This review was inevitable, hence why it's near the end of my series. We've already seen a deluge of reviews on the topic, so I wanted to wait a while to give my audience some breathing room. This, for all intents and purposes will be primarily spoiler free aside from a few general plot points so those who've never played or seen the DLC can read this without any fears.

My first impressions playing this DLC - which automatically is incorporated into the game when you launch the Chronos Station mission - were those of surprise and excitement. I have to hand it to Bioware for the care and consideration they placed into the material. The DLC adds quite a few extra scenes to the game's final mission that aren't long, but substantial enough to be complementary to the overall product. I couldn't resist the desire to smile every time they came into play and I saw a particular Admiral utter a few priceless gems.

The key problem with the original endings established in Mass Effect 3 was that it not only left players entirely disoriented due to the abruptness of certain plot points but that it also felt tacked on rather than organic and cohesive. Many have referred to it as a Deus Ex Machina of sorts. In part I'd have to admit it was, although the proper term would be MacGuffin. Later on, a particular development infuriated players due to how it seemed to force players to make decisions that seemed to yield vague resolutions. When I first experienced it, I definitely felt that it was poorly written and underdeveloped. The logic of the surprise nemesis was also something that was innately moronic and completely destroyed the mystique of the Reapers who'd previously been established as Lovecraftian in nature.

Those weaknesses don't even include the most infamous criticism surrounding the original endings of Mass Effect 3: they were animated almost entirely the same, with their main distinction being the colors shown in them. This glaring problem, when combined with the vague and justifiably confusing ending to most players, incited the sensationalized movement that made this DLC possible. Thankfully, Bioware has addressed this problem modestly, though not as efficiently as most hoped they would.

Extended Cut helps to give the final section of Mass Effect 3 the atmosphere it needs so desperately to keep players invested in the story on all fronts; we see events happening with the fight behind the scenes, glean what happens to our crew, and are even treated to a few scenes that vary depending on your EMS and make the ultimate push Shepard makes all the more rewarding emotionally. The strongest and simultaneously weakest aspect of the DLC story-wise, however, happens when Shepard finally reaches their objective.

Extra dialogue adds more context to the events unfolding, as well as some of the purposes of the conflict that drives the series. Yet, it also features the worst line uttered in the entire series. The Reapers still have not reclaimed the sense of abject terror they once held with this development in the story, and certain aspects still feel forced on the player. The inclusion of a new choice in the story - one requested by BSN members for quite a while - is finally included.

I'm glad that Bioware listened to the opinions of their fans and included it; detractors seem to think its inclusion was an underhanded attempt to spite players discontent with the story's original endings, but I find it far from that, although I don't like it not having any variation. Nonetheless, the ending is what I consider to be a true "science fiction ending", in that shows a side of Shepard that many of us wanted to convey but couldn't and also leaves much room for interpretation in terms of how Shepard's choice has impacted the future better than any of the original endings.

However, purists should be relieved that the endings are essentially preserved and unaltered, simply embellished by additional material. Bioware did not give fans the super happy endings they protested but atleast made one concession that thankfully doesn't affect the others. Now, I'll discuss the "improvements" they did make to the endings.

In this particular case, players will find that there are a few new cutscenes - although brief - added that still don't add much other than help differentiate the endings from each other with a minor change in animation. Aside from that, and the slight variations that already occur, the endings still do not vary much. However, the extended material at the end of each - featuring a different character monologuing each time - does give each ending a sense of character. While I don't like the approach taken to this segment - basically, a slideshow - and expected it to follow the cinematic approach Bioware's known for, the images are still beautifully drawn and evocative. Combined with the rest of minute, yet modest changes, I found myself highly pleased with Bioware's approach to the issue.

The greatest change that Bioware made comes in the form of a patch to Mass Effect 3 to fix a problem even Shepard couldn't solve: EMS. Despite claiming that players would not have to play multiplayer to get the optimal ending for Shepard, a few fans that datamined the game found that achieving this without multiplayer was impossible due to an inherent flaw in how EMS was designed; it required players to make impossible choices, such as simultaneously saving both Kaidan and Ashley; saving and sacrificing the Council; similar for the Collector Base, among other stringent requirements. After a while of ignoring complaints about the issue, Bioware finally investigated the problem and have effectively fixed it by lowering the EMS requirement down to 3100 instead of the standard 4000. This perhaps is the most important contribution Bioware implemented through the Extended Cut DLC, and has earned my deepest respect from them. Once I finally earned the optimal ending through single player alone, one nagging question kept bothering me as I watched it.

Why hadn't this been the original ending setup in the first place? Even though there were a few disappointing elements that remained, they were nothing that would've incited the level of furor and overwhelming distaste that the standard ones did. Why did Bioware, in all their exceptional talent, choose to rely on one of the oldest and overused tropes of science fiction in order to resolve the conflict with the Reapers? Those are questions best to ponder at another time though, or for the legion of fanfics players are writing to make the ending they wanted.

In closing, the Extended Cut probably won't please those irreparably damaged by the endings of the original, nor those staunchly devoted to the endings as they are. It will however, please those on both sides with more legitimate and less obtuse concerns. It's no panacea or second coming, but it is something worth checking out and it's free. Try it out and I'm sure you might be surprised.

9.25 out of 10