Mass Effect 3 Citadel Review: Shepard's Swan Song is Nostalgic and Polarizing - lmvalle Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Mass Effect 3 Citadel Review: Shepard's Swan Song is Nostalgic and Polarizing

 

There's a certain poetic resonance when one thinks of Bioware's final story-related DLC for Mass Effect 3, and a propos, our journey with Commander Shepard: the Citadel is where our trek through the galaxy to fight Saren began, and where the Reaper threat crystallized in the battle against Sovereign. It's only equally fitting that our last excursion with the characters we love would be here. If you're looking for those nostalgic moments with your favorite squadmates, the last story-related DLC for Mass Effect 3 has it in spades. Yet, does Bioware's extravagant final offering have any substance to its impressive style? 

The premise is fairly simple: Shepard receives a new pad from Anderson - likely to make up for that home on Intai'sei players never saw again - and ends up on shore leave at the Citadel when some mercs decide to rain on Shepard's parade. Their reasoning? A mysterious new enemy apparently has it out for Shepard and wants to completely destroy Shepard's legacy. Thus begins an epic journey throughout the locales of the Citadel... with the squadmembers you love in tow. To be honest, the premise is rather convoluted and outlandish, and players will have a hard time fitting this self-contained story into the overarching campaign. Some squadmates for instance, will not have convincing reasons for being present in the midst of a galactic war - some of whom, have planets being ravaged by Reapers, at that - but most of the people playing this DLC will probably care less, especially when an old favorite that we loved in the first game temporarily rejoins our crew as a playable character. Yeah, you thought right.

Aside from this sweet bonus, the new mission is fairly solid, but a critical plot twist is criminally underdeveloped and may strike some players as amateur, especially a rather anticlimatic ending that shows promise but ultimately lacks the nuance to grant it lasting depth. The "new" enemies you'll be facing might as well be reskinned Cerberus agents, although a couple are noticeably tough. The locales on the other hand, are colorful and well-designed, especially a segment that hearkens back to the espionage of Stolen Memory; then there are other nice touches, like the Citadel archives you'll eventually explore in your fight to stop this elusive new enemy. Some of the moments will feel slightly familiar, even when the mission calls for a bit of variety. However, the journey in itself - spanning several hours - is more than another lackluster shooter, thanks in large part to the incredible performances of the supporting cast. 

Citadel veers from the characteristically melodramatic and bleak tone of Mass Effect 3 in favor of a story that offers a refreshingly lighthearted break. The main mission alone is riddled with wondrous details, hidden references, and comical homages to the things we loved and hated about the series - there's even a humorous reference to Meer's somewhat monotone delivery - that players will experience through the staggeringly deep banter of the squadmembers we know and love. Each of them, from Ash to Zaeed, will live and breathe their own idiosyncracies. Seasoned veterans will love the sheer amount of care Bioware's writers placed into their characters, which will sell even the most ridiculous of situations. Seeing the people we built relationships with fighting for Shepard with equal passion is undeniably what gives this otherwise underwhelming DLC its inherent value. Yet, the best of this DLC comes from the additional content after the primary mission.

Hours upon hours of additional content - not including the variations based on playthroughs - await the player, with a few minigames as well as the particularly fun arena challenges that you can recruit squaddies in; it's a poor man's multiplayer, but it's well-done. Then of course, there's the downtime you'll have with your squad on the Citadel, filled with myriad priceless moments and squad interactions, including a party you can throw - which literally can last hours due to the constantly evolving character interactions - if you take the time to appreciate the moment for what it is: shameless fanservice. There are some decidedly serious moments - a tribute to a character who naturally will not be present, as well as a message or two from another beloved friend - but little of Citadel actually takes itself too seriously, which is where this DLC will divide players.

 To say Citadel is cheesy, right down to the now infamous "Normandy!" scene hinted at in trailers, would be an understatement. It's incredibly irreverent, laugh-out loud funny, and filled with witty jabs both at the franchise itself and the conventions of the genre in general that directly contradict the gloomy mood set by the main campaign against the Reapers and Cerberus. Little if any references will be made to the larger ongoing events in fact, with characters constantly remarking on how relieved they are just to be enjoying the moments they have with Shepard. They'll reminisce on their past memories, almost like an avatar channeling our inner nostalgia.

There's nil story value in comparison to previous efforts like Leviathan, even the lukewarmly received Omega. Thus, players will either love or hate this DLC - especially those hoping for a proper end to the Mass Effect series with this entry. Citadel is, before all things that can be considered, a celebration of the things we hold dearest about this franchise: our bond with the characters we've known for years now, and some may find Bioware's tragicomic treatment of them off-putting in this scenario. Yet if certain aspects of Citadel are cheese, it is in fact the finest quality, and this DLC is perfectly conscious of it.  It's pure escapism, for better or worse, and instead of coming off heavy-handed with cheap attempts at morality, Bioware gives players the guilty pleasures they've secretly craved but shunned.

Ultimately, Citadel is an incredible tribute that strangely feels like an epilogue until the party ends and the team returns to duty. It's a way of saying goodbye without outwardly acknowledging it, lost beneath a wealth of entertaining but thematically uneven content. The additional content it features is surprisingly more successful at conveying the message the primary mission tried to achieve, solely through the incredible dedication of the people involved in this project: Shepard isn't great simply because of superior genes or an impressive military dossier; like Shepard's allies, we sculpted the hero/ine of the Mass Effect series through choices equally as personal as they were public, and by reliving those moments through the people we love so dearly, Bioware has reminded fans that they know we matter.

8.75 out of 10

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