A lot of people won’t like Citadel, Mass Effect 3’s final bit of DLC, because they’re under the impression that the DLC “adds nothing” to the conclusion of the game. Fair enough. Mass Effect 3 wrapped up back in March, after all. Why should anyone want to pay for and play an additional chapter in game that they’ve already finished? Well, sit back and give me a couple of minutes: I’ll tell you why this episode warrants a revisit of the game if you’re a fan. “If you’re a fan” being the key phrase there. If you didn’t care for the linear action gameplay or the irritating narrative-related flaws of the conclusion of Mass Effect 3, this isn’t going to fix those issues — sorry. However, Citadel might alleviate some of the pain associated with the ending by giving fans a little more closure in regards to the relationships they’ve built throughout the series.
It would be easy to dismiss Citadel as a pure fan-service DLC, and, in many ways, this is one for the fans. There are numerous sections where I felt the writers winking at me behind lines of dialogue referencing running jokes and even making light of obvious plot holes. There’s a whimsical “don’t give a shit” attitude that’s so obviously ingrained in every facet of this DLC, but not in a bad way. The episode never comes off as the developer pandering to a fans in order to snatch the last bits of currency from their pockets. Instead, I would argue that Citadel is reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop: Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.
Both the DLC and the anime movie act as episodes that technically take place before the ending of their respective series, but were in fact created after each series had ended. They’re neither sequels nor prequels, really, but instead are Sui generis. And both basically accomplish the same function: they enrich a story that’s already been told. Knockin on Heaven’s Door serves an hour and a half long foreshadowing of the final episode of the television series, while Citadel allows the player to experience the calm before the storm. Before those final, controversial segments.
We could debate about whether or not this sort episode should have been included in the game at launch or whether it should have been free or this or that, but let’s skip all that. Instead, I’ll simply tell you that if you’re a fan of Mass Effect, then you shouldn’t skip out on this last bit of DLC, which provides a 2-3 hour action-driven story, several mini-games and an entertaining horde mode (“Combat Simulator”). Citadel is easily the best DLC for the series since the critically acclaimed Lair of the Shadow Broker for Mass Effect 2, which is rather strange considering that the two episodes couldn’t be any more different as far as atmosphere is concerned.
Lair of the Shadow Broker is a dark, brooding adventure that features relatively little humor and focuses on engaging the player with a revenge plotline. Citadel goes in the opposite direction: emphasizing laughs and a simple but satisfying narrative that can best be described as buddy comedy in space. The higher-ups in the Alliance military decide that Shepard and company are in desperate need of some shore leave, so Admiral Anderson graciously gifts the commander with his own apartment. Shep reluctantly accepts and — after taking some time to acclimate herself/himself to the apartment — goes to meet Joker for lunch and to discuss plans about the Normandy. The luncheon turns out to be a trap set by a mysterious organization hell-bent on capturing Shep. The plot takes off from there and it’s absolutely zany. From the hilarious one-liners, improbable reunions and that final, ludicrous plot twist, Citadel is about Mass Effect unabashedly jumping the shark. But it never feels like shoddy writing or even a case of clever writers being consciously cheesy to make a point. All the writing, from the plot down to the dialogue, feels as though it was written by a group of people who wanted the game to go out on enjoyable high note.
There’s a lot of that writing to enjoy, too. After the story is wrapped up, numerous opportunities for Shep to interact with his squad mates open up. These little events — and the big one that follows them — are ultimately where that sense of closure comes in. The majority of these vignettes are funny, but there’s at least one that’s both touching and heartbreaking. I also uncovered at least one well-hidden scene during my playthrough, so be on the lookout for more as you explore the new section of the Citadel. Combine these scenes with the numerous mini-games available in the Citadel’s arcade and the Combat Simulator, and there’s a great deal of value beyond the main mission. My playtime (main mission and extras included) clocked in at around four and a half hours, and there were still activities left to do and items to unlock.
The episode isn’t perfect, though. Most of the gameplay segments in the mission are the typical action squad-based fare experienced throughout the majority of Mass Effect 3. You’ll be running through Citadel corridors as Shepard—sometimes by yourself, sometimes with squaddies—fighting waves of mercenaries. These levels are almost always enjoyable. However, there is one tacked-on stealth section that’s just dull and seems to go on forever as Shepard is required to waste time “mingling” with boring NPCs in order to progress through an espionage mission that comes off as an admirable but failed attempt at re-capturing the charm of Mass Effect 2’s Stolen Memory DLC. For the most part, though, Citadel is a string of solid combat sequences bridged together by cutscenes and is never weighed down by underdeveloped drama (Omega) or uninteresting lore (Leviathan). Thanks to the blend of fun gameplay and story incentives, Citadel is far and away the best single-player DLC available for Mass Effect 3.
Still, the light-hearted atmosphere is going to turn off a number of players invested in the dark, solemn tone of the series, but Citadel is still worth playing through due to the post-mission incentives, such as the aforementioned mini-games and other spoilerfic events I can’t talk about here. However, rest assured, anyone who claims to be a Mass Effect fan will undoubtedly find that there are worthwhile memories to be had in this kinda-sorta final voyage for Commander Shepard and friends.Last call, everyone.