Mar 11 2011

Scratch What I Said About Mass Effect DLC

Published by at 12:00 pm under Reviews,Video Games

So I probably should have held off my rant against Bioware yesterday until I actually finished playing all their DLC offerings. While I still don’t believe in making DLC before your game is out, preorder or new game bonuses, or two rooms of enemies masquerading as a new mission, I have to say that in some regards, the company does know how to do it right.

I played the remaining two DLC bundles for the game yesterday which many of you wanted to hear my thoughts on, and I just finished Lair of the Shadow Broker with a tear in my eye. It contained more emotional moments than the entire actual game, and is far and  away worth the $10 it costs.

I believe my frustrations with Kasumi’s DLC were warranted. Her mission was short, her character one dimensional and tacked on, and I barely felt it worth my time. But when I shelled out the same amount of cash for the “Overlord” missions, and later a bit more for “Lair of the Shadow Broker,” I was pleasantly surprised.

Overlord is a self-contained mission set that has little bearing to the main plot, but is interesting nonetheless. There are about three or four different sections to the adventure, with intermittent parts putting you in the “Hammerhead,” aka the new Mako which eliminates the machine gun and wheels, but adds in one hell of a hoverdrive.

Overlord’s central plot revolves around an experiment to try to control the robotic Geth by interlacing a human mind with VI. As the story unravels, the levels get actually pretty freaky, with a Rogue AI shouting static as you move through deathly silent corridors littered with bodies.

Behold OZ, the great and powerful.

As all the enemies are robotic, I took my best tech squadmates, Tali and Legion along with me, and combat was a breeze, as it usually is in these games. I feel like these missions would have been more fun before I had maxed out my abilities, armor and weapons, as there’s nothing about them that’s MORE challenging than anything we’ve encountered previously. But as I always tell myself, I’m playing Mass Effect for the story, the gameplay is usually secondary.

And that couldn’t be more true for Lair of the Shadow Broker, which in my estimation is one of the most perfect pieces of DLC I’ve had the pleasure of playing in any game.

The mission set creates an interesting narrative that weaves in elements from both the first game and this one, not to mention it’s centered on Liara T’soni, who was many people’s love interest from the first game (including mine) and were frustrated not only when she wasn’t in your crew, but her character seemed terse and cold.

What happened to you Liara?

But that’s what Mass Effect does. It’s characters actually change. Liara has gone from helpless scientist to hardened and a little bitter, and Commander Shepard notes the personality shift on several occasions. The missions in the pack are fun, the duration is long enough to be worthwhile, and it ends with a reasonably good boss fight, something that often eludes this series.

The real impact comes after all this however. You spend the entire mission trying to get Liara to talk about your and hers relationship, but when you finally do, it’s a strange feeling. This may play out differently for others with a different decision tree, but this is what happened to me.

In my game, I choose to forsake the now cold Liara and pursue Miranda as a romantic interest, frankly because she had a genetically perfect ass. But then I realized that my longtime friend and squad member Tali was an actual love interest as well. I dropped Miranda like a brick, and confessed my longtime love to Tali. What ensued was a very awkward hookup, but she was always my girl.

But seeing Liara back in action again stirred up….feelings. Yeah, that may be one of the lamest things I’ve ever typed, but it’s true, and it’s the key to Bioware’s success. They’ve written these characters so well and set up these relationships so you actually feel emotion during the dialog scenes. I felt actual sexual tension when the two characters spoke, and with that the feeling one might get when you see an ex-girlfriend you still have feelings for, even if you’re dating someone new. My Commander Shepard…missed her.

“I’m not crying, my biotic ocular implants are leaking.”

The way Bioware handles the situation is brilliant as well, as no one starts ripping their clothes off. Realizing I was with someone new, and there were larger battles still to fight, Liara and I had a simple drink in my quarters. We talked about the toll the mission had taken (I realized I was still sad about the crew members I had lost), and what the future held. Liara asked me if my ultimate goal was to build a new homeworld for my “Miss Vas Normandy.” The best line written was, “Maybe someday we can be together, but for now, you need to be happy.”

Bioware used Shadow Broker DLC not just as a money making tool, but as a way to move the plot forward and satisfying the games’ emotional arcs. Sure, shooting endless galleries of mercenaries and robots is fine, but the mission moved the game forward story-wise in a way that was beautifully set up, and reinforces that Mass Effect is the most emotionally invested I’ve ever been in a game. You get  connected to these characters, and despite not picking up this game for months, I was instantly swept away again the moment I started playing these new chapters.

So my apologies to Bioware for judging too soon. Here’s to hoping Mass Effect 3 and its inevitable DLC will satisfy me as much as the last few hours have.





