Another Chance to Say Goodbye
Saying goodbye is never easy. If you’ve been playing Mass Effect since the series began in 2007 you will have come to care about Commander Shepard and the assorted sentients that make up his crew. But the conclusive ending of the trilogy felt so… final. Citadel is a man-sized portion of DLC that revisits the best elements of the franchise and has been designed to give players a final thrilling ride in the Mass Effect universe. To access the DLC all you need to do is load an old save from after the failed Ceberus coup, or resume a completed game. It takes place before the final assault on Chronos Station. It certainly doesn’t allow you to change the final events of the trilogy, instead it should be regarded as an untold chapter in in the Mass Effect 3 story.
The Normandy requires essential repairs at the Citadel and Shepard and his crew are forced to take shore leave and get the opportunity to enjoy some downtime away from saving the universe. In a fit of remarkable generosity Admiral Anderson gifts Shepard his luxury apartment (as he is fighting a hopeless battle against the Reapers on Earth maybe he suspects he won’t make it back alive). But if you don’t go there straight from space you will end up on the familiar parts of the Citadel with no means to access the apartment and mission so you will have to go back to the Normandy to access the DLC! It’s not a major issue but in my playthrough I went to the Presidium first and I found it inconvenient that I had to leave the Citadel and return to access the new gameplay.
The apartment is just the start of your new adventure. It’s the sci-fi equivalent of a magician’s castle. An open plan beautiful playhouse complete with fireplace, water feature and furniture that you can rearrange or replace to make it feel more like home. Scattered around it are Anderson’s audio logs that he has made for his biography. They’re interesting to listen to the first time but you can’t remove them so the apartment never truly feels like Shepard’s home, as the shadow of Anderson is always present. Minor tech quibbles. If a song is playing on the apartment stereo and a cut-scene is initiated, the background music continues to play at the same time, sometimes so you cannot hear the cutscene properly.
Partying whilst the universe burns
Your new living space also brings access to a more luxurious side of the Citadel the Siversun Strip. It is a socialite’s mall that has a casino, a high tech VR game and more for you to explore and enjoy.However this raises an issue. The core Mass Effect 3 game is pretty intense, planet after planet is being attacked by the apocalyptic force of the Reapers, whilst Shepard is darting all over the galaxy map to recruit alien races to help in his battle to defeat them. Playing this DLC you have to buy into the conceit that it’s okay for your squad to take time off to chillax and have fun despite the Citadel’s cargo bay being filled with refugees and the Reapers are attempting to destroy all life in the universe! It doesn’t make sense but you just have to suspend your incredulity.
Your ship’s pilot Joker asks you to join him for dinner at an exclusive sushi bar. When you get there an unknown mercenary group attacks you. Initially you don’t have any weapons which ramps up the tension meter, but once you acquire a pistol it develops into an almighty shootout where you get to damage all the pretty scenery around you. It’s made more rousing because the combat is not off world but on safe territory. The standard Mass Effect 3 formula is fly to a planet, enter a building, and fight an opponent. Here on the well-policed safety of the Citadel it feels unexpected and that is a good thing.
A break in the action gives all your squad mates a chance to join you including some old favourites. Wrex who should be helping post-Genophage Tuchanka turns up, he should have better things to do but he’s a welcome sight.
When it comes to pursuing your enemy you get to have your whole crew near you. You select two characters for your team that you control and then the rest of your squadmates split into two other teams who fight near you. The battle is meaty, but the combat is still clunky. Too often I found Shepard jumping out from cover when all I wanted him to do was shoot.
One antagonist in the game has an accent that is a cliché too far. There’s no danger of the boss fight being too easy as your main enemy matches you in ability but I do wish Bioware had been a little more imaginative in selecting a villain.
During the non-combat parts of your mission you get to wonder around a socialite’s party, mingling with people whilst an NPC takes action to help you. Here the gameplay is overly simplistic as all you have to do is distract guards by initiating a conversation with them.
You get to enter a holographic museum of history. It gives insights into the distant past of the mysterious Citadel by playing short holographic videos of significant events. You get to see those responsible for the Genophage and the moment it’s implemented and the Asari who discovered the Citadel.
On the Silversun strip you can play a series of simplistic mini-games including Varren Racing where you place a bet on which digitised Varren will win a race and other gambling or arcade machines. If you want a slice of further action you can play some VR combat, which takes the form of a real combat match but without the danger.
Introductory cut-scenes show some beautiful shots of high-rise skyscrapers and more of the people who live and work in the Citadel. But it does makes you wonder why non-essential elements like these were not included in the core game as it’s these little details that illustrate the game world in richer detail and increase gamer immersion.
There is a point where a security officer calls Shepard and his crew ‘legends.’ It’s a moment of back-patting for the crew and the player that has bought them this far. The cast of NPC characters and the camaraderie between them have helped define the Mass Effect games, so it is so great to be able to have one last opportunity for them to all meet together for a party in the apartment. Each character has a joke or a quip and its funny to listen to the interactions between them including a tense confrontation between Jack and Miranda and a confused EDI asking Traynor about her sexual preferences. It’s great to see Shepard and friends relaxed and enjoying themselves. The joviality is at odds with the sombre tone of the main game, but knowing how the Mass Effect trilogy ends lends these interactions an emotional resonance.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel is a superior piece of DLC. If you can overlook the incongruence of having a beer and a knees-up whilst the universe burns you will find it has all the ingredients required for a gratifying adventure. There is a new enemy to fight, unexplored areas to discover, and a final chance to hang out and chat with Shepard and friends in some bittersweet moments. Saying goodbye is never easy but Citadel is a final triumphant salute to the finest moments of the Mass Effect saga.
Formats: PC, Xbox 360, PS3,
Version tested: PS3