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Fans of the Mass Effect franchise have been waiting for a chance to join Aria in battle ever since the events of Invasion prior to Mass Effect 3, and were let down when all we got were cheap fetch quests. Exeunt the endless speculation that eventually led to confirmation that a chance to pay back The Illusive Man would be realized. Now, that moment has arrived, and in the latest story DLC, players will experience a high-octane battle as they join the infamous asari in a complete assault on Omega in an attempt to retake it from Cerberus. After playing it myself, I must say that Bioware's latest DLC offering for Mass Effect 3 trumps the previous one in ambition.
Those who've played Mass Effect 3 know that Aria was forced to leave the seedy space station she once controlled with an iron fist after Cerberus invaded it and has been plotting revenge ever since. The enemy however, isn't a mindless swath of Cerberus goons; instead, it's General Petrovsky, the ruthless righthand man of TIM and the reason for Aria's exile. I won't spoil the details any further, but as the story unfolds, the player finds that Aria's motives aren't just about power, but also revenge. The story also introduces the series' first female Turian, named Nyreen, whose past with Aria as well as difference in personality will bring an element of tension and intrigue to what normally would be a run-of-the-mill side mission.
As far as the set pieces of Omega are concerned, they offer little more than nostalgia; Omega's always been a fairly dirty and unattractive place, and you'll find yourself spending alot more time in chaotic battles instead of admiring the often dark and claustrophobic locales you travel to in order to gain leverage against Petrovsky and his lackeys, culminating in a final showdown at the impressively designed Afterlife nightclub we all remember from our endeavors in Mass Effect 2. It's in fact easy to get lost at certain points, but squad AI will eventually direct you to the destination. There's also side missions - you know, fetch quests - that players can complete for various NPC's they'll run into, including one familiar face players will recognize.
There's a lot of carnage awaiting Shepard, but you can't bring any of your squad with you to enjoy it; Aria, being the power-hungry and arrogant dominatrix that she is, won't allow it. Instead, you'll be using her and Nyreen in combat, and they both have their own unique skills to contribute, from abilities like Lash and Flare to Nyreen's Biotic Protector skill. They play like completely developed squadmates rather than carbon copies, and with the wealth of dialogue and backstory, players will find themselves fully immersed and entertained. The addition of two new boss enemy types will also bring variety to the frequent showdowns against Atlas mechs.
The first new addition is a lithe enemy called the Rampart; they're surprisingly fast and annoying mechs with the ability to shield themselves temporarily from attack, and have both efficient mid-range and close range capabilities. They always attack in droves, and their remains emit a field of shield-disrupting energy you'll want to avoid. The second enemy is one that was originally planned to be in the third game but was cut due to problems with the game's engine: the Adjutant. These fierce Reaper enemies are yet another experiment of Cerberus' and are relentless in their assault, leaping several meters to pounce on their enemies at mid-range; they can even fire singularity blasts from long range. Adjutants will later play a more prominent role in the backstory of Omega, so don't expect your first encounter with this nefarious enemy to be a one-off event.
The story is undoubtedly an interesting point of this DLC, with Shepard teetering between the often reckless pride and determination Aria has to defeat Petrovsky at any costs necessary, and Nyreen's reserved and more idealized sense of honor and concern for the innocent of Omega. The interplay that unfolds throughout this laborious adventure will give Omega's story substantial depth and personal resonance, in addition to an irresistible look inside the mind of Aria T'loak. Omega will feel self-contained to players, yet it easily beats out many of the missions players will experience in the main campaign, which attests to its level of quality and the superb writing that set the standard for Bioware. Standing at two gigs, Omega is also a hefty experience of nonstop warfare, with new weapons and weapon attachments to earn in addition to new powers upon completing it, but will it satisfy those who have moved on from Mass Effect 3's story campaign, let alone give them reason to return? My answer is simple: it depends on your tolerance of its star character. Those who like Aria, will enjoy this expansion; those longing for the wondrous atmosphere of the Omega from the previous Mass Effect will be let down. I still enjoyed it though.
Unlike Leviathan, which felt like wasted potential to many players in spite of its merits, Omega is a Mass Effect experience players shouldn't avoid, its only true blemish being that players will not be able to return to the space station once the mission is completed and that it doesn't add to the lore like Leviathan did. Otherwise, Mass Effect 3 Omega gives us the stellar high production value and story-driven experience we've come to expect from them and rarely falters, as we venture into both the physical and psychological warzone Aria faces with Omega's fate at stake. Aria's got one rule to teach her peers, and it's one I'm happy to learn each time I return to Mass Effect 3.