It’s been a while since we’ve had a Reader Review, but Aidan Dullard — an old Reader Review regular — has sent one in and I really enjoyed it! Mass Effect 3: Citadel is a pricey piece of DLC, but it’s arguably the most important content BioWare has created since the release of the controversial Mass Effect 3. In this review, Aidan looks into whether it’s worth putting down the cash or something fans might consider skipping.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel
The latest (and final) story DLC for Mass Effect 3 sees Shepard and their squad pursued by a mysterious conspiracy while on shore leave at the Citadel. This an enormous content pack, at over 4GB, and includes a hefty main storyline mission plus opportunities to catch up with squadmates and characters from previous games, check out a Citadel casino, play minigames at an arcade and practice in a combat arena. At 1200 Microsoft/Bioware points or $15, it contains roughly three to five hours of main quest content, along with many hours of additional activities and crew interactions. Bioware have said this is their definitive answer to ME2’s excellent Lair of the Shadow Broker, but how does Citadel compare?
What I loved
The story: no spoilers, but Citadel’s major story manages to turn CRAZY TWISTS into quite a touching tale that reflects on the past three games and what makes Shepard unique as a person and commander. Teamwork and camaraderie are the main themes here – the importance of bonds with friends and allies – and for die-hard fans of the Normandy and its crew many moments will be very moving. Reveals are cleverly done, the pace is well managed and the mystery of the main quest drives the action forward nicely.
The writing: Writing and dialogue is an enormous part of Citadel, and Bioware manages to nail almost every line of it. This is easily one of the most writing-packed pieces of content in the entire series, and the quality of what’s on display is some of the best of all three games. Squad banter is lively and individual, many of the key scenes are poignant and insightful, and there are some laugh-out-loud moments along the way. Which brings me to…
The humour: For fans who have noticed some of the series’ quirks, this DLC can be often hilarious. Citadel gently mocks the Mass Effect games and many of their treasured artefacts (Shepard’s ‘iconic’ parting dialogue. for one), leading to often irreverent conversation tangents and many, many in-jokes – from a recurring jibe about a sushi restaurant to the space hamster and London. Citadel feels like a chance for the writers to joke about their own creations (other reviews have compared it to a long-running TV show’s crazy meta episode or a Christmas special), and the resulting dialogue is some of the funniest in the series. Citadel is exploding with one-liners, bizarre datapads, fun squadmate banter and some really excellent, hilarious conversations towards the end of the pack (including trying to get Grunt out of police custody, more drunk Tali, and Zaeed wiring your apartment with explosives “just in case”).
The detail: Citadel’s main quest is probably going to be enjoyed most by Mass Effect’s most die-hard fans – or at least the ones who have completed every game in the trilogy. It’s packed with references to the universe’s fictional history and lore, events of the first and second games, decisions Shepard made long ago and (in an extremely well-done section) much of Anderson’s backstory, building especially on his role in the first game. Smart, touching scenes with each and every squadmate (or a memorial to them, depending) after the main quest – with dialogue that shifts to reflect Shepard’s background, history and choices – are incredibly well-done. These little character vignettes – reflecting on past missions, cooking a meal, one very moving scene with a piano – are some of the most well-written and impacting moments in the series. If you’re at all a fan of the games and their characters, Citadel is overflowing with stunning moments.
The extras: The best parts of this DLC happen after the main quest – Shepard gets access to an area of the Citadel that includes an incredibly detailed and deep combat simulation arena (think MP-style wave combat, but with crazy levels of scenario customisation), a new apartment to call their own, multiple conversations with nearly every squadmate from ME2/ME3 and a final big event that marks this DLC as something truly special. There’s an enormous amount of value in Citadel, particularly compared to Omega, and the lengths the content goes to make everything feel unique to Shepard mean it’s very replayable. Every part of this DLC feels like it was made with care and genuine affection for the series; Citadel’s last half is a chance for the writers to say goodbye as much as it is for the fans.
What I wasn’t quite sure about The stealth section: Citadel has a (relatively) deep stealth section at one point, which borrows from Kasumi’s DLC visually but definitely ups the challenge in not being noticed. It’s a slightly jarring addition to the middle portion of the DLC, and the stealth is never quite sleek enough to be that engaging. The fact that there is also no persuasion route in this section (or any section, really) is a bit of a disappointment – this feels like a missed opportunity to flesh out the conversations into an actual progression option, or challenge the player with a word game or two.
THAT plot twist: you’ll know it when you see it. It’s certainly, uh, surprising, and not at all something I expected from a Mass Effect game. Points for shock value, but it’s a bit cheesy and schlocky-sci-fi for me. It *does* fit the sort of zany, over-the-top-TV-special feel of the rest of the DLC, but many may find it fairly absurd.
What I disliked
Hardly anything: If the endings are still a problem for you, Citadel doesn’t affect them whatsoever. The DLC feels like the satisfying ‘happy conclusion’ some fans were wishing for, but transplanted to about three-quarters of the way through the game – it does make me feel the slightest bit wistful, but Citadel is so damn charming, polished and full of incredible fanservice that just bitterness feels petty.
Citadel is, in a word, incredible. This is easily the best piece of downloadable content for Mass Effect 3, and arguably the best in the series for sheer breadth and quality of content – it’s like Lair of the Shadow Broker with a dozen other characters and many times the extras. Above all else, Citadel is so full of heart. It’s got genuine warmth, humour, surprises and some answers – a fitting tribute to three games’ worth of stories, characters, choices and adventures. This is Bioware at its absolute best, you can clearly see the devotion behind this DLC’s creation and for devoted fans of the series Citadel is a triumphant high note to end the trilogy of games. There’s a staggering amount of extra content when the main quest is done, and the arena combat mode is compelling and addictive. Unlike its predecessor Omega – which was comparatively lifeless and certainly overpriced – Citadel delivers a fun, delightful and often moving experience. This DLC focuses on what the series always did best – its characters, its humour and the interweaving of past games and stories – and for fans who want to finish Shepard’s trilogy with a satisfying, rewarding, emotional experience, Citadel is a must-buy.