Scratch What I Said About Mass Effect DLC

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.


13 Comments

  1. Andy D March 11, 2011
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