Mass Effect: Pinnacle Station DLC Review
It's been quite a while since we've seen any new content for Mass Effect, Bioware's action/RPG title on the PC and 360. The Bring Down the Sky add-on was released a year ago on the PC and almost two years ago on the 360, and while Bioware did promise a regular schedule of new paid content, it really hasn't happened. It seems like they've decided to squeak out one serious effort of DLC action before the release of the sequel this fall, and while Pinnacle Station isn't going to make everyone happy, those who slog through all of its challenges will find a nice way to deck out their characters in the game's best gear.
The story is pretty simple: a group of humans and aliens have put together a simulator to test soldiers' combat skills here at Pinnacle Station, and as the first human Spectre, Commander Shepard goes in there with high expectations from the station's brass, Admiral Ahern. The documentation says that Pinnacle Station requires you to be a Spectre, but anyone who's played Mass Effect a few times knows that you can't start exploring the galaxy until you are one anyway - Bring Down the Sky essentially had the same requirement.
The simulators are split over three levels and four gameplay modes. The first tier of them is pretty challenging right from the start and has eight of those twelve possible combos, the second tier has the four remaining combos, and then there's a final scenario that will net you a bonus that many reviews, quite a few gamers, and none of Pinnacle Station's promotional materials actually mention. Let's just say that "a gun" is not the best reward you actually get.
I've seen some complaints that Pinnacle Station's focus on combat and switching scenarios with plenty of load screens brings out the worst in the game, but I have always found the game's combat and mix of abilities, weapons, armor and upgrades, and party members to swap out to be interesting. If you don't hate Mass Effect for its combat - if, indeed, you are a huge fan like me, even of the tactical shooter elements - then you have nothing to worry about. What can get on one's nerves is a particularly difficult level, which happens to be Hunt on the Volcanic level. On the PC I've made it through on Hardcore difficulty with my Soldier character and Wrex and Ashley backing me up, but I am still working on beating it in my Insanity difficulty playthrough.
The gun that's rewarded to you is actually pretty lame, because it's nothing unique. It's just one of the better Rank 10 guns you've already seen - that's great if you're getting there before you are capable of looting or buying "X" guns, but they're actually just about as good as the Spectre Rank 7 weapons. And once you have the Rich achievement on your profile, well, you can get a hold of one of those guns quite a bit earlier than you're likely able to beat all of the Pinnacle Station challenges. No, the final reward is much better in my opinion, and really helps players trying to get the very best gear to finish off their sets for Shepard and all of the companions.
Many gamers have bought Pinnacle Station specifically so they can import a more "complete" version of Shepard into Mass Effect 2, but I'm not sure that anything that actually happens in the station or any of the endgame gear you can get from completing it will actually translate over. The developers have said repeatedly that it's the choices your Shepard makes that carry over, and unless they've devised a system for him or her to carry over all of the levels into the new game and then continue to level, I am doubtful that you'll be bringing over your unlocked abilities, either. (Nor the gear.) If the idea of slogging through a combat-heavy DLC pack doesn't seem appealing and you're only trying to make a fully rounded-out Shepard for the sequel, you are probably better off just replaying the game to make sure you've made all the choices you'd like your version of the Commander to have.
Pinnacle Station is really not a bad value at all for $5 - when I compare it to Fallout 3's Operation Anchorage DLC add-on (which is very similar in nature to this one taken in the context of its respective game), I feel like you get just as much for half the price. That being said, anyone who didn't get into Mass Effect's tactical shooter action is likely to hate this add-on even more than the original. But if you're looking to get your Shepard battle-ready for Mass Effect 2 and want to beef up your combat skills, this is a damn good add-on to have - assuming you're fine with none of the actual accomplishments or loot you'll get actually carrying over into the sequel. I'll recommend Pinnacle Station to anyone who's been through the game at least once or twice and just wants to eke out a bit more fun before the sequel hits, but completionists or those who didn't fall entirely in love with Mass Effect can safely skip it.