Without even mentioning the game’s controversial ending, Mass Effect 3 was troubled by a number of divisive plot points that weighed down the overall experience.
One such flaw was the game’s time-scale and skewed sense of urgency. Mass Effect 3 hit the ground running with its explosive opening, making it clear that everything was to play for. The only thing missing was a gigantic clock, counting down to the galaxy’s impending demise as the Reapers machinations moved towards destructive fruition.
However, even with humanity on the brink of extinction, Shepard and the crew still found time to run petty errands, from gathering medical supplies to investigating ancient fossils. Side-quests may be essential to any good role-playing game, but the substance that underpinned them created an awkward sense of disjointedness. It seems BioWare haven’t learned from their mistake, as the same issue pervades the majority of Mass Effect 3’s final singleplayer expansion, Citadel.
Situated on the galaxy’s central space station, Citadel opens with an invitation from Admiral Anderson. He informs Shepard that the Normandy is in need of “emergency repairs” and should dock immediately. As the Alliance engineers get to work, the commander is told to retire to Anderson’s luxury apartment but things don’t stay quiet for long…
After being ambushed by a group of mercenaries, players soon find themselves embroiled in yet another perilous mission. However, unlike previous exploits, Shepard’s latest intergalactic foray adopts a much more light-hearted tone.
Without giving too much away, Citadel revolves around a long-forgotten Cerberus initiative, opportunistic outlaws, and a short-lived identity crisis.
These core story beats are laughably (and perhaps deliberately) cheesy, though ultimately play second fiddle to the frequent and often humorous interactions between Shepard and the supporting cast.
In terms of playable content, Citadel’s main story arc will clock in at around two hours and, in truth, isn’t as inspiring as previous downloadable episodes. Gunfights are, for the most part, bland and delivered at a sluggish pace, despite new enemies being thrown into the mix. Luckily, as Shepard’s latest adventure comes to an end, the expansion leads straight into its second chapter, centred around Shepard and the Normandy crew.
Still on shore leave, players are given the option to throw a party at Anderson’s private pad, opening up an entire new section of the Citadel, the Silversun Strip. Littered with shops, mini-games, and character-focused instances, it becomes a permanent location that can be revisited at any time, its main attraction being the Armax Arsenal Arena.
Here, players can adjust parameters to create their own combat scenarios, selecting which opponents to fight, where to fight them, and who with. Though fairly basic, the arena’s scoring system gives the combat simulation some much needed incentive, rewarding players with tokens that can then be cashed in to to unlock more variables. Players can even enlist returning squad mates to fight alongside them including Miranda, Jack, Grunt, Samara, Wrex and several others.
The party itself is best described as a sequence of dialogue choices, punctuated by a wealth of character interactions. It’s clear that BioWare had plenty of fun scripting this final half of the expansion, with extracts of self-aware humour that even joke about the game’s ending and the controversy surrounding it.
It’s a good laugh to say the least but, when all is said and done, one can’t help but realise how detached Citadel is from the rest of Mass Effect 3, both in tone and context. Some will no doubt call it the highlight of the entire series whereas others will be equally inclined to ignore it entirely. In many ways it can be said that BioWare’s final expansion is just as divisive as the core game itself.
Citadel is fairly chunky expansion and if you’re the sort of non-purist who wasn’t all the phased by the game’s ending, there’s no reason not to buy it. However, if you were left alienated, not just by the trilogy’s conclusion but by its network of narrative plot-holes, sitting out this final expansion may be a good call.