Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC Review
After the Omega DLC for Mass Effect 3, I really thought that'd be the end of post-release support for BioWare's RPG. The new Montreal team had put a key first effort into taking over the reins of the Mass Effect franchise - this team will be making the next Mass Effect game, after all - and while it wasn't entirely a successful effort in my opinion, Omega was decent. But apparently BioWare Montreal weren't done, because they've released Citadel, a new DLC pack that takes you back to the one place that has been teased so much over the years in Mass Effect games but never fully realized.
And while we might still have to wait for years to see the Citadel fully realized as a massive city with a million things to do - as the space-metropolis it is - this DLC gives us our best glimpse yet as to the size and pure potential that the Citadel holds as a hub for its own entire game. Even then, the Citadel isn't really the point of this DLC. Instead, the true focus is on characters, on the team that Commander Shepard has put together over the years, and you'll get hours of interaction, dialogue, charm and fun from the full main cast - or whoever's left of them over your many adventures.
The combat and adventure portion of Citadel deals with a new mercenary group attacking Shepard and trying to steal her identity. You'll get into pitched battles on the lower wards and will eventually move into the N7 archives to fight a new villain that, in the end, was kind of a cop-out, but luckily there's so much other good stuff packed into this DLC that I didn't mind it. (After all, this is still a part of Mass Effect 3 which already has its own villains.) What's best, though, is that much of the game's combat will involve many of your crew all at once. You'll still roll with two wingmen like you've had throughout the series' entire history, but other teams made up of the characters you've come to know and love will be active through a large part of this DLC, adding banter and color to the entire thing.
There's a big finish that brings one of the best pieces of concept art in all of Mass Effect to life in 3D, but in some ways, that's not really even the high point of this DLC. There's a big gathering with most of the cast that follows, complete with some fun little choices and at least one touching tribute to a character that, depending on when you play through Citadel, may have perished. Through all of this, there are many little touches that fans of the series will enjoy. Whether it's a lip curl from Wrex, Tali freaking out over the toxic properties of cheese, a new EDI joke, Mordin reciting a story in film noir style, or a very embarrassed Specialist Traynor, the charm bubbles over nearly everywhere. Almost every line in Citadel is excellently written, often genuinely funny, masterfully voice acted by the entire original voice cast (yes, even Zaeed, whose voice actor passed away last year), and it all serves as a real reminder of what drew us to Mass Effect so much in the first place.
That's not the end of activity, however. There's an arcade and a casino each with a couple of few silly games to play through, a combat simulator that puts the Pinnacle Station DLC for ME1 to shame, and a few other little things that you can bring with you back to the base game for a little more power in combat. And even if you just hang out and draw in the atmosphere, this colorful depiction of another new section of the Citadel has some of the coolest design and most brightly neon-colored visuals seen yet. (I'm hoping that a future Mass Effect game, whether it be the next one or another off in the more distant future, scales things back from saving the galaxy. And if so, then the Citadel is a perfect setting for an entire game.)
Of course, with all of these DLCs, the timeline becomes awkward because of the finality of Mass Effect 3's ending and the fact that these DLCs are required to take place before that ending happens. For those who are still angry about the game's ending and refuse to play any DLC because of it - or those who simply don't think there's any point once they know what happens at the end - I can't really suggest any way for you to make sense of this Citadel DLC. These add-ons are really there to serve those of us who simply can't get enough Mass Effect, and even if things are weird or out of order, some of us will take it any way we can get it.
But I was thinking about something. Knowing what I know about the game's ending, I could almost suggest someone who hasn't already beaten ME3 to simply get through the game to the point of starting the final mission, then simply refusing to launch it. Instead, go do all the DLC. Do Leviathan, then Omega, then Citadel. And stop. Just leave it there and never come back. Never defeat the Reapers. Never see the end to Shepard's story. For some, that might actually be preferable to the game's actual ending, even with the extra ending scenes BioWare eventually added in the free Extended Cut add-on. As much as I've said over the last year-plus that I actually don't mind the ending to Mass Effect 3, that I found it a bit iffy but not nearly as rage-inducing as it seems the vast majority of players thought it was, maybe the Citadel DLC, which jam-packs five-plus hours of maximum entertainment into its $15 package, is just a better way to end the story. I'm still not entirely convinced, but I think this should be enough of a recommendation that if you haven't had enough Mass Effect through all of this, and if you're willing to run through a bit more, then this is easily the best paid DLC released for this game.
And maybe try to forget about the base game's ending, if that suits you.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a final downloadable PC version provided by the publisher.