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Billed as the final story related DLC used to bridge the stories of Mass Effect 2 and 3, Arrival's discovery and subsequent announcement brought about a wave of anxiety and feverish speculation. Who is Amanda Kenson? Are the Batarians working with the Reapers? What's Object Rho? Will Shepard find the proof he needs to finally prove the existence of the Reapers? Thread after thread flooded Bioware's ME 2 forums until their concerns were finally answered. After playing it, I must say that Arrival is a solid but polarizing DLC: while it doesn't offer as much as promised, Shepard's latest venture gives players a healthy dose of action.
The mission becomes available after the Horizon mission, and concerns a doctor by the name of Amanda Kenson, an old friend of Admiral Hackett - who finally makes a personal appearance - who claims to have received direct proof of a Reaper invasion in a remote system. Of course, verifying her findings becomes a secretive rescue mission Shepard must tackle alone, adding some vulnerability to the experience, since this means no squaddies will be joining you, although you gain some meager assistance. The story is fairly linear and has two primary arcs, the second arc taking place at Kenson's base shortly after you rescue her.
Arrival's story leaves much to be desired, in terms of overall potential, notably in the second arc of this story. What becomes an intriguing premise introducing yet another mysterious Reaper artifact, a secret Mass Relay that needs to be destroyed, and a desperate race to thwart the Reaper's invasion, loses steam to the onslaught of action and story-lite pacing. Aside from the basic talking points of Arrival's backstory, little context or exposition is given to establish a basis for the events that later take place, with a development that feels rushed, if not forced on the player.
Although audio logs reveal an all-too familiar tale - think of the Derelict Reaper - unfolding as Shepard fights his way to thwart the attempts of an enemy seeking to sabotage his mission, most players craving the rich dialogue experience that has become a cornerstone of the series' engrossing gameplay will find this offering vaguely alien, no pun intended. How Shepard's mission complicates itself later on will also draw furor as well, given how powerless the player feels. However, Arrival's story resolves itself in such a way that will undoubtedly leave players interested if not excited for the direction Mass Effect 3 will take.
In terms of overall execution, Arrival is largely successful, yet not as memorable as in Overlord or LotSB. While there aren't any unique bosses, you will face a lot of enemies and a familiar nuisance to inject the experience with a much needed sense of urgency. The stealth aspect of the first arc however, leaves much to be desired, given the absence of variety in terms of mission approach - either the guns blazing or stealth route yield the same results, which reduces its importance overall.
Arrival briefly attempts to innovate as well later on, but the segment it includes, while wildly entertaining, is relatively short and ends just as soon as players get accustomed to it. The level design is also a step back from the sheer genius of the Aite bases and Hagalaz, with little to capture your eyes or immerse you until the near end. However, the soundtrack is just as fresh as ever, with a more ambient vibe that hearkens to ME 1's OST, marking an interesting return to the core of what helped solidify Mass Effect's place as a standout space opera.
The mission clocks in at just under two hours - don't bother stretching this mission out unless you want to see a unique critical failure sequence- which is disappointing, given the epic scale of this mission that was sold to players, but it's an experience worth the wait and your time, and it's cheap. Players eager for the chance to meet Hackett will also be more than pleased at the fan service.
Players still salivating from the treat that was LotSB should not expect a second helping. Yet, they also shouldn't dismiss this offering from Bioware, which isn't too shabby. While it misses the mark in terms of having a deeply-involving story, and doesn't utilize certain features as well as it could have, Arrival is nonetheless a solid action-packed DLC worth checking out, if not for continuity, then for the nice surprise cameo for players who complete this mission in chronological order (hint hint). Oh, and the three achievements.
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10 points.
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