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13 responses so far

  • Andy D

    Dude, play through the game again and save all your guys, letting squad mates die is for suckas.

  • J5

    I dont mean to pry, but do you guys get to write off all these video game purchases on your taxes? I have a buddy who is a DJ and basically got a brand new laptop for free, speaker system and all that business, so I figured since it’s work related that you get to do the same?

    Cause if so I’m creating my own website tomorrow, I dont care if it comes out shitty or epic, as long as there are FREE GAMES AND DLC.

    • Madison

      The short answer is yes. When I was writing for this site, I’d write off movie tickets, video games, XBox Live subscription, and NetFlix account. If I’m being taxed on my income from writing about these things, why shouldn’t I be able to write them off?

  • http://www.unrealitymag.com Paul Tassi

    I write off about 50% of my entertainment purchases, but a tax write off does not equal free shit.

  • J5

    True, but it does mean reduced prices!

    Hahaha, thanks for sharing, sorry to ask a personal financial question, I’m just one of many consumers who has an addiction to free/semi-free shit.

    I’ll pay a costco membership fee for the illusion of “free” samples.

  • Skeebo

    Now, start a new game and play these before you max out your character.

    I’ll forever bitch that these DLC should’ve been in the game in the first place, but since they weren’t I have to give props to Bioware for weaving them into the game better than anyone else.

  • trashcanman

    I know you don’t want to hear this, Paul, but DA2 might actually have better characters than ME2. The gameplay is still average (making ME2 the better game overall), but the writing is just awesome. Bioware does do DLC right. They gave a TON of free stuff (especially if you preordered) so I felt less ripped-off by the brevity of Kasumi’s DLC. And LotSB is the best DLC ever, so that helps. That’s the big difference between Bioware and these other companies: they give you the opportunity to get a lot of free DLC before they start charging for it. Always preorder, man. What’s a $5 deposit when it could net you hours of extra gameplay, extra characters, and other nick-nacks for free?

  • http://nicolauz.wordpress.com nicolauz

    @ trashcanman

    Wow. Thanks for being a huge reason all DLC will continue to nickle and dime the gaming industry. Fuck DLC.

  • James

    I didnn’t read this because you said “But when I shelled out the same amount of cash for the “OVRLORD” missions, and later a bit more for “Lair of the Shadow Broker,” I was pleasantly surprised.” I enjoyed every aspect of ME2 it was beyond amazing, everything I ever wanted in a game. However, “Overlord” (and all other vehicle missions) for that matter killed the game for me. When I think back on ME2 I SHOULD be able to think about the brilliant characters, great gameplay, engaging storyline, endless amounts of space to explore, side missions that were actually interesting, having sex with ________, etc etc… but NO.
    My memory of the game is plagued by mistakingly starting the G*d Damn Overlord missions. I’m still pissed. Yes. I beat it. But that was only out of spite. Those damned turrets needed to be destoryed and the game needeth feel my wrath of that damned mission and that damned vehicle that didn’t even have Helfer’s sexified voice to compensate for the attrocity that was the Hammerhead. /end rant. I hate you all.

  • http://the-reviewer.com TheReviewer

    what one my favorite games. I recommend it to all

  • http://www.energyauditingblog.com ErikN

    I dug Stolen Memories for a few reason but the main one being that the SMG you get is hugely useful. It’s incredibly accurate and fixes the big shortcoming of your Adept/Sentinel/Engineers long range shooting. Slap on your Warp Ammo and chew through the enemy shields and barriers. It’s the first mission I do on replays.

  • bazerka250

    I’m just playing Mass Effect2 for the first time after waiting to finish the first 1 to import a character(Never went back to finish ME1)If Mass Effect 2 is as good as they say I’ll be playing it again.I’m 3 hours in and loving it.I want the dlc but I don’t want to pay $10.00 for it.

  • Matt

    I bought all the DLC for my second play-thru, and as Liara was my original love interest I pursued her again. The Shadow Broker basically ended with “I’ve already watched you die once and now you’re going through the Omega 4 Relay? Maybe later.” Guess I’ll see if she has anything new to say after I’ve finished the last mission.

    As for my opinion on DLC in general, I don’t mind paying for additional content as long as I know what I’m getting. I’d imagine it costs Bioware more to make a few hours of extra content (voice actors, story, graphics etc…) than a map pack for CoD or Halo. Say you give Mass Effect and CoD both a five star rating. I beat Mass Effect in 40 hours and I got 10 more hours of DLC afterword. I beat CoD in 10 hours and got 40 more hours of DLC afterword. I think it balances out in the end.

    Overall crappy DLC is just like crappy games. As long as people keep buying them, they’re going to keep making them. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see if there’s a Bruce Campbell skin for my avatar.

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