Since its original announcement, Mass Effect 3’s From Ashes DLC has kicked up quite a ruckus, temporarily immortalised by gaming headlines but for all the wrong reasons. Even in 2012 some of us are still getting to grips with the medium of downloadable content and how producers choose to use it in order to expand the lifespan of their games. One question that has continually orbited around the topic is whether studios are cutting content from their games and releasing it post-launch to maximise profitability.
We’ve seen flagrant examples of producers using “on-disc” DLC and cutting original game content: Assassin’s Creed II, Resident Evil 5 and Tomb Raider: Underworld being stand-out examples. When it was announced that BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 would be featuring day-one DLC it raised suspicion, and after a bit of code sleuthing internet users found that assets from the expansion already existed in the main game itself.
BioWare has since countered claims of re-shelving original content, explaining that character-specific element from the expansion needed to be embedded in the main game due to Mass Effect’s consequence-driven narrative. Controversies aside, From Ashes has has an exceptionally intriguing premise, one which any Mass Effect fan worth their salt will undoubtedly want to explore.
The DLC is centred around a human colony, Eden Prime, which many will remember as the iconic location in which Shepard’s mission first began. Reports have surfaced that pro-humanity organisation Cerberus is sacking the settlement in search of a powerful Prothean artefact. It isn’t long after landing on Eden Prime that the space-faring crew discover that this isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill relic; Cerberus had in fact dug up a living Prothean, preserved for 50,000 years.
In classic video game fashion, Shepard and company can’t simply take a crowbar to the ancient’s coffin, instead having to navigate through the colony to locate terminals in order to ensure the Prothean’s survival. Clearly there are those who aren’t all too pleased about Shepard’s attempt to grab the Prothean, with a good number of firefights taking place. The gunfights scattered throughout Eden Prime are well-balanced with players able to use rooftops as tactical high-ground, although there’s little that stands out in comparison to the main game.[drop2]Upon activating each objective Shepard and the player are given a vivid insight into the fall of the Prothean empire at the hands of the Reapers. It’s one of Mass Effect’s biggest secrets, and although the execution isn’t superb, it’s done in a way that meshes well with existing lore. After a final face-off of Cerberus, the team finally come face to face with what is believed to be their common ancestor.
Portrayed as benevolent sculptors of the galaxy, this pre-conception is soon put to rest as your new recruit, Javik, reveals more about his past. Surprisingly blunt and cold, Javik served as a leader during the Reaper Wars some millennia ago. With the Prothean empire on the brink of defeat, he and his men formed a pact, opting to go into stasis and outlast the invasion, only to arrive some years later to enact their revenge. The plan gets uprooted during a coup however, and Javik is forced to enter stasis, only to be found 50,000 years on.
In terms of gameplay Javik is easily one of the more formidable squad choices. His power set includes a pair of biotic abilities (Pull and Slam) as well as Lift Grenade (a combination of Singularity and a frag grenade) and Dark Channel. Unique to Javik, this power acts as a poison attack, eventually draining enemy health and preventing regeneration; when coupled with his use of an assault rifle, the Prothean makes for a solid all-round character.
Aside from the priority mission on Eden Prime, there is little else to explore. Each squad mate is given a new alternate costume and although they look snazzy, most players will opt for the suits which yield the best stat bonuses. The Particle Rifle is also added to the existing arsenal; similar to the Collector’s Particle Beam, it offers a decent rate of fire and doesn’t rely on thermal clips.
- An insight into Mass Effect’s most illusive alien race.
- Javik serves as a reliable squad mate.
- Simmers down to 1-2 hours of “playable” content.
- Extra tidbits will likely slip under the radar.
From Ashes is easily the best character-centric DLC the series has to offer. Unlike Kasumi or Zaeed in Mass Effect 2, Javik is a persistent personality, his integration a lot smoother and substantial. With that said, From Ashes is clearly at aimed at those who want to dig deeper in to the rich sci-fi universe. If you’re only in it for an extra mission, forking out £7.99 is steep by anyone’s standards.