Mass Effect 3: Omega DLC Review
For many gamers that saw the end of Mass Effect 3, it did seem a little silly that new adventures starting Shepard were planned to be released. Because of the way that the base game is structured, you're left with an auto-save before launching the final battle - and that's even if you complete the game - and then you go back to that save game to play the DLC, which means that unless you're only just getting into ME3, all you're getting out of this is the potential satisfaction of completing that DLC with no future implications or RPG choices that echo forwards. And for those who only care about the fate of Shepard, DLC made in this style won't make any sense - of course Shepard has to survive any DLC, because there has to be a final battle.
But what of the fate of other parts of the galaxy, including parts that you may have fallen in love with a little bit in past games? For that reason, I do think that the just-released Omega DLC for ME3, which the new team at BioWare Montreal (not the team at Edmonton, who made the three Mass Effect games) has developed, certainly makes at least some sense in the overall scheme, assuming you care about the story of things and people other than the main Shepard-Reaper conflict.
So now, the Omega DLC is here, and... I'm just not really happy with it. But first, full disclosure: I didn't hate the base game's ending, but I wasn't super-thrilled about it either. The reason I dislike Omega is the same reason I had trouble enjoying the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2. Once again you're forced to leave all of your squad members behind, closing the door on a lot of the interactions that make the Mass Effect series so great, and instead you'll have Aria T'Loak (with voice work by Carrie-Anne Moss again) as a squad member for most of the four-ish hours that this DLC lasts, and you'll see a new character, Nyreen, who is the first female Turian depicted in the scaly flesh in the whole franchise. It seems rather silly that it took this long just to see female versions of only a handful of alien races here at the end of a years-long trilogy, and for a developer that's usually pretty good about equality, it seems a bit strange it took this long.
Nyreen is the most interesting character in this DLC in my opinion, as Aria doesn't really surprise us - she just acts exactly like you'd expect her to for the entirety of this DLC. Nyreen is interesting, but since she's pretty much the best part of Omega, I don't want to give away anything. Unfortunately, even she isn't fleshed out quite enough for my tastes, especially considering this DLC costs $15. Shepard will have the choice to make a few plot-based decisions, but they generally have to do with the future of Omega and don't really offer much in the way of real closure for the people of this asteroid world. Since this is the end of the Mass Effect trilogy, I can't really be made to care too much about what I set into motion on Omega when there very likely won't be a true sequel that takes exportation of save games with plot decisions like the ones made here at Omega.
Then there's the matter of the game's structure itself. Shepard gets a scant few chances to explore and talk. Instead, she spends the vast majority of the DLC's running time in combat, fighting the Cerberus forces who have taken over the station who have been bolstered by a new, powerful robot-type enemy and an evolved version of the Reaper Scion from ME2 which Cerberus has been experimenting on. You're funneled from one corridor full of corners and low walls into the next, fighting Cerberus without a huge range of tactical options and dashing towards a linearly-structured objective While this DLC does offer some new gear to play with and a couple of interesting powers once you beat it, you'll rarely have the chance to flex RPG choices in really meaningful ways. You'll pick your weapons and install upgrades, drop skill points in, and make a relative few choices about what armor pieces to wear. Then you get to make a couple of choices about the Omega story and whether Aria should reform her ways, and that's it - you're kicked back out to the galaxy map without any chance to return or see Omega at peace again.
Now, it's not terribly fair to complain about some of this stuff when the ME3 base game did much of the same, but you had your squadmates talking, you had more RPG and character development opportunities, and Omega in ME2 had a larger exploration area and was split into two separate missions so you could leave and come back in between, if you wanted - here, you've got a solid four hour chunk of linearly-delivered mines, processing facilities, and dark hallways to slog through, and you can't ever come back when you've beaten it. Simply put, the Omega that Edmonton proper depicted during ME2 was much more fun and better-fitting for the trilogy than this version that BioWare Montreal made. The structure they chose turns the little flaws found in ME3 into big, glaring holes that aren't so easy to ignore this time around. And sure, the Aria character has a few good moments, but she's so hardened and set in her ways that even if you try to change her attitude, the results aren't terribly satisfying. There are some nice nuances and a couple of "neutral"-type choices that can be made, but overall I'm not impressed with any of the possible end results, not when this DLC costs a rather princely sum of $15.
I find myself now concerned about the future of Mass Effect because of this Omega DLC, as BioWare brass has already confirmed that the next game in the series, whether it takes place before or after the events of ME3, will be made by this team at BioWare Montreal. Maybe it's just the DLC frame of mind that turned this into a linear shooting gallery with a few Paragon and Renegade interrupts making up the bulk of the RPG elements, but I sincerely hope that whatever the studio is cooking up for the next game, it goes in some kind of different direction than this Omega DLC has gone. If you're thinking of picking this up, only do it if you're a huge Mass Effect fan that simply has to see everything Shepard gets to do; otherwise, you've got bigger, better, and in some cases, cheaper whole games to play this holiday season.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a downloaded PC version provided by the publisher.