Release Date: March 5, 2013
I love Mass Effect 3. Mass Effect is definitely my favorite series of this console generation. Seriously, I never shut up about it to Kevin or Michael. Now, despite my borderline psychotic love for this series, I’ve never bought downloadable content (particularly for ME3) that didn’t leave me somehow discontent; Omega should have been ten dollars at most, and From Ashes should have just been part of the game. Citadel changed that. For once, downloadable content is worth exactly what you pay for it.
BioWare was very upfront in telling us that this was to be the last hurrah for Commander Shepard’s story. While I’m sad that it’s coming to an end, it is a very loud hurrah. Citadel is completely saturated with fanservice to the point of being ridiculous. The story begins with resident badass old guy Admiral Hackett ordering the Normandy dry docked at the Citadel for repairs while the crew takes shore leave. Shepard goes to dinner with a friend and then a bunch of juggalos (I’m only assuming they’re ICP fans) burst in and shoot up the place. Shepard is then drawn into a dark conspiracy on his or her life, which must be the series’ tenth at this point.
The primary story sequence takes roughly two hours to complete, and that’s just the combat. There are actually some interesting gimmicks to these sequences. Between precarious combat sequences and a really gnarly boss fight, Citadel does enough to feel unique, instead of the same old thing like Omega was. The writing was also very different than the series is used to. With the whole squad, plus everyone’s favorite dinosaur Wrex, involved there are one liners and witty retorts flying back and forth. Often times the humor can feel very surreal, especially against the background of the creepy, if predictable narrative. BioWare set out to give us fanservice, and they definitely hit the nail on the head. Almost every character gets some kind of spot light, and Shepard’s chosen love interest may have constant presence. Trust me, you can’t help but squee when Garrus comes to your rescue then compliments your evening wear.
Along with the story sequence, we are treated to the Silver Sun Strip entertainment district. Home to a casino and an arcade, you can (futilely) try to make some money here. Honestly though, the only minigame I had any fun with was a rockem-sockem-robots game at the arcade. The games at the casino aren’t really frustrating, but they are terribly boring and the strip doesn’t offer too terribly much to do. However, I did think it was really clever to have characters from the multiplayer hang out on the strip, and complain about the sometimes strange characters, and item rewards system. It adds a lot of ambiance to the strip, and that will keep you walking around much longer than the minigames will.
The real jewel of the strip is, however, the Armax Arsenal Combat Simulator. The Arena is sort of like a stripped down version of the multiplayer. You are given a small interface to set up matches against either Cerberus or Geth enemies, and later you can unlock Reapers or even Collectors. The matches are pitifully easy at first, but you can unlock handicaps and modifiers to increase the challenge. Even though the arena doesn’t offer much up front, you can eventually fight “Super Elite” level enemies, and even the horrifyingly difficult Mirror Match setting. What’s really awesome about the arena is that you can pull in any living squad mate from throughout the series. If you want to have Wrex and Grunt fight alongside you, you can do that. While some party members, like Kasumi, have been neutered others like Jack have become viciously powerful. The arena is a gift that keeps on giving, and you can have several hours more with your Shepard there.
In the end, what really makes Citadel stand out is that it is extremely replayable. I have had three separate Command Shepards throughout my Mass Effect Career (and I even have a fourth planned). I’ve played Citadel on each and I know there are stills scenes I have yet to see. Bioware has always prided their games on replay value, but Citadel embodies that perfectly. For once, I can say that I don’t feel robbed by DLC.
The Real Deal:
+Great writing, with almost every squadmate present in some form.
+Extreme replay value
+Armax Arena will keep you coming back for more
-Story was fairly predictable
-The minigames were very bland
-Legion is never brought up in any way