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Mass Effect 3 DLC: From Ashes Impressions

Many gamers seem upset that BioWare and EA released the DLC From Ashes on the same day that Mass Effect 3 launched. Let's put that issue aside for now and just look at the quality of the content and whether it's worth your time and money.

As was accidentally revealed last month, From Ashes deals with the acquisition of a Prothean squad member. I started it mid-game (I haven't finished the campaign yet), and the mission blends seamlessly with your other tasks. It's a priority-class missions that sends you back to familiar location – Eden Prime. However, it doesn't have any special markers indicating it's DLC, so if you download it right away, it will just feel like a natural part of the game.

Unfortunately, the mission itself is a major letdown. Returning to Eden Prime is cool, but you aren't getting much in terms of gameplay. It's just a handful of fights against regular Cerberus ground troops; I finished the whole thing in under an hour. You find a Prothean stasis pod, run around to a couple of computers, and come back to the pod. No setpiece moments or unique situations break up the action, but the combat isn't the main draw of this DLC.

What you're really buying is a new squad member, Javik. Like Mass Effect 2's Kasumi DLC, once you finish the mission, Javik joins up as a permanent squad member. Javik is a solid addition to your party, using biotic abilities along with impressive shooting skills – he reminds me of Samara, at least in battle. In conversation, he has a few answers that Mass Effect lore fans will love.

It's a shame that most gamers (or at least those who didn't buy the Collector's Edition) have to pay for this content, because Javik illuminates a previously dark corner in the Mass Effect mythology. After talking to him, my perception of the Protheans completely changed. Did you always think of them as a benevolent benefactor race? I did, but the first-hand knowledge Javik imparts will have you seeing this ancient species in a new light. This is a critical slice of one of Mass Effect's greatest mysteries, and though it feels kind of slimy of EA and BioWare to make people pay for it, I can't say that I'm sorry I spent the money.

Along with Javik, players also get a Prothean particle rifle and a new Slam ability. I like them both and they're fun to use, but neither have drastic impacts on your approach to battle. The star attraction here is unquestionably Javik and the conversation that follows his rescue.

I don't like the idea of making fans pay for story content that is so crucial to understanding a game's universe, as I believe From Ashes is. If you don't pay the $10 for this content, you'll be missing out – and if you're a Mass Effect fan, that probably isn't acceptable.

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