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Those of you who've played Mass Effect 2 remember that Liara T'soni, the cute asari who most of us banged in part one - probably because of how annoying Ash and Kaiden were - was too busy to join the party in the fight against the Collectors. Players did have a chance to aid Liara in her obsessive quest to take out the Shadow Broker, although not in the scale that this latest offering from yet another series of DLC offers you. What you get is one of the best Bioware DLC experiences for Mass Effect, filled with its own cache of surprises.
In Lair of the Shadow Broker, players team up with Liara T'soni. Although she doesn't become a permanent member of your party, you help her rescue her friend Feron from the Shadow Broker's clutches in a well-produced and action-filled narrative. As usual in Mass Effect, things go awry when you meet up with Liara at her apartment - sorry, no steamy make-up scenes. It turns out that Liara's been attacked by an assassin of the Shadow Broker, and a fellow Spectre's been tracking her disappearance ever since.
Throw in some double-crosses, explosions, a unique car chase mini-game, and a dog hunt that leads you to the Shadow Broker's very base of operations, and you've got the gist of what comprises this DLC. I won't indulge any more plot-related details, but the payout you get is more than enough to get you excited over what's in store for us in Mass Effect 3.
The main strengths of the DLC come in the way it paces itself, with some nice exposition scenes for those unfamiliar with the backstory, some intense action sequences, and a nice car chase minigame that may have the player thinking they're traveling through Coruscant, rather than Illium. While a short-lived moment, the car chase mini-game is a well-designed one, with nice handling and just enough excitement to keep you locked in on the action, although it can be difficult at times to understand the steering. Above all, Lair of the Shadow Broker is a beautiful, occasionally breathtaking experience.
To note, while some players might be disappointed that your party members are once again mute, others will see how the superb voice acting of Shepard and Liara's characters engages the player and makes the bond they have feel as personal and unique as it should. This DLC has more humorous moments than I'd ever have thought, delivered in a number of quips that the two share during one of the DLC's most taxing experiences in the latter third of this DLC. The combat is as rich as usual, as well as the musical score, making for a solid experience topped off when the player finally unveils the true identity of the Shadow Broker.
In addition to this experience, you get a couple more upgrades, and the chance to visit Liara after the mission is finished. Speaking of when the mission is finished - you'll still be freaking out and enjoying all the nifty little perks, which most likely will have some influence on your game in ME3. Being able to toy around with galactic politics by creating your own smear campaigns, etc., will give you the unrequited sense of power and control that only such high-class information brokers could have - with a complete list of dossiers and information that continues to enrich the Mass Effect universe. You'll also relish a nifty tool that allows you to optimize R&D in regards to mining, an obvious nod to the legions of players frustrated by the mining system in ME 2. The vids that you'll see- which cycle between missions- will also be entertaining and invite a lot of speculation from viewers on possible new characters we'll encounter in the third game.
I think the real thrill will come when you also see a side of Liara that the sidestory in ME 2 only hinted at - remember the scene reminiscent of your first encounter with Matriarch Benezia? - and one might wonder if Liara isn't turning into the mother she so desperately tried to avoid. You'll see many sides of Liara in this DLC, with the most memorable moments coming when Shepard and Liara have the chance to talk on the Normandy. With a scene so powerful, one would wonder why Bioware didn't think of this sooner, but players will find themselves grateful regardless.
Skeptics will feel that they've been duped, mainly because they were hoping for more than a fade out in their chance to "reminisce" with Liara. However, Shepard and Liara's struggles in this DLC pack real emotional weight, and the performances of the voice actors keeps this DLC from turning into a melodramatic cheese fest. This is a significantly stronger presentation than Overlord, which felt like it had a minefield of potential conflicts to explore, especially those between Tali and Legion. In Lair of the Shadow Broker, Bioware keeps the focus on the characters that matter most for a nuanced, and surprising tale. At the end of this impressive DLC experience, you will feel more than confident that you can overcome the Reaper threat with Liara secretly working behind the scenes.
Lair of the Shadow Broker gets 9.5 out of 10 points.
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