of DLC for the much-loved Mass Effect trilogy, but I’ll try to just tell you why I think this is for me the best DLC out of the Mass Effect franchise and possibly even the best story arc in the whole series (not from a technical standpoint, but because… well you’ll see). Also, anyone who’s played this series will understand why this DLC in particular is so personal and there are many things that I feel you just have to experience for yourself. It’s truly one big farewell party, a way to hang out with the friends you’ve made over the years and it gives Shepard the rare chance to let his or her (metaphorical) hair down and just enjoy their company with no Reapers to worry about in the immediate. This is not going to be a long winding review about its merits. Instead think of this more as a recommendation. I would basically suggest anyone who’s a Mass Effect fan buy this if they can, because I absolutely thought it was worth every penny. However, if you’re one of the people who won’t be happy unless Bioware changes the ending, then I’m sorry to say you probably won’t be appeased by this, so in that case, it’s up to you to decide whether you feel this is worth playing. I wasn’t a fan of the ending, but it didn’t ruin the whole experience for me and the Extended Cut DLC pretty much addressed my main issues with it and left me at a place where I was fine with it, so for me this was truly the icing on the cake, something that will leave me glowing for a long long time. That’s the last I’ll say about the ending, because I don’t want this post to be about that at all. That’s not what ‘Citadel’ is about. It’s for the people who still love the series and who want to come back for more. Yet, it still felt like a real finale, a true ending, even if it wasn’t the last mission.
The back-story is that the Normandy is ordered into dry dock for necessary repairs and Shepard and crew are forced to take shore leave, which I don’t think is a particularly strange considering how much action that ship has seen. Repairs are probably long past due. What follows is a mission that refreshingly has nothing to do with the Reapers or Cerberus or any of the ME baddies. The mission itself was interesting and one I’ll enjoy replaying (trust me, it has a few surprises in it for you), but what really stood out for me was that it brings almost everyone back together for one last big frolicking kickass adventure. True, I was mainly looking forward to getting to hangout with my crew members after the mission and the big party that I knew was coming, but this mission was more than just a side-note. It set the whole tone of the DLC and was full of action and fun and more inside jokes than you can shake a stick at. Even Wrex comes back for the entirety of the mission and I can’t tell you how amazing was. Wrex has always been my right-hand man – er – krogan! This mission starts things off on a high note and only builds from there.
Bioware really pulled out all the stops with this one. It’s more than just another mission and some extra dialogue. Although the main mission and the Party ‘mission’ could be completed in a few hours, if you’re like me and want to explore as much of it as you can before the final party this could last you way beyond that. There’s just so much to do and even a fully-fleshed new location on the Citadel to explore and a bunch of new and simple, but entertaining mini-games and a combat arena thrown in, all of which you can spend more than a couple of hours on. The part that I was looking forward to the most, catching up with old friends and spending time with my Shepard’s LI, impressed me far more than I expected and provided ample opportunity to really wrap up the loose ends that may have remained at the end of the game for some. For me, it was a chance to really connect for one last time with my friends in a way that was far more satisfying than the somewhat brief goodbyes, touching as they were in Priority: Earth. Nothing about these conversations feels rushed to me. And above all it’s nice seeing your favourite characters and Shepard relaxing and just hanging out. It’s incredibly humanising and somehow managed to make me feel even more affection for them. It was the chance to really get to know them as people and not soldiers and man, was it fun.
What I loved best about ‘Citadel’ was that it was so quintessentially a Mass Effect experience. It was a distillation of all the things I loved about Mass Effect into (at least) a few hours of gameplay. Sure, it’s a little, ok, a lot more upbeat in tone than the rest of Mass Effect 3, but that for me, that was an refreshing change, a breath of fresh air. Parts of it threw me back to the ME1 days and the slightly more light-hearted tone, when the galaxy wasn’t about to be destroyed at any second – complete with elevator chats and a whole lot of ripping on each other. Citadel DLC is a big mess of happy fun times with your crew, old and new and it seemed like there was more banter condensed within it than in all of ME2 and 3 combined. It’s got all the camaraderie, tongue-in-cheek fan service and badassery that drew me to the Mass Effect series in the first place. Yet none of it felt slap-dash or just there for the sake of it. Every inch of the map, every bit of NPC dialogue, every cut-scene and interaction with your friends has been lovingly crafted, with every part of the Mass Effect team working together to create a stylish, memorable and emotional experience for their long-time fans. Because yes, this one is definitely for us.
Is it a little silly? Yes! If you don’t like all the inside jokes and fan service littered throughout the series, then you might not enjoy this. Some might think the tone is at odds with the intensity of ME3 anad perhaps it would be a little out-of-place on your first playthrough, but most of the people interested in this piece of DLC have already finished the main missions. I also don’t think it ever takes it beyond the bounds of believeability. The characters are still spot-on and the although it doesn’t advance the plot, the main mission is absolutely one I thought could fit into the general Mass Effect structure. Sure they’ve stuffed as much fan service into this as possible, but honestly, that’s what makes it great. It’s exactly what I wanted and needed and I have a feeling it’s the same for a lot of ME fans out there. It’s about the people you most care about just taking some time out and being themselves. I couldn’t have asked for more myself.
When the last scene ends, I was left with a mix of feelings as you might expect – happiness, sadness, nostalgia, but the feeling that I was left with at the end was overwhelmingly one of pride and love for the series and a feeling of contentedness. And although Shepard’s story will never truly end for me, the Mass Effect saga is now finally complete and I couldn’t have asked for a better farewell. That last emotional scene is truly for the fans who have followed this series right to the end. It’s been a hell of a journey and I’ve wouldn’t take back a single damn second of it.