I love Mass Effect. Let me make that clear- the original was a wondrous sanctuary where I got away from a hard time in my life. The second was a dark adventure that consumed every free moment of time I had through my first year of college. I hold the series to an extremely high standard, because it’s proved that it can be held, judged, and deal with the criticism. I was excited (and more than a little nervous) about the announcement of the Citadel DLC. Leviathan had proved to be an exercise in attempting to justify the ending; I was understandably a little gun-shy. I’ve tried to make this review as absolutely spoiler free as possible- mostly because there are so many surprises in the DLC that I don’t want to give away.
There’s essentially three major components to Citadel, which is quite interesting as most DLC’s are centered around providing a new mission or feature. It incorporates not only a new mission, but a persistent area, an NPC to briefly rejoin the squad, but also what I would consider a small ‘banter pack’. Basically, there’s the opportunity to simply talk and relax with your NPC buddies. The DLC file itself is enormous, tipping the scales at just under four gigs, which should give everyone a rough idea of how much work Bioware put into it. It also appears to be designed to release slowly- that is to say, different pieces will unlock at different points in the game. There’s also a lot of minor differences in any given dialogue based on past relationships, Shepard’s class, how far into the story you are, and a number of those factors. If you still have a save before the assault on Cronos Station, you’ll have immediate access to both the mission, and most of the dialogues. While a lot of them aren’t much longer than two minutes, if I had to guess, there’s about an hour and a half of extra fun.
One of the things that’s immediately noticeable about Citadel is the tone. The dialogue is snappy and quite good, the areas as visually astounding as some of the set pieces from the main game. There is simply a ton of self-referential humour spread out through the game, ranging from clear caricatures of multiplayer characters to jabs at some of the less sensible parts of the game. It really helps cut the overwhelming dark cloud that eventually settles over Mass Effect 3 as a whole as we watch catastrophe and loss strike everywhere. Despite this, it doesn’t feel like much of a clash with the game as a whole- it retains the sunset aesthetic of the game and the characters don’t simply adopt another personality. It’s still plain that the fate of the galaxy is at stake, that your mission is important, that stress and loss have taken a toll on your crew, and the mission to stop the Reapers is still paramount.
Most of my criticisms are honestly quite minor. It’s ‘fit and finish’ sort of complaints- invisible guns in cutscenes, mispronunciation of a few things, a typo or two. There’s a few obvious moments where things are oddly absent; namely, with Wrex, you get to watch an important recording, and he has not a thing to say about it. It seemed like a missed opportunity- there were a few points that they could have made interesting or deep commentary on what was in front of them, but simply didn’t. There’s the obvious fanboy complaints- my favorite characters didn’t get much screen time, weren’t available for this or that, had fewer lines than another. But honestly? All said, Citadel is good DLC if you’re looking to visit with the characters you love, in visually appealing settings, with plenty of wit and banter. Again, there’s a few hiccups- there’s a line to the tune of ‘pity all of those scientists died, I would have like to __________‘. There’s no bodies, no blood, no proof any scientists died, or indeed there were any scientists to begin with. If I had to describe my issues with it, I’d say it feels a little rushed to get it out before the anniversary of the game’s release, but overall my quibbles with it are the little things.
Overall, while it feels slightly rushed, it’s still fun and a touch nostalgic. The tone of the DLC really helps even the game out, and can provide a nice change of pace from the grim fatalism seen in a lot of the game. It gives you more time with the characters put off to the side in favor of newer or more popular ones, and it gives some truly interesting moments ranging from laugh-out-loud funny to truly touching. It’s gone a long, long way towards mending fences between me and Bioware. I’d even buy another DLC like this. I’d be curious to see how well Citadel is selling, especially in comparison to Leviathan – it might justify a new DLC or two. It’s largely wishful thinking, but it would be nice. All in all, I highly recommend Citadel to anyone who owns Mass Effect 3 and enjoyed simply talking with their crewmates.