I warned you all in the last ME3 post back in February about the new DLC that was coming and how it’d make you cry. Well it did and it does.
Bioware released the last instalment of DLC for Mass Effect 3, ‘Citadel’. It’s a very chunky piece of fun, it is sad at times, but at the core it is a massive tribute to the entire Mass Effect series, and a wonderful send-off for fans. I’m going to try not to spoil anything, because there’s just too many good parts, but some things I just won’t keep to myself. I won’t!
The tone of Citadel is very similar to that of ME2’s Lair of the Shadow Broker – there’s a lot of humour, along the lines of “Joker keeps asking me if I’ve embraced eternity lately” from that one, except it’s ev-er-y-where. EVERYWHERE. Apparently my ability to compare things to other things has been hampered recently, because I’m going to use the expression again: It’s A Ride.
There’s two parts to the DLC, and the first part has a Mysterious Figure show up as an antagonist supported by some mysterious soldier types. Their identity is revealed and you tango with them, and eventually wrap things up. (not literally. That’s later) One of the things I *will* reveal about that part of the DLC, is that you go through the Citadel archives, that gives you holorecordings of historic events within the ME universe. I would have happily watched one hundred of those without complaint, because it all adds to the authenticity of the setting, in a very decentralised way. It’s a bit like those random recordings you used to find on ME2 missions, except it’s played out visually.
The second part of the DLC, once the mission is all wrapped-up, is actual shore leave, and then a party. Every squadmate that’s alive shows up (plus some others), both with a short sequence of their own, plus fun at the party. It’s great hanging out with all the characters as Shepard, especially catching up with Zaeed (R.I.P. Robin Sachs) at the arcade. It gets even more hilarious, so many great lines from all of the characters.
All up, I think it took me about 7 hours to get through the DLC, and I missed a lot. Discussions about things people went through made me realise that unlike Patrick Stewart, I hadn’t seen everything. That was a joke. Naturally, I started playing through it again. Whatever your feelings are about Bioware, EA, the ending or DLC in general, I would say that this DLC is unequivocally worth it.
Chronologically, all of Citadel happens prior to going to Earth and the rest of the end of the game. Once you’ve finished with Citadel, it’s life as before. You go back to the Normandy, and there’s no mention of that last hurrah. The chronology is a shame, but necessary – and the necessity has highlighted to me what really bothers me about the ending.
At the end of Mass Effect, and Mass Effect 2, the state of the galaxy is clear. Who’s alive might vary, but the change isn’t so great. I could talk to my wife about how Ash did this or that, and while she saved Kaidan instead, it doesn’t take a lot to nudge any imagined stories into a place of being relatable. It does now, because the presentation of the three different endings leads to a trichotomy. The mass effect universe has no reapers for me, but for my wife, they’re controlled. For someone else they might be organic. Shep might be alive, or might be an all-encompassing AI-like being. Synthetics and organics might co-exist, or they might be a multi-form along the lines of the reapers themselves.
Even ignoring the catalyst, who effectively robs Shepard of power to make her/his own decision, you’re left with a galaxy that’s hard to follow on from. An antagonist in Citadel space is going to get squashed by reapers if they exist, but if the extent of the difference is a reaper fixing a building somewhere where it’d normally be rachni or geth? It trivialises the choices at the end back into cosmetic changes. You can’t homogenise things into a follow-on story (either another game set afterwards, or a piece of fan-fic that caters to the endings) without saying your choice didn’t mean anything. To be honest, even the presence of the Stargazer at the end implies it didn’t.
That’s not to say you couldn’t do a post-story, but for something to fit everyone’s ending (and without trying to cater for the refusal ending that’s clearly going to be different) you would have to take a squad somewhere removed from Citadel space – either through a primary relay, an unmapped relay that doesn’t work on the other side, or something that removes your new characters from the area where the a possible Shep intelligence might exist.
This won’t be my last post about the series – it might be the end, but it isn’t over. Not for me, and not for the universe that Bioware created with the series. April’s challenge is coming. You can get a sneak peak at what it is ahead of the announcement post, but there’s no prizes for guessing what mine’s going to be. I need a different ending. I don’t hate Bioware, and I certainly don’t hate Mass Effect. It’s my Star Wars now, to the same extent that Star Wars was once my Star Wars.
I’ve had so many discussions about it, or because of it – I think it’s an amazing universe and I’m sorry to see this part of it come to an end. I haven’t done serious fanfic in a long, long time, but for this, I have to – a whole year later, and Extended Cut aside, I want something different to happen. I don’t expect Bioware to do any new endings, and think the people that demand new endings are strange. Everyone has their own ideas, and they’ll never satisfy everybody. On the one hand it feels egotistical to think about writing an ending, though it’s not because I think I can do better or that Bioware should drop their writers and have me do all their writing from this point on.
I’m not after rainbows and unicorns. I have some ideas for my personal ending to Shepard’s story, and it’s not all good news. She’ll still need to make a difficult decision, but it shouldn’t be a new character – especially the overall antagonist – handing the choice to Shep on a platter. That would’ve made more sense coming from The Illusive Man (not that that’s where I’ll take things), because it’s the same thing he’s been trying to do.
I just want closure.