Platform: Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
A year ago, gamers first had a chance to experience the final installment of the much loved space-opera saga Mass Effect 3. They continued their adventure as Captain Shepard who forms a galaxy alliance to defend Earth from the space juggernaut known as the Reapers. The game more or less delivered what fans were hoping for until it famously bungled the ending which didn’t give players satisfying closure to put it mildly and worse still, gave very little reward or recognition for the choices they made across the trilogy of games.
After a prolonged public relations nightmare, Bioware made the unusual decision to patch in another ending, the ‘Extended Cut’, for free. It…sort of fleshed out the ending into something a tiny bit more palatable but on principle, catering to your most vocal detractors by offering committee designed narrative endings is a terrible path for gaming to go down, no matter how bad the original was.
A fortnight ago, Bioware quietly released Mass Effect Citadel, the final DLC for the current generation of Mass Effect games. I don’t really know what I was expecting going in but what I got was a hearty, humorous and loving farewell to the characters in the Mass Effect universe. Chronologically, the events of Citadel are placed before the battle against the Reapers but the tone and content of the DLC suggest that this is another stab at saying farewell to the much loved cast of the Normandy. And wouldn’t you know it, Bioware hit it out of the park with this one.
The story takes place on the Citadel when Shepard is granted shore leave to help recharge the batteries before the big climactic battle. Shepard comes under attack from an evil Shepard clone and, with the help of a toothbrush, she must save the Normandy from being stolen and then organize the mother of all parties to unite the Mass Effect crew in a boozy send off party.
It is as knowingly silly, playful and entertaining as it sounds.
What Citadel helped me appreciate was just how much Bioware got right with the franchise. The reason why the series attracted so many passionate fans who were so vocal about the Mass Effect 3 ending is because they effectively created a sci-fi universe from scratch that is as entertaining and has the breadth of lovable characters as Star Wars or Star Trek. And in Citadel, it offers up an incredible piece of fan service that gleefully riffs on the character’s relationships with one another and delights in making them look silly. The more of a fan you are, the more you’ll appreciate the call backs to old missions, the subtle injokes and the inferences to Mass Effect lore. And if you’re not that big of a fan or have a bad memory, you can still delight in the most poker-faced and somber characters in the franchise getting wasted at a frat party.
This is a perfect way to say goodbye to some fantastic characters that have entertained us in the past six years. If only more adventure games and RPGs gave us the option to see the after-party where the characters unwind after the credits roll. That’s what Mass Effect 3: Citadel does. It’s somewhat ironic that a franchise so notorious for giving us a dour ending has actually righted its course and delivered a more fitting send off a full 12 months later. It’s fun, it’s funny and it’s bittersweet to see the hungover cast of characters marching back to the Normandy the morning after. We had some good times.