Note: Contains some mild spoilers for Mass Effect 3.
The release of the Mass Effect 3 expansion, Citadel, represented the end of the Mass Effect trilogy that had been a great joy to many like me throughout the preceding five years. The franchise will endure, sure, but the adventures of Shepard and his (or her) motley crew came to an end. So did that final adventure on the titular Citadel really honour what is, in my mind, one of the greatest video game franchises of all time?
Well no, not really. It was a load of fan wanking hogwash.
Citadel, which adds a new quest line accessible at any time during the main game, begins with the Normandy SR2 being grounded for repairs. The crew is ordered to take some shore leave, but this quickly goes pear-shaped when Shepard and Joker are attacked by mercenaries at a sushi bar and so begins a tale of conspiracy and espionage as Shepard and co must track down the Mysterious Figure trying to steal his (or her) identity.
The narrative of Citadel is thoroughly, and unfortunately, stupid. The potential is swept aside for the daftest reveal in the entire series. I won’t spoil it for you, but I would probably be doing you a favour if I did. The whole thing comes across as a particularly poorly-written piece fan fiction. This isn't helped by the insane amount of fan service, which is the real purpose of this criminally retarded plotline.
Citadel is filled with wisecracks, in-jokes and scenes that try really hard to be punch-the-air, “fuck yeah” moments but all fall short. Most notable is the third mission, in which the entire Normandy crew joins Shepard in an assault on the Council Archives. The entire mission is dominated by squad banter as you race through the archives dispatching generic mercenaries.
I imagine this mission was designed to appease those of us who complained that Mass Effect 3’s final mission failed to match the scope of Mass Effect 2’s Suicide Mission. If so, Bioware missed the point. Whilst it has a sliver of the depth we had hoped for from Priority: Earth, it cannot hope to match the atmosphere of the main game’s finale. Fighting faceless, nameless mercs is a poor substitute for a final, desperate last stand against the Reapers.
This tonal issue extends throughout the entire content. Mass Effect 3 adopted a darker tone than previous games, permeating the narrative with the war against the Reapers. Even the amusing, heart-warming and “epic” moments all had a sombre subtext to them. The rest of the Mass Effect 3 content followed suit. Citadel, however, chooses to adopt a more light-hearted atmosphere and it gels incredibly poorly with the rest of the game. Shepard and co seem to have ceased caring about the millions dying across the galaxy, and any hint of solemnity has gone as they wisecrack their way through enemy legions. In fact, I feel I like some characters less because of Citadel.
In fairness, that’s not to say Citadel isn’t amusing. Javik in particular excels, ramping up his excellent blend of youthful cynicism and weathered bitterness to the maximum. He even takes to the dance floor at one point, which I must admit greatly amused me. There is also a ton of excellent dialogue from various background characters, including an excellent parody of the game’s multiplayer community and an Asari who is a little confused about some old Earth sayings. Remember to keep a “stiff one in the lips” at all times.
Citadel does offers a lot of additional content when the new quest line has been finished, including an arcade and arena. These are entertaining distractions, and ensure you do get your money’s worth with this content. Just as well after the rip-off that was Omega. A further distraction is the option to throw a party for all your previous squad members (who haven’t kicked the bucket), ending with a group photo to hang on your apartment wall. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the apartment you get given in Citadel. It’s exactly like the Normandy, only without the lovable crew members or the fact that it’s a fucking space ship.
The party function really drives home my overall point. Citadel does not fit into the main game. If it had been additional content for Mass Effect 2 it may have worked, but as an add-on to Mass Effect 3 it just falls flat. Throughout the rest of the Mass Effect 3 experience the Reaper invasion is at the foreground of everyone’s minds. In Citadel, everyone seems to have forgotten it as they party and wisecrack their way through a bloody shambles of a plot.
I can understand Bioware wanting a light-hearted send off to the trilogy, a love letter to their fandom if you will. But there was so many holes left to fill in Mass Effect 3 that this new, moronic, plot just feels underwhelming. It could have been about returning to Ilos and fighting off Collector remnants. It could have followed the story of Admiral Anderson on Earth, at the heart of the Reaper invasion. It perhaps could have put the fall of the Batarian Hegemony in the spotlight. Y’know Bioware, the Batarians? That race you completely sidelined, despite finally giving depth to their previously one-dimensional caricatures?
The point is, the final Mass Effect DLC could have been something a lot more substantial. It could have been a final adventure that honoured the series’ themes and quality by adding one more highlight to the list of unforgettable moments that will define this trilogy. Instead, it choose to wallow in previous success. It admired, rather than forged. Like ending a great TV series with a “best-of” episode, Citadel was not only unnecessary (it’s not like I was going to forget what came before) but missed out on the chance to close with a bang.